From soaking up the sun at Camber Sands to take in Florence's breathtaking views, we have thepick of the best weekend breaks in the UK and abroad
You can pack a surprising amount into a long weekend on our favourite Atlantic Isle: whale watching, a guided walk around the volcanic hills and even a trip to Madeira‘s teeny-tiny neighbour Porto Santo. Of course, there’ll also be time to laze in the subtropical gardens of a gorgeous hotel like Quinta da Casa Branca, which sits on the fringes of the capital, Funchal.
The Danish capital is very much in vogue, thanks to our newfound love of Nordic noir. Happily, its heart-melting waterfronts like Nyhavn, together with Michelin-starred restaurants and slick interior design stores, totally live up to their screen image. Design fans should stay at the Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen, which is liberally sprinkled with Arne Jacobsen furniture.
This breezy hangout on five-mile Camber Sands is perfect for a spontaneous dash to sunny seaside. The Gallivant is a fresh, fun place with new Hampton-style deck rooms and a kids-and-dogs-welcome policy. The action centres around its deliciously-decorated restaurant, which invites ‘pop-up chefs’ including Tom Aikens, Mitch Tonks and Richard Neat to host gourmet four-course dinners.
Image: Clive Sawyer
A weekend spent gazing at Italy’s artiest city from its hillside fringes is as much of a pleasure as time spent dawdling around its cathedral and palazzos. Stay at Il Salviatino, a luxurious Renaissance villa at Fiesole, and you also get the chance to capture your experience during a two-hour painting class with a talented local artist.
Bilbao’s airport (which lies outside the city) brings Northern Spain’s peaceful coast within easy reach. Cae a Claveles, in seaside Llanes, is a great choice of hotel – its modernist curves and colourful bedrooms are quite a contrast to the rustic scenery that lies all around. And its mountain-view orchards are glorious in spring.
The world’s eyes will be on Scotland’s second city this summer when it hosts the Commonwealth Games. It’s ready, with a new style and confidence that’s summed up by exciting new landmarks like Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum. Smartest rooms are at Hotel du Vin’s One Devonshire Gardens, a plush conversion of five Victorian townhouses that’s hosted Hollywood’s most fashionable faces.
Don’t save Southern Italy’s Salento Peninsula for your summer holiday. It’s perfectly doable as a long weekend – wonderful when the weather’s iffy here and you’re longing to disappear into sapphire-blue bays and sleepy tourist-lite towns. Stay at Masseria Bagnara, a contemporary boutique hotel & spa that serves ‘slow food’ dinners in a candle-lit arched courtyard.
Whether you’re basing your capital weekend around Wimbledon, Ascot or the Chelsea Flower Show, make sure you include a fabulous afternoon tea in the mix. The Goring, Belgravia’s reliable old charmer, has invented one to celebrate the Season, ingeniously disguising blueberry macaroons and strawberries and cream cakes as modish hats. Yum!
For a restorative long weekend, investigate La Réserve Geneva Hotel & Spa. This refined sanctuary set in 10 acres of parkland has a fabulous new Better Ageing Programme that can come in a four-day form. Its aim: to detoxify and rejuvenate your body using the latest scientific know-how – plus gorgeous La Reserve and La Prairie treatments.
We hardly need any encouragement to dash back to the South West’s stylish hideaways. But the discounts on luxe-y breaks at i-Escape’s West is Best campaign – which is designed to give the area a boost after winter’s floods – are very welcome! Easy-to-reach choice: The Chapel at Bruton, a glam restaurant-with-rooms where George Clooney has been known to peruse the wine list! The quiet, historic town is also about to see the opening of a world-class arts centre.