28 July 2020
Our gardens and countryside walks have been our saviours in lock-down and we’re keen to keep up our renewed fondness for all thing al fresco. These rural retreats and beautiful natural settings bring a much-needed change of (spectacular) scenery and breath of fresh air. Let’s start with an Italian Lake…
One of the most exclusive establishments on Lake Como, Grand Hotel Tremezzo offers an aristocratic refuge from the everyday.
Time together is heightened by the grandeur of your surroundings, whether they be the art nouveau interiors of the hotel or the immaculate private park. The views really are spectacular, stretching out over the sparkling lake towards Bellagio, where the two branches of the lake meet, with mountains in the distance beyond. For a breath of fresh air, head out on gentle strolls around the lake’s edge, discovering quaint hamlets and captivating countryside views as you go. Private guided walks and picnics are available.
The three pools are fabulous, two of which are outdoor. Choose from the flowers pool in the palace park for utmost tranquillity, or the heated Water-on-the-Water – WOW as its deservedly called - which floats on top of the lake. There’s a terrace restaurant too, the most elegant on the lake for sunset dining at its finest.
Good to know: T Beach, the hotel’s private lido floating on the lake, has been remodelled as the spot to experience la dolce vita. It offers a seaside experience beside the lake with a soft sand beach, al fresco dining options including tartares and famed open-air barbeques, set against unrivalled views. If you crave total privacy, speak to your Travel Counsellor about reserving one of the luxurious suites.
If you are looking for a rural retreat in the UK to enjoy the great outdoors with your family, the Highlands will almost certainly be on your list. Loch Ness, in particular, has an enduring appeal. Children will love the legend of the monster; at Nessieland, they can watch a documentary about the sightings, explore the Nessie caves to unravel the legends and the mysteries and the family can take a cruise out into the loch.
For a world-renowned place, it is remarkably well-preserved with surprisingly little development so you can really enjoy the natural setting. The lake itself is long and narrow and has a different feel dependent on the shore. Drumnadrochit is the tourism hub on Urquhart Bay to the north of the loch, surrounded by glens that stretch from Inverness in the east to Fort William in the west.
The south is the quieter, more scenic and wild side of the loch, where will find lovely walking trails and picnic spots. Stop at the Suidhe viewpoint for an amazing vantage point or explore the Falls of Foyer, a 140ft waterfall cascading into the loch. Horse riding, cycling, cruises and fishing trips are all available in the area and bespoke tours can be arranged – a great option to bring the local history and wildlife alive.
Good to know: We’d recommend a private house nearby for the utmost space and privacy. For example, Bearnock House in Drumnadrochit is a detached home in a quiet position on top of a hill for wonderful countryside views. It has all the mod-cons of home, with the attractions of the loch just 10km away.
“I recommend taking a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) on Loch Ness. Zipping along was a fabulous way to explore the Loch from the actual water and a real highlight for my boys.”
Gemma, Travel Counsellor
The landscapes of Tuscany look like they were painted by hand, with forests, vineyards, hamlets and abbeys to explore. Chianti’s rolling hills and vineyards; the Val d'Orcia’s groves and gullies; charming hilltop towns like Montepulciano...there’s even a valley where thousands of camellias bloom, a little corner of Japan in Italy.
In the southern province of Arezzo, Cortona is a traditional walled Etruscan town considered one of the most beautiful, where cars are a rarity and views extend over the valley to Lake Trasimeno. It’s famed for its beautiful churches, like the Santa Margherita, and of course its red wine. On Saturdays, Piazza Signorelli comes alive with its open-air market ripe with aromas of fresh breads and cured meats.
Villa Fontelunga, half an hour away, is a not the stereotypical Tuscan experience, with traditional antiques sitting alongside pieces by Starck and Arne Jacobsen, and just nine rooms. Escape from it all with breakfast al fresco on the terrace, and views cascading over the olive and cypress groves of the Val di Chiana.