Pausefor Forts

There are times when a holiday should be all about retreating and pulling up the drawbridge. Even better if you can do it in fortified splendour.

CAP ROCAT, Mallorca, Spain

The military is adept at nabbing prime locations, and this clifftop fortress is no exception. Dating from 1898, Cap Rocat – now a child-free hideaway hotel created by local designer-to-the-stars Antonio Obrador – faces west over the yacht-studded Bay of Palma.

Thankfully, there’s no sunrise “Reveille” to awaken guests, but the hotel’s past is recalled throughout: door handles are made from bullets; the 25 suites are deftly inserted into former arsenals; gun emplacements have become restful rooftop patios with four-poster day beds; and an infinity pool nestles in the ramparts. Cap Rocat guests enjoy a small private beach, a spa cabana and two restaurants – including the chic Sea Club, which serves flambé Mallorcan prawns under the stars. In summer 2015, three new suites, the Sentinels opened in former surveillance caves; all have a pool, tiered terrace, tremendous views and utter privacy. If you’re prepared to stick your head above the parapet, you can cycle into Palma using the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Alternatively, a classic 1960s Austin Healey can be rented for a day’s touring in the Serra de Tramuntana.


Once owned by the Italian film director Luchino Visconti, this 41-suite hilltop hotel is set in 4,200 acres less than an hour’s drive south of Florence. Born from the ruins of a 10th-century castle, it forms the focal point for the Castello di Casole, a private residence club with companion properties sprinkled across the globe.

The look is classic Tuscany, with cypress-lined avenues, luscious vineyards, silvery olive groves and honey-hued farmhouses. Inside, the Essere Spa, built into the old wine cellar, offers treatments that incorporate olive oil, honey, cinnamon and oranges from the estate. Guests can relax in the heated infinity pool, learn how to make pasta and take a drive in a Ferrari, while seasonal activities include a trip to the Palio horse race in Siena – with a chance to take part in the grape harvest or go truffle-hunting. The flagship Ristorante Tosca serves local foie gras and suckling pig, and among the wines on offer is Castello di Casole’s private label Dodici.


Amid the remnants of a 12th-century Knights Templar fortress in the hills near Vence, with amazing views over the Côte d’Azur, Château Saint-Martin offers a heady mix of sunshine, Rosé and lavender.

It’s also in a creative hot spot: Matisse’s La Chapelle du Rosaire is just down the road; Chagall, Miró and Braque sculptures illuminate the lawns at Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence; while Picasso artworks enliven lunch at La Colombe d’Or. As well as 51 guest rooms and six villas, the Château has 35 acres of parkland with a waterfall and private chapel, and an infinity pool fringed with olive trees. Guests can dine at three venues including the gourmet Le Saint-Martin restaurant, and the hotel has its own stretch of Cap d’Antibes beach. The underground wine cellar houses more than 12,000 bottles; the spa specialises in phyto-aromatic treatments by Sisley; and the service is exceptional – as you’d expect from the owners of London’s The Lanesborough hotel.

SWINTON PARK North Yorkshire, England

In 1882, at the age of 67, industrialist Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought Swinton Park (near Thirsk, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales). His new des res clearly worked wonders –

– the magnate lived to 91 – and the stately home still sings of his time, with its grand drawing rooms, huge family portraits and ivy-wrapped tower. Relaunched by his great-great-great-grandson as a historic castle hotel-bedroom property, framed with 200 acres of deer-dotted parkland, offers pony trekking, fly-fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, hawk and owl encounters, and a high-class cookery school. A new £5.5m Country Club and Spa (with pool) opens this spring and, as Swinton is still a working estate, guests can be driven around its lakes, forests and moorland by a gamekeeper, learning about everything from grouse husbandry to the fortunes of the local cricket team – all described with typical Yorkshire wit. Two breweries and traditional butchers’ shops make the nearby market town of Masham well worth a visit too.

ASFORD CASTLE County Mayo, Ireland

They’ve been welcoming guests to Ashford Castle, in the magnificent west of Ireland, since 1228 and the scenic splendour is just as it was when its founders settled where the salmon-rich River Cong meets the vast Lough Corrib.

The Guinness family acquired the castle (and its 350-acre estate) in 1852, then merrily added baronial towers, ornamental gardens and close to a million trees. A hotel since 1939, Ashford Castle has just benefited from a £46m restoration by The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, with contemporary verve injected into the 82 antiques-filled rooms. Alongside a private cinema, lordly billiards and cigar room, there is now a smart new spa featuring locally produced organic seaweed products; outdoor activities include fishing, riding Connemara ponies and a “hawk walk” with a bird of prey.



Glamping? Why not fold up your tepee? There’s a new kid on the block, with 360-degree views and amenities akin to those of a five-star hotel. The Forest Domes at Finn Lough Resort on the banks of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland can be likened to huge snow globes that put guests at the centre of perfect woodland landscape. The giant “bubbles” have transparent walls, so you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy stargazing – from the luxury of a four-poster bed, no less. You may be ‘camping’ but, despite the remote setting, you certainly won’t be roughing it. With underfloor heating, a vintage record player, a waterfall shower, a Nespresso machine, and fluffy robes and slippers – not to mention a nearby restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients – it’s more like the Garden of Eden.


Imagine a typical Japanese river-meets-mountain watercolour and you’re halfway to picturing the paradise that is Amanemu. The new addition to the Aman chain, on the shores of Ago Bay at the tip of the Shima peninsula, offers beguiling views of the valley. And serenity is key: the retreat embraces the Japanese bathing tradition of onsen, with every suite featuring private baths fed by the mineral-rich thermal springs.


The secret to success is reinvention – and No. 11 Cadogan Gardens knows nothing else. Originally built in the 19th century as four separate Victorian townhouses, it was converted into an understated, yet opulent, hotel that opened in 2012. And now the Chelsea hideout has been extensively renovated to incorporate 25 new luxury suites, plus a bar and drawing room, all designed to enhance the building’s historic charm.


The bikini-or-one-piece beach conundrum has been overtaken by a new consideration: clutch or bucket bag? Thankfully, Sophie Anderson does both beautifully, creating vibrant hand-woven bags based on the traditional mochila design from South America. Working with indigenous tribeswomen there, Anderson is incorporating her own style into traditional designs, resulting in patterned bags that are perfect for a day by the sea.

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