The family-holiday conundrum – can’t leave kids alone, so the evening agenda follows as thus: dinner at 5.30pm; wine-nursing from 7pm; shrug shoulders; bed by 10pm. But parents, there is another way: luxury villas offer all the benefits of a hotel (chefs, butlers, activities) with the freedom to spend indolent nights dining alfresco by the pool. You’re welcome…
CAN PAYO, IBIZA
In the 1950s, Canadian-born Rolph Blakstad sailed to Ibiza with his new wife and fell in love. In the years after, he became the impresario of Ibicenco architecture, building many of the White Isle’s iconic homes. As if laying the groundwork for the perfect family stay, this six-bed villa was crafted by his son, who now presides over Blakstad’s design firm. This embodiment of ‘La Casa Eivissenca’ bears the familial hallmarks: a single-storey style that time-travels to the Ibiza of old, with cooling, contemporary interiors that fix you firmly in the present. Outside, willowy pines stand around a child-pleasing pool and there are seven acres of grounds for kids to play hide and seek around. Come evening, pick from restaurant-rich Santa Gertrudis or alfresco meals at the villa’s outdoor kitchen, followed by movie nights in the cinema room.
CASTELLO DI RESCHIO COL DELLE NOCI, UMBRIA
Psst: your dream Tuscan villa might not actually be in Tuscany. A hop across the border is the Castello di Reschio estate in Umbria, which you can reply to quizzical looks by explaining you’re off to the undiscovered ‘green heart’ of Italy: the same snaking scenery, the same terra-torial food, but fewer crowds and as many vineyards. Once on the sprawling estate you can live it up like an Italian noble in your private three-bed Col delle Noci castle – one of four aria-inducing villas on the land, tucked between the misty folds of the Apennine mountains. The honey-stoned farmhouse comes with the requisite country kitchen and grounds, plus a sunken infinity pool and sunset-ready terraces that even the grandest dukes of Tuscany would cross the border for. This being Italy, of course, the estate is run by a hospitality-honed family, who can arrange English-speaking babysitters, high chairs, extra beds, activities and more.
ANTONIA’S PEARLS MARINE VILLA, CORNWALL
Behind every great family is a power couple and on Cornwall’s south coast, there’s a canny, creative twosome behind Antonia’s Pearls. In the sail-studded fishing village of Charlestown, the six studios, cabins, cottages and villas sleep between two and eight people. Some come with log burners; others with sea views; all with the same nautical-but-nice interiors. The team behind it are David and Antonia: he’s responsible for all the carpentry and kitchens; she for the oven-ready ‘Great Grub’ menu, which you can order and pop in when you don’t fancy cooking. Our favourite is the Marine Villa, where you can watch the ships sail in, as sea breeze drifts through in summer and the fire crackles in winter. Best of all, it’s family friendly with buggies, baby monitors and more – so you don’t have to cart the whole kitchen sink down to Cornwall.
LA LAVANDE, PROVENCE
Vincent van Gogh spent his final months in St Rémy de Provence, and while his sojourn might not have been all trips to the Wednesday food market and skipping through sunflower fields, it did mark a prolific period for his art, resulting in The Starry Night – inspired by the town’s scenic beauty. Of course, you can’t admire St Rémy and its post-impressionist ties without a place to stay, so allow us to introduce blue-shuttered, four-bedroom villa La Lavande: an 18th-century farmhouse, whose lavender-filled gardens, alfresco terraces and outdoor pool are just the spot for spying starry, starry nights and whose tennis courts and pétanque pitches prompt children to practice undiscovered talents of their own.
TREEHOUSE AT THE FISH, COTSWOLDS
Treehouses transcend age – the indefinable magic of sleeping in an elevated space never goes away. Charming Cotswolds stay the Fish know this only too well, so they’ve built three on their sprawling estate: an English country garden run rampant, perfect to set younger family members loose on. These lofty digs lie close to the ground, but what they lack in altitude, they make up for in cosiness: two bedrooms include a bunk room; there’s a huge deck to hang out on with a dining table, swing chair and a pair of heated outdoor bath tubs; even underfloor heating for winter. In the main hotel, U-rated film screenings are held and seafood restaurant Hook has a special ‘tiddlers’ menu’. Beyond, outdoorsy adventures await…
CASA CHECHÉN AT ALDEA CANZUL, TULUM
When it comes to luxury, looks can be deceiving. Tucked behind a patchwork of tropical palms, the entrance to Casa Chechén appears unobtrusive at first. But step within, and you’ll find decks dotted with hammocks and beanbags, a whitewashed lounge and kitchen, and two bedrooms with polished concrete walls, all collectively done in that inimitable Tulum style of natural materials, dream catchers, simple textiles and beach towels at the ready. Because in Tulum, real luxury means powering down and proximity to the playa’s powder-fine sands, where younger members will need little more than sea and sandcastles to keep them entertained. If they do demand more, the villa’s excellent concierge is on hand: a day in the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, perhaps?
ASTROLABE AT KOKOMO PRIVATE ISLAND, FIJI
Named after Fiji’s famous shark-swum reef, the Astrolabe villa at Kokomo Private Island is blessed with the best views on the island. From the infinity pool, you can spy the South Pacific’s most photogenic critters (turtles, parrot fish, rays), there’s a butler and nanny to cater to your whims, and all meals are included (fresh catches with an Asian accent are the specialty, but the chef takes requests). Plus, it sleeps 10, so you can bring the in-laws, the aunties, even the postman if you fancy. Dedicated clubs for kids, tweens and teens, plus a PADI centre, sunset cruises, an island spa and village tours, promise to keep all ages entertained.
MHONDORO SAFARI LODGE VILLA, SOUTH AFRICA
Wanna blow their minds? Stay at this wildly luxurious six-person lodge in the heart of the (malaria-free) Welgevonden game reserve, where there’s a good chance a passing elephant will mistake your private pool for a watering hole. Here, your own game vehicle and ranger come as standard, so you can spend more time fraternising with the local wildlife. Plus, you get a private chef and butler, so you’re free to enjoy lantern-lit alfresco meals, Big Five-spotting from your deck and hanging out in animal hides. For kids, there are indoor and outdoor play areas, archery classes and insect walks, and parents can partake in bush strolls or simply hit the massage hut. It’s all about the back-to-nature bragging rights.