Smith & KidsStylish family travel: child-friendly hotels, family holiday tips and insider guides

Top 10 luxury family holidays: your Smith Awards 2015 winners

Posted by Lucy Fennings on November 14th, 2015

Call off the search: these are 2015’s top 10 luxury family hotels, as voted for by you, our hard-to-please panel of travel-loving parents.

More than 22,000 of you shared your travel favourites with us for this year’s Smith Hotel Awards, in categories from Best Hotel Pool to Hottest Hotel Bar and Sexiest Bedroom (one for that child-free weekend you’ve been promising yourselves): but one of the most hotly contested categories by far was Best for Families. So if you’re starting to think about next year’s holiday calendar, this is a great place to start…

Best family hotels | 2015 winner Jean-Michel Cousteau ResortWINNER

Parent-pleasing highlights Dreamy dive sites • Free babysitting and kids’ club • Relaxing spa • Traditional Fijian Lovo feasts

We said as much last year, but it bears repeating: if you’re going to introduce the kids to the world beneath the waves, there’s nowhere better than this luxurious South Pacific resort, renowned for its eco-friendly attitude and outstanding scuba diving. But the top trump is Bula – the excellent free kids’ club – and its team of dawn-to-dusk nannies. Cultural and environmental learning is built intodaily ‘adventures’, and for big kids (and adults), there are plenty of watersports and activities included in rates.

Best family hotels | Marbella Club runner-up 2015RUNNER-UP

Parent-pleasing highlights Beachfront spa • Martel-designed Champagne room
• Sandy beach • Europe’s coolest kids’ club • Lots of baby kit to borrow

Aside from this fit-for-a-prince finca’s obvious attractions (stylish beach club, top-notch pro golf course, elite equestrian centre and Thalasso spa), the family-friendly facility everyone’s talking about is Marbella Club’s Minimec-designed kids’ village. Scandi-chic good looks combine with a wonder-packed to-do list, hosted in sprawling stay-and-play centre that has its own lagoon pool, art and music studios, learning kitchen and dig-your-own garden.

Word's best family hotels | Wolgan Valley, Australia - 2015 runner-upRUNNER-UP

Parent-pleasing highlights Exceptional staff • Junior bushcraft courses and kids’ safaris • True escapism • Free daily crèche

Zoos are one thing; 4,000 jaw-dropping acres of pristine natural wilderness (with world-class spa and restaurant) are quite another. At Wolgan Valley, families are in for the eco adventure of a lifetime, spotting wallabies, wombats, kangaroos and cockatoos, in jeeps, by bike, on foot or even horseback. Lap-of-luxury suites with unbeatable views complete the out-of-this-world picture.

World's best family hotels | Treehotel, Sweden - 2015 top 10BEST OF THE REST

Parent-pleasing highlights Woodland-set sauna • Refined regional dining • Campfire meals • Snowman-building classes • Unique treehouse accommodation

Would your kids rather stay in: Swedish Lapland; a UFO; a treehouse; or a giant bird’s nest? And would they rather: go horse-riding at midnight; cross wintry landscapes on a snowmobile or dog-sled; or eat their meals by a campfire? No need to choose, when you can do it all at Treehouse. Parents booking this incredible ‘pied-à-tree’ win at holidays before they’ve even set off from home.

Best luxury family hotels | Bovey Castle, top 10 2015BOVEY CASTLE DEVON, UK

Parent-pleasing highlights  Glamorous dining room • Relaxed atmosphere • Adventurous kids’ activities • Lego delivery service • Heated indoor pool

A winning combination of heritage hideaway and country-house hotel, and recently refurbished to the tune of several million pounds, Bovey Castle takes its edge-of-Dartmoor setting seriously, with fresh-air pursuits from golf and rambling to riding and letterboxing. Menus cherry-pick from the countryside’s pantry, serving wild venison and fresh salmon to happy parents; kids merrily tuck into well-considered mini-menus after days spent romping the grounds, playing crolf, chasing ferrets, flying owls and building dens.

Best for Families top 10 - Borgo EgnaziaBORGO EGNAZIA PUGLIA, ITALY

Parent-pleasing highlights Grown-up spa • Big, beautiful guest rooms • Sun, sea and sand • Home-grown organic kids’ food • Activities aplenty

Borgo Egnazia –a deserving regular on our Best for Families top 10 list – goes out of its way to keep families entertained. The style is sophisticated rural whimsy, and there are plenty of facilities for children, including a superb kids’ club with indoor and outdoor spaces, a childcare ratio of 1:2 and enticing to-do list of theatre workshops, dancing, and cookery classes. This is a sociable, fun holiday destination: expect to play football with staff, visit local farms and leave in love with Puglia.

Le Jardin des Douars - Best hotels for Families top 10LE JARDIN DES DOUARS ESSAOUIRA, MOROCCO

Parent-pleasing highlights Large villas with private pools or family rooms with bunk beds • Romantic dining • Great value • Atmospheric traditional spa

Is this the ultimate kid-friendly kasbah? Once the party pad of a Belgian couple, Le Jardin des Douars reveals a Francophile slice of the Maghreb on a sunshine-coated hilltop, within easy reach of Essaouira’s medina and windswept coastline. It’s a restful, off-the-radar escape: Marais-chic French families gather here to seek out the sun, steam in the hammam, explore the rugged beaches and feast on delicately spiced tagines and mezze. Planted terraces lead up to the main house; loose tribes of children gather by the jade-green pool for short-but-sweet friendships under the North African sun.

Best hotels for Families 2015 - Daios Cove , CreteDAIOS COVE LUXURY RESORT & VILLAS CRETE, GREECE

Parent-pleasing highlights Dazzling views • Ann Semonin spa with hair and beauty salon • Delicious food • Private sandy beach • Plentiful pools

A perennial favourite, thanks to its sheltered beach, Daios Cove is a luxurious but unpretentious clifftop escape with more saltwater pools to splash in and watersports to try out than you can realistically manage on a short holiday. Families love it, as it has everything required for a blissful summer holiday: indulgent restaurants, a spa for frazzled parents, expert babysitters and a mountain of baby kit. Book a Family Villa and you could feasibly turn up empty-handed, armed with just your passport, a smile and your brood in tow.

Best luxury family hotels | Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos - 2015 top 10PARROT CAY BY COMO TURKS & CAICOS

Parent-pleasing highlights Private-island location • Shambhala cuisine • Castaway family picnics • Family-fitting beach houses with incredible views

As if ‘Turks & Caicos’ and ‘private island’ weren’t already synonymous with Caribbean luxury, Parrot Cay ups the ante with water adventures for the whole family, villas perched directly on the beach and a decadent Como Shambhala spa; delicious seafood doesn’t hurt, either. Days are spent snorkelling, spying iguanas, hoisting a sail or just strolling the white sand together… bliss.

Don’t see your family’s favourite holiday spot here? Check out the full Smith & Family hotel collection

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The best babymoons for parents-to-be

Posted by Matt Farquharson on October 28th, 2015

First child on the way? Feeling a complex mix of outright terror and giddy anticipation? Sounds like you need a break. Here are a few babymoon tips for parents-to-be…

luxury family holiday Chewton Glen babymoon

GET PUMMELLED in Hampshire

If your progeny-to-be is something of a kicker, it may feel as though the pummelling has begun already. And once they’ve mastered gripping, swiping and jumping, getting pummelled will become a daily part of life. In the meantime, trust in the hands of a qualified professional. The award-winning spa at Chewton Glen claims Europe’s biggest hydrotherapy spa pool (above), aromatherapy saunas, an outdoor whirlpool, and, crucially, a specially designed pregnancy couch for gentle mum-to-be massages and other pregnancy treatments.


Boutique hotel bellevue syrene

HIDE AWAY in Sorrento

You will very soon learn the importance of a well-chosen luxury family holiday, but in the meantime, make the most of your last romantic weekend (for a while, at least) that doesn’t leave you owing a large favour to extended family. The Roccia Suite (above) at Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento, Italy, is hidden in a converted grotto with its own hydro-massage pool. The canopied, king-size bed comes with sea views for post-dip idling (and contemplating the chaos to come).


luxury family holiday Constance Halaveli babymoon

BE IDLE in the Maldives

Your scope for genuine loafing is about to diminish rapidly. There might be fleeting box-set-watching opportunities while Junior naps, but chances for day-long idleness are about to evaporate. Now is the time to go far away and do very little. Constance Halaveli in the Maldives is an island of bone-white sands surrounded by a curacao-blue sea. Palms proliferate.  Find your favoured spot, recline and, well, that’s it, bar hailing a (non-alcoholic) drink.


Boutique hotel babymoon belmond-le-manoir-aux-quatsaisons

EAT WITH TWO HANDS in Oxfordshire

It’s a skill that you may currently be taking for granted, but eating with two hands – using both a knife and a fork – becomes more of a challenge when there’s a floppy-but-squirming tiny human attached to one of you at all times. Take advantage of having all four hands free with some grown-up dining. The intricate tasting menus at Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (above) are a worthy blow-out, with beautifully serene gardens all around for romantic strolls as you walk off your dinner.

Those keen on a ready-made babymoon should investigate the ‘Calm before the storm package’ at Cornwall’s surfy St Moritz hotel

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Half-term haunts: KidRated’s top Halloween activities for kids

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 22nd, 2015

Half-term Halloween activities for kids | Leeds Castle, Kent
Step away from those plastic pumpkin-carving tools (which always snap), cobweb sprays (why make your house look dustier?) and artfully shredded sheets (those were the new ones!): our friends over at – the site that specialises in reviews by kids, for kids – have rounded up the 10 best half-term Halloween activities in London and the South-west, as chosen by children, plus after-dark hotel haunts for the grown-ups, too…


It’s all happening for Halloween at Marwell Zoo. You can design, carve and take home your own pumpkin. The animals are being given pumpkins too, though sadly not to carve – but you can watch them tucking into their autumn treats. Plus: meet the resident witch, telling scary stories – and watch out for Count Dracula who is rumoured to be wandering around the park… The Halloween Festival at Marwell Zoo, Hampshire, runs from 24–31 October; book ahead (and check the website for cool downloadable pumpkin patterns and more).

Best Smith & Family haunt? Spoil yourselves at Lime Wood in the New Forest, just a half-hour drive from Marwell.

Half-term Halloween activities for kids | Legoland Windsor


The fantastic plastic park just outside London (aka Legoland Windsor) promises a whole host of spooktacular Halloween activities based at the Enchanted Forest (plus their usual 55 rides, live shows and attractions). There are Monster Mosaics to build, cobwebs to colour in, puppet shows to watch, and more. Brick or Treat at Legoland Windsor, Berkshire, is on now until 2 November.

Best Smith & Family haunt? Coworth Park makes for a great overnight adventure.

London half-term Halloween fun | Luxury family hotels in London


Budding Mildred Hubble or aspiring Harry Potter? Ok, so they’ll be flying in a capsule and not on a broomstick, but we rather like the sound of the London Eye’s Witch Academy experience for wannabe witches and wizards aged 4–9. At the dizzying height of 135m, you’ll learn spells and all sorts of spooky facts about London. Storytelling for younger kids and a free goodie bag (including a witch’s hat) are also on the cards… The Witch Academy at the London Eye runs from 24–31 October: booking essential.

Best Smith & Family haunt? Just across the Thames, The Corinthia Hotel London is a smart spot to flop post-flight. For bonus points, play ‘spot our hotel room’ while you’re aboard the Eye, and then treat the family to the Corinthia’s Halloween-themed afternoon tea, complete with apple-filled pumpkins and gruesome crystallised grue.

Halloween afternoon tea at the Corinthia Hotel London


Be led round the city of York by a guide (in cloak and tricorn) and learn about the Headless Earl and the Gray Lady. You’ll be taken through York’s honeycomb maze of ancient buildings, cobbled streets and ‘snickleways’. Audience participation is a must, and older kids will love this mix of history, pantomime and storytelling. Book early. York Ghost Walk experiences are available every Saturday night, and nightly during Halloween week (25–31 October). 

Harry Potter world for Halloween | The Grove hotel, Hertfordshire


At some point in their lives every Potterhead must make the pilgrimage to the Warner Bros Studios just outside Watford, where the Harry Potter films were made – it is, as this KidRated review attests, quite magical. And what better time to go than Halloween? Over the last two weeks in October, you can duel a Death Eater, visit a carriage on the Hogwarts Express, and see the Great Hall’s tables laden with red apples, pumpkins and cauldrons of lollipops. Great for older kids who have seen the films. Dark Arts at Warner Bros Studio Tour (The Making of Harry Potter) is on from now until 1 November. Booking essential.

Best Smith & Family haunt? The Grove hotel in Hertfordshire is less than 10 minutes’ drive away – and it’s where most of the cast stayed during filming (the keen-eyed among you might also recognise it as host of the X-Factor bootcamp rounds).

Halloween hotel haunts | London at half-term


Pull on your scariest togs, climb aboard the Ghost Ship and join the museum’s skeleton crew. You’ll meet storytelling sea-witches and pirates, and get a watery keepsake – and if your costume creates waves, you might win a prize for being best-dressed. Other activities include building a haunted wreck in the Learning Space. Board the Halloween Ghost Ship at the National Maritime Museum on 31 October, 10am–4pm. Adults, £10; children, £6; under-2s free (with ticket).

Best Smith & Family haunts? Any family hotel in London’s a winner, but for self-catering independence, try No 5 Maddox Street, a hop from the scary-story-soaked streets of Soho. Pack one of Jonny Duddle’s endearing Jolley-Rogers tales for spooky pirate bedtime reading…

Blenheim Palace | Halloween events and hotel haunts


They certainly know how to do Halloween at Blenheim Palace. You can board a ghost train and be taken through a creepy tunnel to the Pleasure Gardens, where a cackle of witchy goings-on are afoot. There is also a labyrinth to lose yourself or lurk in, a Pumpkin Trail, storytelling in the Stables courtyard, spooky tours throughout the week, pumpkin carving and much, much more. Halloween events at Blenheim Palace run from 24 October to 1 November; book ahead, as places are limited – you’ll need a Park & Gardens ticket, too.

Best Smith & Family haunt? Make a weekend of it and check into Calcot Manor, a little over an hour away by car.

Devon family hotel Bovey Castle


Trek into the spooky Wilderness and come face to face with the mischievous trick-or-treating Treehouse Trolls; or dare to peek inside the Witch’s Cavern… Kids are given a free pumpkin and get help making their own jack-o’-lanterns in the Animal Kingdom; there are spooky magic shows; Scooby-Doo will be meeting and greeting guests on Friday the 30th, and finally, on Sunday, it all ends with a fantastic Firework Spectacular – the park will stay open until 8pm. Halloween events at Crealy Park in Devon run from 24 October to 1 November; check event times and book tickets in advance.

Best Smith & Family haunt? Overnight on moody, misty Dartmoor at revamped baronial pile Bovey Castle – extra magic provided by the resident owls who fly each morning during the falconry display.

Halloween at Leeds Castle | Luxury family hotels


Nobody could accuse Leeds Castle of not entering into the Halloween spirit. They’ll be a daily fancy-dress competition; bewitching storytelling sessions; and a children’s trail throughout the grounds with a chocolate prize at the end. The Wizards and Witches Academy at Leeds Castle, Kent, is on from 24–31 October.


Join any of GWR’s ‘Spooky Special’ steam trains at either Cheltenham Racecourse or Toddington Station, and take part in a the Halloween quiz as the train rattles through ghostly tunnels. At your final destination, you’ll meet the ‘Wicked Witch of Winchcombe’ (if you can avoid the Dalek patrolling the station);  sit in a Haunted Waiting Room; take part in a ghost hunt and visit the ‘Imaginarium’. There’ll be prizes for the scariest costume and there’s free parking at both Cheltenham Racecourse and Toddington stations. Steam & Scream with the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway on Saturday 31 October; normal timetables and fares apply.

Best Smith & Family haunt? The acme of luxury family hotels, Calcot Manor, is not far; or bed down at child-friendly Mr & Mrs Smith favourite, Ellenborough Park, overlooking Cheltenham Racecourse.

Check out KidRated for more half-term activities, or browse our collection of luxury family hotels for a last-minute half-term holiday.

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Halkidiki holiday hero: Eagles Palace has landed on Smith & Family

Posted by Kate Weir on October 14th, 2015

Luxury family holidays in Halkidiki | Eagles Palace resort, Greece

There are many reasons why Halkidiki should be your number-one destination for a luxury family holiday in summer 2016:

1 It’s badass: in ancient times it was a battleground for giants and gods (allegedly).

2 It’s a logical choice: big-deal philosopher and scientist Aristotle – yes the Aristotle – was born there.

3 The ‘let’s just quit our jobs, take the kids out of school and stay here forever’ beach at luxury resort Eagles Palace.

‘Wait, what was that last one?’ We’re glad you asked – gather round and we’ll introduce you to this brilliant child-friendly stay.

Luxury family holidays in Halkidiki | the beach at Eagles Palace, Greece

COAST WITH THE MOST Let’s take a closer look at the beach… An entire palette of blues was used to colour the panorama of sky and Aegean Sea here, and the golden sands are soft underfoot. It’s unsupervised, but the water is calm enough for little ‘uns to splash about in and shaded sunloungers are plentiful. Parents: there’s a hidden button in the parasol for summoning drinks – please press responsibly.

Luxury family holidays in Halkidiki | the swimming pool at Eagles Palace, Greece

COOL POOLS The resort has two glistening pools to dip into: the main one (above) and a small paddling pool just steps away. There’s no shallow end in the main pool – nor are there lifeguards – but swim-confident kids will likely spend their whole stay in bathers. Parents needn’t fret too much, a swim-up bar has been installed for easy child observation and cocktail sampling.

Luxury family holidays in Halkidiki | the Nest kids club at Eagles Palace, Greece

IT’S YOUNG AT HEART At the Nest and Beach Shack – the resort’s two super kids clubs – children aged 4 months–13 years will be schooled in Aristotelian logic. That’s a lie; but older attendees will gain an insight into local history and customs, alongside arts and crafts, cooking and team games, and there are chests full of toys and a nap room in the lovely clubhouse (above).

Luxury family holidays in Halkidiki | kayaking on the Aqua Explorers programme at Eagles Palace, Greece

AQUATIC ADVENTURES If you’re staying for six days or more, 5–7 year olds can take to the high seas (sort of) on the action-packed Aqua Explorers programme. They’ll kayak, they’ll sail, they’ll paddle-board and dive – and they’ll probably beg you to buy a boat back home after the graduation ceremony. Run by Royal Yachting Association-qualified instructors, the programme starts on Tuesdays and costs €450 a child.

If you’re sold on this pretty Grecian peninsula, read more about Eagles Palace, or check out fellow child-friendly stay in Halkidiki, Ekies All Senses Resort.

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Top family hotels to book now for 2016

Posted by Lucy Fennings on September 17th, 2015

Family holidays for summer 2016
Dunno about you, but to us, the summer holidays already feel looong gone. Roll on, summer 2016. We all know that the best (and most talked-about) resorts get snaffled well in advance – if you’re canny, you’ll beat the crowds and make huge savings by booking early. Here’s our insider guide to the hotels you need to book now for 2016’s luxury family holiday…

Smith members can save up to 45 per cent off on 2016 holidays by booking before the end of September; and some of the best deals cover the late May bank holiday, too. (No need to thank us now. You can do it later, when you’re supine and smug in a heavenly resort somewhere, calculating the massive savings you’ve made.) Ready. Set. BOOK!

2016 holidays in Puglia: Borgo Egnazia resort

Puglia, Italy

This perennial Puglian favourite provides the perfect family-holiday package, and wraps it up in a stylish Italian bow (one probably made of beautifully understated linen). There are well-separated areas for grown-ups and families, so when you do carve out some quiet couples’ time, it can be just that. The Borgo and its villas are justifiably popular – thanks in part to knockout facilities, including a spa, two beach clubs and a golf course.
Insider trading Book with Smith & Family before 29 February 2016 and you’ll get 20% off Borgo Egnazia stays between 7 January and 30 June 2016.

Daios Cove resort & villas, Crete

Crete, Greece

Overlooking a serenely quiet cove on Crete, each of the 39 villas here has its own saltwater pool – as well as access to the resort’s private sandy bay, where miniSmiths can try their hand at an overwhelming array of aquatic activities: there’s waterskiing (for kids in young as four), sailing, scuba diving and more beach-based fun than you’d have time to shake a cocktail stick at.
Insider trading Book by the end of next week (22 September) and you can get a fantastic 45% off stays at Daios Cove between 22 April and 30 June 2016

Anassa family resort in Cyprus
Akamas Peninsula, Cyprus

With luxe credentials including an award-garnering thalasso spa, a made-to-measure kids’ club and baby crèche, and one of the island’s best restaurants, Anassa is a surprisingly secluded and grown-up family resort in Cyprus. Set on the remote and rocky Akamas Peninsula, its two-kilometre pebble-and-sand beach and family-friendly infinity pools are perfect for parents of babies and school-age children.
Insider trading Book by 30 September and save 20% at Anassa on stays between 14 March and 13 November 2016 – you’ll also get a €50 spa voucher with this exclusive-to-Smith deal.

Paraiso de los Pinos, Formentara | Summer 2016

Formentera, Balearic Islands

This budget Balearics bolthole is perfect for independence-craving families who want the trimmings of a resort without all the, ahem, trappings. Low-key self-catering apartments set around a pool – just a 10-minute walk from one of the island’s prettiest beaches – and bikes to borrow free make for an easy-going holiday on an island that still has a few relatively undiscovered spots.
Insider trading Book by the end of this month for 20% off Formentera holidays any time between 1 May and 31 October 2016.

Castello di Casole, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, Italy

Lord it up and embrace family life like a true Italian at this picture-perfect Tuscan wine estate: yomp around the green and gold countryside, dabble in dough-making at the sweet little pizzeria, play croquet or unwind in spa, housed in the former wine cellar. Beyond, the Renaissance glories of Siena and San Gimignano beckon.
Insider trading Book four nights or more, and save 25%; or save 30% on seven-night stays.

Verdura Resort, Sicily | Summer 2016 VERDURA RESORT
Sicily, Italy

This modern Olga Polizzi-designed palace on the southern shores of Sicily blends beautifully with its surroundings and offers an Italian-style slice of minimalist calm. Get away from the clutter of inboxes and toyboxes and shut out the noise of the world – here is a spa-enhanced golf resort to retreat to.
Insider trading Snag 25% off stays of four nights or more in June 2016, when you book by 31 October 2015.

Greece holidays 2016 |Domes of EloundaDOMES OF ELOUNDA
Crete, Greece

This lap-of-luxury family holiday resort is cut-above Crete: the grounds are manicured, the menus Michelin-starred, and the kids’ clubs Ofsted-rated. There are even Disney-themed bedrooms for your petite princesses and mini misters.
Insider trading Book by 3 October, and you can get 30% off Domes of Elounda between 25 March and 31 October 2016 when you book by 3 October 2015 – you’ll get a free upgrade to half-board, too.

Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa Marbella

Marbella, Spain

We won’t lie, this is a fairly big resort, but it’s villagey layout and friendly atmosphere lend it a surprisingly cosy feel. The kids club is colourful, fun and free; the restaurants are plentiful; the swimming pool overlooks the beach club; and the new Six Senses spa is the therapeutic centre of your dreams.
Insider trading Book ahead and save 20% off Puente Romano next summer.

Martinhal beach resort Algarve | 2016 holidaysMARTINHAL BEACH RESORT
Algarve, Portugal

Actions speak louder than words: if you’ve been saying you’d like to stay here, go ahead and book it. It’s a beloved return stay for many families (thanks to its lovely safe beach, brilliant childcare and contemporary design) and if you don’t book early, you’ll be struggling to find availability in the school holidays.
Insider trading The sooner you book, the more chance you have of securing the room type or villa (and price) that suits you best. Check out Martinhal rooms and villas here.

Browse our exclusive early-booking discounts for summer 2016 or find more luxury family holidays.


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Postcard from Dartmoor: Bovey Castle’s magical mini menagerie

Posted by Lucy Fennings on September 14th, 2015

Devon family hotel Bovey Castle
Dartmoor. Home to countless cuddly-looking, free-roaming, pint-sized ponies. Also, Bovey Castle. Also, raptors.

Yup, raptors. AND snakes, owls, lizards, falcons, tarantulas, giant African millipedes and golfer-eating bald eagles. This family-friendly estate’s menagerie of on-hand fauna is pure holiday catnip for animal-loving children (provided you steer clear of the grumpy Russian Steppe eagle, which apparently ‘took down’ a golf player once*). There’s even a sociable parrot in the drawing room (Beaky, the African Grey). These are the top reasons you should stay there, according to our six-year-old son (a recent guest and now ardent one-kid PR campaign).

Kids draw places: Bovey Castle
There’s more to this child-friendly hotel in Devon than critters, of course: there’s a twinset of parent-pleasing restaurants (with kids menus), an Elemis spa, indoor pool, a renowned golf course and raft of moorish country pursuits to keep you busy (when you’re not taking tea in the prettily refurbished Adam Room or sipping highballs in the impressive baronial hall).

But a stay at Bovey Castle isn’t complete unless you’ve met resident falconer Martin Whitley of Dartmoor Hawking (below), whose free daily morning display on the terrace gives guests a chance to meet some of his amazing birds, including an acrobatic trio of Harris Hawks; Wol, the adolescent barn owl; and Rosie and Artemis, the eagles, as well as his dog Monty.

Falconry display at Bovey Castle: Martin, Wol the barn owl and Monty the dog
If your little people are nature-obsessed, treat them to one of the excellent Bovey Rangers kids’ club sessions with Andy from Dartmoor Reptiles, with handling sessions for both birds of prey (Fly an owl! Hold a hawk!) and reptiles and insects (Burmese pythons! Tarantulas!). Our small person was so excited after his sessions we managed to drag out the retelling over a three-course meal in Bovey’s glamorous Great Western dining room.

Let me just run that past you again: three courses, after 7pm, with candles and wine, and a conversational small person. Not even a colouring pencil in sight. Yes folks, we saw the future that night, and the future is liberation from babysitters and eaten-in-silence room-service meals… hallelujah!

Owl-handling at Bovey Castle

So in honour of our first grown-up evening meal out, here are some owl-related facts, shared in the name of journalism/familial harmony by my small Bovey Ranger:


Fact number one: owls are not waterproof These birds of prey are superhuman in many ways (amazing night vision; satellite-dish-accurate hearing; stealth-mode soundless flight), but water is owl Kryptonite. Especially barn owls. Barn owls are the sponges of the bird world.

Fact number two: a tawny owl can crush a tennis ball with one foot Yes, ‘foot’ sounds weird, as though owls have Monty Pythonesque human feet, but the 6YO insists on factual accuracy, and claw/talon isn’t accurate.

Fact number three: owls are a bit dim Contrary to received wisdom and popular culture, owls are ‘a bit thick’. I’m quoting verbatim there, from two independent owl experts.

*Martin’s something of a stand-up, so the running commentary is often laced with tongue-in-cheek tales. This may or may not be one of them.

Find out more or book a family break at Bovey Castle with Smith & Family (0330 100 3180)

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Make a splash in Australia’s largest pool

Posted by Kate Weir on September 7th, 2015

Australia's largest pool | One&Only Hayman Island, Great Barrier Reef

What’s blue, wobbly and the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere? One&Only Hayman Island‘s jaw-dropping, super-sized swimming pool (sorry, we’re better at hotels than comedy). And, it just so happens that you can experience Australia’s largest swimming spot for less (when you book before 15 September 2015) with our equally magnificent hotel offer.

This shimmering blue expanse – the size of seven Olympic pools – is perhaps the only watery wonderland that can outshine the Great Barrier Reef (well, almost), set close by. Its impressive proportions and superlative setting have earned it a nomination in the Smith Hotel Awards 2015 too.

Criss-crossed by walkways and floating platforms – including one with a smaller, shallow pool-within-a-pool – this sprawling nigh-on lake offers collision-free swimming for both playful water babies and dedicated lap-clockers. No lifeguard supervision means parents will have to keep an eye on smaller Smiths, but it’s easily done when you can hire a cosy four-poster day-bed by the side and ask waiters to ferry fruity cocktails and gourmet snacks back and forth from the On the Rocks bar.

Australia's largest pool | One&Only Hayman Island, Great Barrier Reef

Families of up to four should check-in to a Two-Bedroom Pool Suite, so juniors can swim to their heart’s content, so pack your jellies, towel ponchos and armbands, and dive on in – the water’s lovely.

Want your family break to go swimmingly? Take a peek at One&Only Hayman Island, or check out our collection of hotels with family-friendly pools.

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Best family spa hotels

Posted by Team Smith on August 9th, 2015

Because we’re concerned about your tense shoulders and furrowed brows, we’ve rounded up our favourite Smith & Family spa hotels, just for you. These luxury family-holiday stays will not only soothe your aching muscles – whether you’re craving a hammam treat, seaside massage, or thalassotherapy soak – but will also keep the little Smiths entertained…

Best family spa hotels; Puento Romano Beach Resort

Spa style Andalusia-inspired
Setting Seaside serenity space

The enticing spa bits This sleek Six Senses Spa has a wet area with hydrotherapy pool, a cold plunge pool, heat and ice experience showers, herbal steam room, sauna and hammam. There are nine treatment rooms: six indoors and three outdoors, with canopied roofs and swing cabanas overlooking the sea, and a range of signature massages, facials, body treatments and scrubs, and mani-pedis. The spa uses local products, which blend indigenous herbs with sea salt and olive oil for a Mediterranean-inspired experience. For a truly indulgent spa day, opt for the royal or energiser rituals.
For the little Smiths The multilingual kids club staff entertains kids aged four to eight with activities including watersports, sea shell hunting and painting, and there’s a soft play area for younger children.

Best family spa hotels; Bermuda hotels; Rosewood Tuckers Point Bermuda

Spa style Beachfront bliss
Setting Sprawling island spa

The enticing spa bits Lose yourself in a Bermuda Triangle massage, or try a rejuvenating Atlantic Sea Spray treatment, facial and shower therapies, or any of the relaxing services at the Sense Spa. There’s also a private pool, a full salon for the ladies and a proper barber shop for men in this island relaxation retreat.
For the little Smiths Little Smiths aged five and over can indulge in a mani or pedi, tweens can book a specially-tailored facial and 11–16s can unwind with a scalp or foot massage. The Rose Buds kids club entertains children aged four to eleven with activities including tennis lessons, daily swims at the Beach Club Fountain Pool and cooking lessons.

Best family spa hotels; Chewton Glen hotel

Spa style Indulgent and invigorating
Setting Renowned thalassotherapy spa

The enticing spa bits Chewton Glen’s award-winning spa has Europe’s biggest hydrotherapy spa pool, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms and an outdoor whirlpool. The treatment menu is exhaustive, and the well-equipped gym has a programme of free fitness classes, including Pilates, yoga and AquaFit.
For the little Smiths Your mini-me can join you for a pampering session; the spa menu includes mini beauty treatments for children. A kids club is available during school holidays and at weekends for toddlers through tweens; you’ll need to remain at the hotel, but can relax at the spa knowing that little Smiths are staying entertained with storytelling, painting and crafts, games and treasure hunts.

Best family spa hotels; Anassa hotel

Spa style Regular nominee for World’s Best Spa
Setting Remote crescent bay

The enticing spa bit Thalassa has an indoor Roman-style pool, tranquil chill-out area, thalassotherapy pool and a serious menu of detox and anti-ageing programmes, aromatherapy, therapeutic massage and couples’ and pregnancy treatments. Book well ahead for your holiday pampering. The gym provides personal training and yoga sessions.
For the little Smiths The spa has a treatment menu for little Smiths, sessions for young yogis and open pool time for families. Anassa’s crèche has sleeping nooks, an indoor soft-play area and a tree-shaded playground with swings and a climbing frame. Qualified English-speaking staff look after kids aged from four months to four years. Some sessions are available for older children too.

Verdura, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Holistic and Sicilian-inspired
Setting Resort central

The enticing spa bits This massive spa has a hammam, relaxation areas and heated mineral-rich thalassotherapy pools overlooking the olive groves and mountains. An extensive menu of treatments infused with organic Sicilian plant oils and extracts promises to promote anti-ageing, detoxification and fitness and guests receive a complimentary course of Shiatsu. A Vita Health preventative-health programme includes bespoke nutritional, non-invasive and anti-ageing plans.
For the little Smiths The spa is open to over-16s, so indulge in a pampering session with your teen. Verdura’s complimentary Kid’s Club is open to ages four through tween. Kids can partake in arts and crafts and film-screening fun, or play in the paddling pools, sand pit and playground; activities are available for teens too.

One&Only Hayman Island, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Island indulgence
Setting Reefside relaxation retreat

The enticing spa bits The One&Only puts an emphasis on unwinding and taking in your surroundings; partake in the spa’s signature Ocean Dreaming massage treatment and literally float on the sea. The spa has 13 treatment rooms (one specifically for couples), an extensive island-environs-inspired menu and a host of holistic add-ons, from private yoga to guided meditation sessions. Expectant mothers can rest and rejuvenate with a pre-natal massage or baby bloom package. There’s a mani-pedi bar and a hair salon, too.
For the little Smiths Specialised spa treatments are available for the seven and older crowd. The KidsOnly club hosts games, movies, daily craft sessions, island scavenger hunts and coconut bowling; under-fours are welcome with a parent. The Teens Club organises activities such as sea kayaking and tennis matches.

Montage Beverly Hills, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Biggest and best of Beverly Hills
Setting Mansion of pampering

The enticing spa bits With 17 treatment rooms, Turkish steam rooms, redwood saunas, a Grecian-style mineral pool, yoga room and Kim Vo Beauty Salon, the Spa Montage has everything you could want. Treatments range from caviar facials and Vichy hammam rituals to hydrotherapy and reflexology.
For the little Smiths The spa has mini-mani-pedi options. Paintbox, the hotel’s comprehensive kids club, is open to ages five to tween and staffed by former Disneyland employees. Younger children can join the fun if a parent is present. Every day has a theme and activities including art projects, indoor and outdoor games. On Fridays and Saturdays, Paintbox holds dinner and a film night from 6pm to 10pm.

The Berkeley, Best family spa

Spa style Traditional luxury
Setting Overlooking Hyde Park

The enticing spa bits The Berkeley Health Club & Spa has five treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room, and has a full menu of pampering with Bamford Haybarn products, Oskia facials, massages and mud wraps, beauty and pregnancy treatments. Personal training, yoga sessions, boxing and swimming lessons are available in the fully kitted-out gym, which has views of Hyde Park.
For the little Smiths Accompanied children are welcome in the Roman-stepped rooftop pool, which has floats to borrow, during specific times throughout the day. Although there’s no kids club, babysitters can be booked through reception, giving you the perfect opportunity to indulge in a couple’s massage.

Vidago, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Taking the waters
Setting Portuguese spa town

The enticing spa bits The star attraction at the gleaming spa is the water: book a three-, seven- or 14-day programme of traditional water therapy if you’re interested in old-school treatments.
For the little Smiths A selection of spa treatments are available for the younger Smiths, so make it a family spa day. The kids club usually meets outside (although there’s an indoor space in case of bad weather) and has a rotating programme of activities for smaller Smiths, including nature walks, face painting, creative art classes, magic tricks, music sessions, puppetry and cookery.

L'Albereta Spa, Best family spa hotel

Spa style Award-winning luxury
Setting Holistic hilltop retreat

The enticing spa bits Spa Espace Vitalité Henri Chenot has more than the standard scrubs and serene soaks: get your diet assessed and your energy tested as you sip the detox tea of the day, or delve deeper into the dizzyingly long menu of medical and aesthetic treatments.
For the little Smiths The bright, colourful Maty’s Club is open for children aged 15 and younger, although under-3s must have a parent in tow. The kids club is crammed with puzzles, toys and craft supplies and games in the grounds make sure little Smiths get plenty of fresh Brescian air. Staff members also organise daily creative workshops.


Nam Hai Hotel, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Coastal calm
Setting Floating above a koi-filled lagoon

The enticing spa bits Each one of the eight treatment rooms features an open-air relaxation deck with a deep soak tub and cushioned day-bed big enough for two. Mr and Mrs Smith and over-16s can enjoy warm stone massages, facials featuring rainforest mud and local seaweed, and other beautifying treatments.
For the little Smiths The free kids club is in a huge garden house hub of activity, and Smiths from four to tween are under the watchful eye of the resort’s female English-speaking, first-aid-trained counsellors. Entertainment includes sports, treasure hunts and traditional cultural activities, such as making paper lanterns and picking local herbs and vegetables in the hotel’s gardens. There’s a separate teen club too.

Esencia Spa, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Mayan organic
Setting Relaxed Riviera

The tempting spa bits Aroma organic spa uses indigenous fruits, plants and herbs – many grown in the estate’s garden – and has five treatment rooms, four Jacuzzis and two Mayan-style temazcal domed steam rooms.  Refresh with holistic healing treatments – reiki, cranio-sacral therapy – and a range of facials and other revitalizing couples’ massages.
For the little Smiths There is a menu tailored for children aged five to thirteen (14s and over can choose from the adult menu) with yummy signature treatments such chocolate baths and massages and tropical strawberry and vanilla body wraps. The hotel offers two hours’ complimentary babysitting every day: take advantage and sneak away to the spa for a couples’ massage.

Constance le Prince Maurice, Best family spa hotels

Spa style Luxurious Sisley spa
Setting Tranquil garden

The enticing spa bits Six treatment rooms and two couples’ rooms border a small heated thermal swimming pool. There’s a steam room, Jacuzzi, chilled bath, and a pampering menu of Sisley facials, warm-oil Shirobhyanga massages and mani-pedis. Try the signature Rum Spirit, a two-hour ritual using fragrant vanilla and cinnamon. Yoga, Pilates and Power Plate are offered at the gym.
For the little Smiths Over-12s can enjoy coconut or rose foot baths, mini massages and manicures at the spa. Inside the thatched huts of kids’ club Les Petits Princes, Smiths aged four to eleven will find activities including Mauritian arts and crafts and ice-cream making workshops. Over-eights can venture into the water for water-skiing, glass-bottom boat trips, or scuba diving initiations.

Still seeking a spa? Have a peek at our full collection of family-friendly spa hotels.


Copy by Lauren Coffey

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Hotels with baby-listening: UK stays where you don’t need a sitter

Posted by Matt Farquharson on July 23rd, 2015

Hotels with baby-listening let grown-ups roam free while staff keep an ear on the little Smiths. To take full advantage, you’ll want some parent-pleasing evening entertainment…

Luxury family holiday, baby listening, The Ickworth Hotel


For kids This 1,800-acre country estate includes a pretty, walled fairy garden (fairy sightings not guaranteed) with a large lawn and preschool-perfect climbing frame, so little Smiths should sleep well come the evening.

For parents
Fine-dining Fredrick’s is an adults-only restaurant with two intimate rooms, decorated with striking Plisnier canvases and original fireplaces. If the free baby-listening service picks up a peep from your room, staff will let you know.


Luxury family holiday, baby listening, Bovey Castle


For kids At this grand country pile in the heart of Dartmoor, your little Smiths can make (much less grand) piles of their own, with the lego room service. Call reception, and a bucket of Denmark’s finest will be sent to your room before you can say ‘I need a square one’.

For parents Let staff know where you’ll be and head to the Great Western Restaurant to dine on fresh-from-the-moors game while they listen in on your happily sleeping offspring. It’s a grand room, full of chandeliers and chinoiserie, and if you’re there on a Sunday, it does a legendary, family-friendly lunch too.


luxury family holiday, baby listening, Calcot Manor


For kids It is hard to picture a place better-suited to kids than Calcot Manor. The Playzone is a giant, Ofsted-accredited nursery in a barn, with supervised play, puzzles, arts and crafts. Family Suites have separate kids’ bedrooms strewn with teddies and toys.

For parents
The award-winning Calcot Spa has seven rooms, a sauna, steam room and relaxation area, with treatments available until 9pm. Take advantage of the free baby-listening and get your nippers down early so you can slip off for some pampering.


Luxury family holiday, baby listening, Idle Rocks


For kids The rugged beach a few steps beyond the hotel doors is perfect for crabbing, with rock pools revealed at low tide. There’s also a sandy stretch for paddling or taking a dip, and you can rent kayaks to meander up nearby rivers with older kids.

For parents 
Cornish crab and crispy breaded oysters feature prominently at the restaurant, alongside squid ink farfalle and salt-baked celeriac. Get the little Smiths down early (easy, given all that sea air), and keep an eye on them on your iPhone via a camera that staff can set up in your room. Then take a seat on the terrace as the sun sets.

For more luxury family holidays where childcare doesn’t break the bank, try these boutique hotels with free baby-listening.

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Best family holiday villas

Posted by Team Smith on July 22nd, 2015

From beachside bungalows in Bali to converted Tuscan olive presses, we’ve rounded up some of the best family villas and cottages for big brood breaks. Whether you’re an eleventh hour summer planner or an early half-term schemer, have a look and start daydreaming about private pools, cosy cottages, and al fresco dining for your next luxury family holiday. 

Best family villas: Tuscany's Monteverdi

Style Wood-beamed and whitewashed
Setting The sprawling Monteverdi estate

Best for… school holidays and breaks with your teens; Villa San Pietro has two bedrooms with king-size beds (one upstairs and one down), giving you all plenty of space to do your own thing. Oenophiles will love the private wine cellar.
Star attractions Borrow bikes and cycling gear, arrange a private cookery class with Monteverdi’s head chef Paolo and explore Tuscany’s best bits, which are within easy reach.
Packing tips Don’t forget your swimsuits: the villa’s lavender-surrounded infinity pool overlooks the verdant Val d’Orcia. Bring your hiking shoes and sketchpads for the trails around Monteverdi (chat with the resident artist for inspiration).

Best family villas: Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villas

Style Bright by the sea
Setting Island for aspiring Attenboroughs

Best for… multi-family holidays; the beds in these four-bedroom villas can be set up to suit your group. Spacious living areas, large kitchens and sea-facing furnished balconies give big broods more than enough room.
Star attractions Adventures await (think kayaking, windsurfing, snorkelling and deep water turtle-spotting), but the white-sand beach, trio of pools, and Spa Wurmurdaylin will beckon to relaxation seekers.
Packing tips Bring Mr Smith’s lucky apron for manning the barbie (ask your personal concierge where to find fresh fish and other grilling goodies), a floppy hat for Mrs Smith’s sunning, and little Smith water-wings for swimming in the seaside lagoon-style pool.

Best family villas: Greece's Amirandes hotel

Style Beachfront Aegean classic
Setting Seaside seclusion within a resort

Best for… families of five with kids of all ages, or holidays with GrandSmiths; the Royal Residence is split into two distinct areas, each with a master bedroom, and two cots are provided for little Smiths.
Star attractions There’s an Ayurvedic spa and pool-hopping options, but the lure of the blue and white seaside will likely keep everyone occupied. For a dinner à deux, head to Lago di Candia, the most romantic of the resort’s restaurants.
Packing tips Bring the swimsuits; Amirandes has three pools to choose from, including a stunning infinity pool and a behemoth of an Olympic pool, in addition to your two private villa pools. Swimming lessons can be arranged for aspiring little Mer-people.

Best family villas: Tuscany's Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco Villa Alba

Style Stacked stone former farmhouse
Setting Castiglion del Bosco hilltop

Best for… a family of four to five, Villa Alba has one king room and one twin room, which can fit an additional bed. A separate guest house can accommodate two guests (perfect for traveling with GrandSmiths).
Star attractions Chef-led Tuscan cooking classes are held in the Borgo and the estate regularly hosts wine-making and wine-tasting seminars. To sample home-grown produce not derived from grapes, visit a local apiary, olive mill or farm.
Packing tips Bring your swimsuits; Villa Alba’s lavender-filled garden has a private heated pool. Pack outdoorsy gear too; the estate is in a sprawling Unesco-protected park, crisscrossed with hiking and cycling trails (borrow the bikes).

Best family villas: Morocco's Rebali Riads

Style Beachfront Berber-style retreat
Setting Sand-side Rebali Riads

Best for… families with older children; With two bedrooms, a sitting room, open plan kitchen, and private pool, Dar Jeseli can comfortably fit a family of four or five.
Star attractions Lounging in your private pool, rejuvenating in the hotel’s hammam, and taking a break from the sun to indulge in afternoon mint tea and Moroccan pastries. After sunset, take the provided star map and head to the roof terrace for family stargazing.
Packing tips Rest and relaxation are encouraged, so pack your holiday reads with your flowing tunics and camel-riding best. Bring the swimsuits; the hotel has two communal pools and the beach is steps from the front door.

Best family villas: Tuscany's Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco

Style Stacked stone Tuscan classic
Setting Ridge above the Castiglion del Bosco vineyards

Best for… multi-family holidays; Villa Sant’Anna has six bedrooms and space for additional beds. The spacious communal areas and garden with private pool provide more than enough room for large groups.
Star attractions Spend the day in your private pool-with-a-view, then make pizzas in the villa’s 17th-century outdoor wood-fired oven. The estate’s winery hosts making and tasting seminars; after setting up the little Smiths in the villa’s home theatre, grownups can take newfound-favourite local wines to the pool house terrace and continue the evening.
Packing tips Bring swimsuits and summer picnic attire, but pack outdoorsy gear for nearby horseback riding and hiking trails of the surrounding Unesco-protected park.

Best family villas: Thailand's Anantara Phuket villas

Style Refined rainforest retreat
Setting Above Mai Khao Beach

Best for… families of six with kids of all ages. The master bedroom has a king-size bed and kitted-out ensuite and the second twin bedroom is on the opposite side of the villa. The living area’s sliding glass doors open to the villa’s private pool, which has a wading section at one end.
Star attractions Learn Thai cooking techniques and test-drive them in your villa, walk down to the beach for surfing lessons with your teen or lounge by the hotel’s vast infinity edged pool.
Packing tips A good book to read while the kiddos splash about in the wading pool and lots of sun protection; the Thai sun is fierce.

Best family villas: Bali's Karma Kandara

Style Supersized Balinese treehouse
Setting Overlooking Indian Ocean

Best for… newly minted families of three. With a king-size bed, open plan living area, private pool and outdoor terrace, the One-Bedroom Pool Villa is a roomy retreat for that belated babymoon.
Star attractions Indulging in the view and luxurious treatments at Karma Spa, snorkelling in the clear blue ocean, and celebrating with dinner at one of the perimeter tables of restaurant Di Mare.
Packing tips Prioritise the swimsuits; you will most likely spend days rotating between your private villa pool, the main two-level infinity pool, and the beach. Bring a waterproof camera for kayaking and snorkeling adventures.

Best family villas: Spain's Sa Rota Den Palerm

Style Family-run retreat
Setting Heart of the island

Best for… low-key family time for four; the apartment has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a terrace overlooking the Mallorcan countryside.
Star attractions Spend time in the pool or exploring the grounds, breakfast like champions on homemade jams and breads and gain a sense of traditional Mallorcan rural life by visiting the village of Sant Joan and Els Calderers, a working manor with stables, farm animals, bakery, and smithy stocked with historic tools.
Packing tips Take sturdy shoes for cycling through the countryside. Remember to bring your swimsuits; the hotel has a pool-with-a-view and several beaches are a short drive away.

Best family villas: Greece's Paradise Island Villas

Style Secluded villas
Setting Cretan paradise found

Best for… families with teens. The Executive Villa’s master suite has king-size bed and a balcony overlooking the sea; the junior bedroom has two twin beds. There’s a fireplace in the living room and the sea-view garden has a dining area and private pool surrounded by sunloungers and parasols.
Star attractions Spend days in and around the pool, and book into the spa for a relaxed tete-a-tete with your teen. Make a family meal together in your villa, or enjoy the Mediterranean cuisine at Ambrosia.
Packing tips Bring books and swimsuits for lounging in and around the pool. Pack your tennis shoes and whites to take advantage of the courts.

Best family villas: Marbella's Puente Romano Beach Resort

Style Whitewashed Andalusian serenity
Setting Seaside at Puente Romano Beach Resort

Best for… extended family gatherings or multi-family holidays, the three bedroom Villa Margarita has a large living area and kitchen for family chatting and snacking. Outside, there’s a seating area around your heated private pool.
Star attractions Walk to the beach, enjoy barbecues in your private garden and have dinner at beach-side restaurant Del Mar.
Packing tips Bring the family swim gear; the resort is steps from the beach and has three communal pools. Bring something outdoorsy to hit up the nearby equestrian centre and pack your tennis whites; the courts are right next to the villa.


Have we awoken your interest in luxurious self-catering stays? Check out our full collection of Family Villas and Cottages for more holiday inspiration. 


Copy by Lauren Coffey.

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