Lough Eske, Co. Donegal

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Woven into the very fabric of Ireland – into iconic Donegal tweed – Lough Eske is a living piece of history. With a story that reaches back into the 1600s, the castle has always held a certain status and now extends an invitation to feel part of Irish history in the most luxurious setting. Perched on a sprawling lough with stunning Donegal landscapes reaching out in every direction, it’s a place to sink into your surroundings before sinking into refined cuisine at Cedars Restaurant, a soothing spa treatment at CARA Organic Spa and the warm embrace of each of the 96 rooms and suites.

Location

Stood between the calm lough waters from which it takes its name and the Blue Stack Mountains, Lough Eske is in a truly picturesque corner of County Donegal. Perfectly within reach of the beauty of Glenveagh National Park and the tempestuousness of the Wild Atlantic Way, there is all manner of adventures to be had. Be it walking, surfing or golfing that takes your fancy, there’s a place for it all. A two and a half hour drive from Belfast or three and a half from Dublin takes you onto this stretch of the Atlantic Coast with plenty more scenic drives at your fingertips on arrival.

Your Room

Dotted throughout the castle and its grounds, each of the 96 rooms takes on its own distinct personality. United as light-filled spaces where emphasis is placed on the emerald landscapes, interiors are full of warm, neutral hues with plush furnishings and hand-carved furniture. We loved the courtyard rooms for their cosy country feel, set as they are within the old castle stables, but also the garden suites where the sunlight floods through French doors onto Lough Eske’s sprawling gardens.

Why we like it

Ireland is all about the great outdoors and a stay at Lough Eske perfectly captures this sentiment. For our favourite day out, take a boat out onto Lough Eske, cast your rod and wait. The fishing here is some of the best with plenty of trout and salmon to catch. Once you’ve reeled in your prize, head back onshore where the team will teach you how to cure and smoke your fish before serving it up alongside a glass of crisp champagne. A well-earned reward if you ask us.

Morocco: A Luxury Adventure in the Sahara Desert

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Versatile and full of intrigue, Morocco perfectly lends itself to all manner of luxury holidays. Extending from snow-capped mountain ranges to rocky hamada and the sweeping sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, there is a lot to explore here. The good news is that our travel experts have found the perfect way to do it. Get off the beaten track and discover a lesser-known side to Morocco as you venture out of Marrakech and into palm-fringed oases and sweeping deserts in this luxurious 10-night adventure. From the ancient kasbahs of Skoura to the history of Zagora, there is plenty to discover. But there’s also an opportunity to disconnect as you head out into the untouched dunes of Erg Chigaga for a night in the desert with only the stars above you for company. Away from the crowds and embedded deep within Moroccan culture, it’s an adventure worth taking.

24 hours in Marrakech

Flying into Marrakech, you’ll spend your first night amid the opulent surrounds of Villa des Orangers, getting to grips with the city on an afternoon private tour of the winding souks and atmospheric Jemaa el Fna square. In the morning, you’ll leave all of this behind as you are met by your private driver-guide who will be at your side for the next eight days of this adventure. Leaving the medina behind, you’ll travel through the heart of the Atlas Mountains, stopping off at the ancient Glaoui kasbah in Telouet, on through the Ounila Valley to the hilltop fortress of Ait Ben Haddou and on through Ouarzazate to the palm-fringed deserts of Skoura.

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Estancia La Bamba de Areco

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Vast swathes of land where the traditions of the Gauchos live on, estancias offer an unmissable glimpse of Argentine culture and nowhere does it quite so well as Estancia La Bamba de Areco. Blending quintessential charm with a secluded location amid the Pampas, 11 rooms and suites dot immaculate polo grade lawns to form one of Argentina’s oldest colonial estancias whilst a sun-dappled pool and Relais & Chateaux worthy restaurant bring touches of modern luxury. Dusted off with a host of activities that take full advantage of the rugged beauty of the surrounding area, the result is an enchanting hideout, where the Gaucho lifestyle lives on in a luxurious new light.

Location

Whether horseback riding and mountain biking in the hills or enjoying a relaxing hot stone massage and a genteel game of bowls in the tranquil gardens, La Bamba offers authentic insight into life in the Pampas. Just a quick hour and a quarter drive north of Buenos Aires, you’ll go from tango in the streets to polo on the fields in no time.

Your Room

Estancia La Bamba de Areco is dotted with sunset-hued buildings amid vast verdant expanses, yet you’ll find just 11 rooms and suites leaving you to feel as if you have a whole estancia to call your own. Honouring traditional estancia style, rooms are clad with dark wooden floors and antique colonial furniture but brought up to date in a juxtaposition of local textiles with modern art. Named after famous polo horses, the rooms at La Bamba have a transporting sense of magic that, without the distraction of TVs and telephones, you’ll have no reason to return from.

Why we like it

Estancia by name, estancia by nature. At La Bamba, you truly do get the authentic estancia experience with the property also home to an international polo team whom you can catch in action during the Argentine polo season between September and December. Elsewhere, the old stables of La Pulperia have now been transformed into relaxing spaces, perfect for nursing a glass of Malbec, but thoughtful touches such as vintage photos and touches of leather and silver remain to keep Gaucho history alive.

Havgrim Seaside Hotel 1948, Faroe Islands

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Picture this. You’ve slept soundly all night and as the morning light creeps in, begin to stir to the sound of waves rushing over a rocky shoreline. Drawing back the curtains, only Nolsoy fjord and charming farmsteads lie ahead. This is what life looks like from Havgrim Seaside Hotel 1948. A charming 14-room outpost in the Faroe Islands’ capital of Torshavn, what used to be the Commodore’s House now makes for the perfect introduction to life on the islands with picturesque views from every corner.

Location

With the historic fort of Skansin on one side and the quaint town of Torshavn on the other, many locals regard this revered house as having the best location in town. Sitting atop a rocky promontory, the views are unrivalled and bring with them a poetic beauty – especially when the seas turn stormy. To reach the Faroe Islands themselves, it’s a two-hour flight north to Vagar which is then just short of an hour’s drive from Torshavn.

Your Room

Each of the 14 rooms at Havgrim Seaside Hotel has its own unique character with interiors that reflect the careful restoration of this historic property. The design is very much reminiscent of the fjords that fringe the coastlines, whilst the colour palette reflects the moods of the sea and the everchanging sky. For the best room with the best view though, it has to be the Commodore Suite. Fronted by a sweeping bay window, the comfiest bed sits centre stage with the views ahead leaving you with the sensation of being adrift at sea.

Why we like it

Havgrim Seaside Hotel 1948 won us over not for luxurious trappings, but for its warmth and its size; it may be small, but that’s what we like about it. Walking in after a day exploring the islands, the staff greet you by name and are on hand for anything you might need. They have a wealth of suggestions up their sleeve and are masters at bagging the hottest dinner reservations in town. Epitomising their island charm, Havgrim only serves breakfast, but trust us, they serve it well.

Juvet

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Get out beyond Oslo and Norway is all about a raw and primal beauty. Here, fjords carve through traditional landscapes to reveal hidden pockets of beauty where time seemingly comes to a standstill. But it is by no means immune to a dose of modern innovation. Juvet knows all this and seamlessly blending these should-be contrasts, the result is seven glass-cube suites submerged in the birch forest and two birdhouse rooms that provide a window onto rural life. Elsewhere, a restored farmstead forms the heart of Juvet, meals are served communally in the Old Barn and a cave-like spa promises escapism.

Location

Drawn in by the beauty of Gudbrandsjuvet waterfall, Juvet is tucked within a melting pot of nature, cultural history and modern design. A 90-minute drive from Alesund and you’ll find yourself on the Burtigarden farm in charming Alstad. From here, adventure awaits. Taking a different form each season, winter could see you clipping on your skis and skiing out of the back door to Trollkyrkja whilst spring may see you out on the water ocean fishing before you bike down Fjora in the summer. As for Autumn? That’s a little bit of every season and our favourite time to visit.

Your Room

The nine rooms at Juvet are all so strikingly modern with architecturally-inspiring design, yet they never once detract from the natural beauty that surrounds them. The walls may be made of glass, but dark interiors keep the emphasis on the verdant greens of summer and the crisp whites of winter, whilst eye masks act. Carrying on the theme, the rooms are cosy and minimalist – none more so than the two birdhouses. Room just for a bed, you wake up here onto unbeatable views with all the inspiration you need to spread your wings on today’s adventure.

Why we like it

Juvet is a hotel that celebrates its surroundings – without being afraid to do things differently. Smoked salmon is prepared the traditional way, apple juice is brought up fro the valley and local Slogen beer is served with a tale of two. At the same time, a bathing area has been built into the river, the Mill House has been restored to its former glory and the spa is warmed by an open fire.

Hotel Union Øye

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Nowhere does old-world glamour in Norway quite like Hotel Union Øye. Boasting a history that reaches back to 1891 and a guestbook that names the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edvard Greig, it’s certainly never short on a tale. Told within an enchanting setting of fjords and cascading waterfalls, a stay here is akin to a step back in time. Cosy up in one of the 27 charming rooms and embrace this most quintessentially Nordic experience.

Location

Set back from the tranquil waters of the Norangsfjord, in the quaint village of Øye, Hotel Union Øye has no shortage of Norwegian charm. Kick start your stay amongst the fjords by arriving by boat from Alesund, a leisurely hour and a half sail away. Or there’s always the scenic coastal road or a bird’s eye helicopter view if you’d prefer.

Your Room

Each of the 27 rooms at Hotel Union Øye has a personality as unique as the famous faces that once stayed in them. Named after past occupants, they are a homage to old school grandeur with canopied beds, brocade wallpaper and antique chandeliers. Opening onto views of the surrounding hillsides, a peaceful night’s sleep here is guaranteed.

Why we like it

Elegant and refined, yet thoroughly Norwegian, days at Hotel Union Øye are all about the adventure of the surrounding landscapes. If you fancy a challenge, the hike up to the Slogen summit certainly does the trick. Or, if you’d rather explore at a more leisurely pace, boat trips along the Geirangerfjord and Hjordunfjord are sure to unveil the mesmerising beauty of the region.

Storfjord Hotel

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From the heart of Norway’s fjords, Storfjord Hotel and the slow life beckon. A charming log cabin on the outside and luxurious boutique hotel on the inside, the scent of timber clings to the walls whilst striking pieces of art adorn them. Upstairs, 30 rooms and suites look out over pine forest and icy fjords, whilst, out in the woods, a hidden spa ensures you’ve well and truly hit the pause button. Dusted off with a restaurant committed to local produce and the elegance of simplicity, Storfjord Hotel is lifting the curtain on Norway in all it’s raw and untouched beauty.

Location

Sitting in a secluded spot in the Glomset hillsides with views that stretch out across the Sunnmore Alps, Storfjord Hotel is an escape to the great outdoors. Just a short 40-minute drive from the airport at Alesund, the roads to Storfjord are some of Norway’s most scenic. Though to really make the most of the scenery, why not see it from a bird’s eye view and arrive by helicopter? Or better still, sail up the coastline to dock at the hotel’s private quay on Glomset Bay.

Your Room

Even the smallest room at Storfjord Hotel offers boundless space in which to relax – with a small lounge and a private balcony from which to drink in the forest or fjord views. Clad in traditional lafta wood, neutral hues are offset by luxurious fabrics in bold checks and whimsical florals whilst designer furniture and freestanding bathtubs sit alongside grand fireplaces and period antiques. We loved the Junior Suites with their huge windows that flooded the room with the gentlest morning light.

Why we like it

No matter where a hotel is, the spa is always its most tranquil corner. But at Storfjord Hotel, they’ve taken that tranquillity and upped it one (or two) more. Beyond the realms of daily hotel life, the spa at Storfjord is reached at the end of a meandering path into the forest. Surrounded on all sides by towering pines and soundtracked by the soft sounds of nature, there is nowhere quite so peaceful as the outdoor jacuzzi, the woodland-view sauna or the cocooned embrace of the treatment rooms.

Fosshotel Myvatn

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Off the well-trodden path of South Iceland, Fosshotel Myvatn is putting the northeast on the map. Here, 92 rooms sit perched above the shores of Lake Myvatn with views that extend far across the volcanic landscapes that surround it. Check into the architecturally stunning hotel and discover modern interiors, innovative cuisine and adventures that will have you never wanting to leave.

Location

100km and an hour from Iceland’s northern capital, Akureyri, Fosshotel Myvatn unveils a whole new corner of this awe-inspiring land. Overlooking the expanse of Lake Myvatn, the possibilities are seemingly endless with the relaxation of the Myvatn Nature Baths in one direction and the adrenaline of a super jeep tour in the other. The perfect spot to head for if you’re looking to escape the crowds, Myvatn will keep you coming back to Iceland.

Your Room

Tying in with their surroundings, each of the 92 rooms is thoroughly modern by design but adopt a colour scheme more in keeping with the landscapes that lie outside the windows. Dusky greys, moss greens and touches of larch wood all allow the nature to be brought from the outside in, whilst the use of low environmental impact materials guarantee the protection of those landscapes for years to come.

Why we like it

What we love most about Iceland is the staggering ecosystem that it presents us with. The landscapes here are unlike anywhere else on earth – and so, so too are the experiences. So, when a hotel is doing all that they can to preserve that ecosystem for another generation, it’s safe to say we’re a fan. Fosshotel Myvatn is both architecturally stunning whilst environmentally low impact and that’s a winning combination in our books.

Alda Hotel, Reykjavik

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Right in the heart of Reykjavik’s cultural epicentre, Alda Hotel is a stylish hideaway where the chatter of Laugavegur high street falls away as soon as you cross the threshold and an atmosphere of calm takes its place. The perfect antidote to a day of high octane adventure in the countryside, 88 stylish rooms await alongside a hot tub set beneath the stars and a contemporary restaurant. All clean cut lines with bursts of colour and innovative touches, Alda Hotel is the Reykjavik hotel you’ve been searching for.

Location

At the top end of Laugavegur, Alda Hotel puts you just a short stroll from the city’s shops, bars and restaurants – all whilst still delivering the perfect night’s sleep. Turn one way and you’ll find the striking silhouette of Halgrimskirkja, whilst, turn the other, and you’ll find yourself on the city’s harbourfront. At a 45-minute drive from the airport, you’ll soon have Reykjavik at your fingertips.

Your Room

Full of boutique charm, each of the 88 rooms and suites at Alda has its own individual personality. United through contemporary design, they are stylish and cosy, minimalist with splashes of colour – and utterly Icelandic. We loved the Attic Rooms with their views over Reykjavik from the balcony and North Atlantic Ocean – but for unrivalled style and sophistication, it has to be the King and Queen Suites. Splashes of deep blues bring the views outside to life while statement design does the rest of the talking.

Why we like it

It’s always the little things that make the difference between a good and a great stay – and nowhere knows that more than Alda Hotel. On arrival, each guest is handed a smartphone for the duration of their stay. Take it out and about, use the free 4G to map out a route of fire a quick question to the concierge and feel that you always have a private guide in your back pocket.

Diamond Circle: Get off the Beaten Track in Northern Iceland

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Iceland; the country on everyone’s lips. But after you’ve climbed inside Þríhnúkagigur, snorkelled the Silfra Fissure and traversed the Golden Circle – what comes next? To answer that question, we’re looking north to the second city of Akureyri, the untouched wilderness of Myvatn and the, as yet undiscovered, Diamond Circle. Outside the realms of the tourist tracks of south Iceland, the north is a step back in time to Iceland as it once was – raw and unknown. To really appreciate the difference though, start off seeing on the Golden Circle (after all, it’s still spectacular), before heading north to hidden hot waterfalls, caves of the silver-screen and a dash of nature yoga. Grjótagjá, Gjástykki and Þeistareykir; they may not be known now, so get there before they are.

The Classic

Touching down, your trip starts in the trendsetting capital of Reykjavik with a stay at the chic Hotel Alda, just off Laugavegur. Spend the evening getting to know the bars and restaurants that lie just a short stroll away before getting a sense for Southern Iceland the next day. In the morning, jump in your private super jeep for the day as you head east to the Golden Circle. A route carved between Iceland’s most iconic sights, there is no better introduction to this spellbinding country as you curve through the ethereal beauty of Þingvellir National Park and onto the geothermal power of Geysir and the thunder of Gullfoss. Head back to Hotel Alda in the evening for one last night before heading north to Iceland’s true wilderness early tomorrow.

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