Strawberry Hill, Jamaica
Twelve simple wood cottages nestled on the rainforest-clad slopes of the Blue Mountains overlooking Kingston may not sound like one of the most remarkable hotels in the world, but it is.
The first property of the Island Outpost chain, Strawberry Hill is special for many reasons; its rich music-related history, this is where Bob Marley wrote Natural Mystic and convalesced after he was shot in the 70s; its excellent Aveda Spa and its giant, hand-carved wooden beds.
Strawberry Hill’s four-posters, with cloud-like duvets, are officially the world’s comfiest beds which, combined with a touch of altitude, meant I was in danger of sleeping through my entire stay and missing out on nature walks, infinity pool, excellent restaurant serving Caribbean cuisine and bar adorned with pictures of visiting music stars like the Stones and Sinead O’Connor.
Crillon Le Brave, Provence
Set high on a Provence hilltop surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, this 32-room hotel north east of Avignon gives great view from every suite, terrace, garden and even the pool.
Seven former stone houses are linked via courtyards and passageways to create a truly unique destination that is unmistakably French, from the fabulous fromage board at Bistrot 40K (all the ingredients are sourced within 40 kilometres!) to truffle hunts.
If you’re going with your other half, they’ve just introduced a new romance package, Crillon for Two, which includes a bouquet of flowers, bottle of Champagne and massage oil at check-in. For the rest of your stay there’s dinner, use of a tandem bike, map of suggested cycle routes through vineyards and olive groves and a gourmet hamper stuffed with local goodies, including a bottle of rosé.
At night, dine by candle light on the main terrace overlooking Mont Ventoux, or in the stone vaulted dining room.
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The Tide House, Cornwall
Tucked away down a small lane in Cornwall’s St Ives, The Tide House is a six-bedroom bolthole that’s way more upmarket than its £140 per night price tag. The interior is Santa Monica chic (light and airy, tongue and groove panels, rattan chairs and nautical stripes) mixed with Cornish charm (cream teas, local art work, harbour views).
Owners Suzy and David Fairfield moved down from London to renovate the building, which dates back to 1540 and have created a stylish haven. I loved the downstairs snug, with sink-into sofas, mags and an honesty bar.
There’s also a lounge stuffed with squashy sofas, board games and a wood-burning stove (just in case the weather turns bad, this is the UK after all) and the breakfast room looks like something out of an interiors shoot, with glass that slides away to open onto a pebble and decking garden.
Montali Country House, Umbria
At the end of a winding, dusty road this converted farmhouse is exactly what you’d expect (and want) from an Umbrian retreat: a sun-dappled terrace, deliciously cool turquoise pool, panoramic views of the rolling hills and nine simple rooms with stone walls and tiled floors.
However, its real selling point to health-conscious holidaymakers is the award-winning vegetarian restaurant. Brazilian-born Malu (co-owner with husband Alberto) is head chef and serves up sublime veggie dishes in a beautiful dining room with vaulted ceiling, wooden tables and original art work.
Considered to be the finest non-meat eatery in Europe, you’ll tuck into perfect mozzarella, basil and tomato, coxinhas encantadas (tear-drop fried pastry stuffed with aubergine), saffron risotto, ravioli with truffle, chocolate volcano cake (hard on the outside, oozing choc in the centre).
And if you want to experience the food back home, book a cooking course with Malu while you’re there. No car horns, no stress, no people running around, no deadlines, just delicious food and time to realax in the sunshine. Bliss.
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Petra Segreta Resort, Sardinia
Petra Segreta Resort is a magical little place that gets a lot of repeat custom and, once you’ve been, you’ll understand why. The setting – hidden away in hills with sweeping views across the sea to neighbouring Corsica – is special, as are the 24 rooms scattered long the rocky hillside with shaded terraces.
A sparkling pool is the sort of place you’ll yearn to be on a cold winter’s day back in the UK and, perhaps best of all, are the friendly staff, who will go out of their way to make sure your trip really is extra special, from bubbly in your room to arranging picnics and pickups at some of the beautiful beaches close by.
Hotel Nautical, Fethiye
The recently-opened eight Elixir suites at little Hotel Nautical in Turkey are ones to put on the must-visit list. Each is split-level with floor-to-ceiling glass doors you can pull aside to create an open-air lounge leading onto a private L-shaped terrace with infinity pool and ocean views.
The rest of the hotel is pretty impressive too, in a low-key way, like the small, rustic restaurant’s outside dining area – a tranquil place to tuck into a delish breakfast of locally produced cheese, eggs, honey and fresh fruits.
There’s also a tiny cocktail bar, lounge dotted with hammocks and sofas and a wood jetty – fun to jump off into the sea when temperatures soar. Boulders rather than beach is one downside here for sand-lovers, but there are plenty of sandy bays nearby, reached via cliff walks (or canoe!). Flights direct to Antalya.