Friday Fantasy Vacation: Ballynahinch Castle

There are lots of great places to go in Ireland, and many beautiful hotels and country homes to stay at. But since this is Fantasy time, I’m choosing the Ballynahinch Castle in County Galway. Set on 450 acres in Coonemara, a gorgeous wilderness area on the West coast, it’s everything I want out of a vacation. Luxurious rooms and dining, beautiful natural scenery and lots of outdoor activities that I don’t often do at home like fishing and woodcock shooting, not to mention multiple opportunities for long walks and hikes. Take a look and see yourself.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Todos Santos

So I’ve covered where I’d like to have my Friday evening cocktail over at Inside Bars and since I love a good theme, this week’s fantasy vacation spot is also going to be in the sunny surf town of Todos Santos on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. I’d like nothing better than to gather a group of friends and rent this little hacienda outside of town. It’s on 5 acres and surrounded by avocado, banana, mango, lemon, orange, and olive trees and a sugarcane grove. With four bedrooms and a lap pool, the only other thing we’d need is some tequila. Who’s in?

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Huvafen Fushi Maldives

Here’s a little something to get you through to the weekend. It’s hard to imagine a location more remote but more luxurious than this. I may not ever make it to the Maldives, but while I muddle through the late-Winter cold I’ve been saddle with I’ll be picturing my toes dangling in these warm waters.

Scotland in Winter

I took a trip to Scotland almost two years ago and can’t wait to go back. We visited during the Summer and were very lucky with warm and sunny weather the whole time, but something tells me that to truly experience Scotland one needs to see it in Winter in what I can only assume is its more natural state, meteorologically speaking. If I were to go now, I’d retreat to one of these locations with a deck of cards and some local whisky.

Galbegno Castle, Fettercairn

A  six bedroom self-catering lodge located 45 minutes south of Aberdeen.

photos courtesy of Balbegno Castle

The Torridon, Highlands

A 19 bedroom luxury hotel located on 58 acres next to a loch. Not only do they offer guided Winter hikes into the nearby hills (and list a flask as part of your required equipment), but they have a Whisky bar offering tastings and over 350 whiskies to choose from. They run an inn close by if you’re looking for slightly more modest accommodations.

photos courtesy of the Torridon

Cameron House, Loch Lomond

The perfect family getaway. Not only are there amazing views, multiple restaurants, stylish bars, a spa and pools but three different “clubs” for kids divided by ages. Your littles ones can also go on guided hikes and bird watching excursions with their own Countryside Ranger. Oh, and there’s bunk beds in the family rooms. Everyone is now happy.

Dalhousie Castle, Near Edinburgh

This is the place to go if you have an interest in falconry and/or medieval fortresses, which this castle once was. You can take short falconry classes or sign up for the 5 day intensive course and there’s even classes for kids with owls. Of course there’s a spa, but there’s also a restaurant in the former dungeons.

photos courtesy of Dalhousie Castle

Beach Bay Cottage, Isle of Lewis

A romantic and private self-catering cottage in the outer Hebrides that was inspired by traditional black houses of the islands. While secluded enough for a cozy getaway, it’s also only 3 miles from the village and a few hundred yards from a restaurant.

photos courtesy of Beach Bay Cottage

Hobbit House of Montana

I don’t know anyone who isn’t at least a little bit charmed by the Hobbits of Tolkien’s books and with the new Hobbit movie coming soon (sort of) I imagine that Hobbit fever will only increase. Best you reserve your stay at the Hobbit House soon or you may have to build your own. If you, like me, are not that industrious then this is the place to go. Located in the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains it’s a great getaway, especially with children. Fall is likely the best season to visit as this is also Montana’s huckleberry epicenter. And I imagine that Hobbits love huckleberries.

The Shire

Main House

Bilbo's House in Winter

All photos curtesy of Hobbit House of Montana

Trailer Sleeps

I should have seen this coming years ago when everyone started buying old Airstreams and revamping them into snazzy, modern campers and food carts. The trailer hotel could not be far behind.

Hicksville Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree CA

Imagined as an artist retreat in the desert of Southern California, this delightful hodgepodge of trailers opened in April 2010. In addition to your trailer (there’s 8 to choose from), there is also a saltwater pool, fire pit, horseshoes, archery range, rooftop hot tub, recording studio, and of course stunning views.

Shady Dell, Bisbee AZ

Fans of mid-century design and furnishings will relish this collection of 9 restored aluminum trailers, one vintage bus and a 50s era yacht. The Shady Dell originally opened in 1927 as a spot for tired travelers cruising Hwy. 80, which ran from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California. You can still hook up your RV here, but you no longer need to bring your own trailer. There’s also a 50’s style cafe called Dots so you don’t even need to dirty the vintage kitchens.

The Grand Daddy, Cape Town, South Africa

The Grand Daddy hotel has take the Shady Dell American kitsch and refined it into something still nostalgic, but totally hip. Located on the roof of the more traditional hotel, the Airstreams have been re-designed by local creatives and boast themes like Afro-Funk, Love of Lace and Pleasantville. Luckily for guests, there’s a bar on the roof as well so no need to operate the elevator after roof top cocktails.

Blaengors Airstream, West Wales Coast

Airstreams for rent also come solo, for those who aren’t interested in the party atmosphere of the trailer park hotels. This one is located between Aberaeron and Lampeter on the West coast of Wales in a private meadow. Built in 1964 and totally redone it’s quite a nice way to play at traveling gypsy for a weekend.

Photos by Chris Tannock

Vickers Romany Caravan, Shropshire, England

The British built Vickers Caravans were made from the 50’s through 70’s for the gypsy market. Larger than Airstreams, these were meant to be the main home for  gypsy families living a traditional life in Britain. This is some serious luxury camping, but don’t worry that it’s gotten too highbrow. There’s still a rowboat and a lake nearby so you don’t spend too much time indoors, even though you’ll want to.

Alpine Ski Hotels

I am not, nor have I ever been a skier, snowboarder or snowshoer. I hear they are all very lovely ways to spend one’s free time and I imagine that that’s true. However, when I’m faced with the prospect of many hours spent on a snow-covered mountain the only thing that sounds fun to me is a roaring fire and a warm cocktail. Perhaps a deck of cards. Maybe you are like me and are often vacationing with snow-lovers who only come off the mountain to sleep. If you’re thinking of going to the Alps with that lot, don’t worry, there are plenty of hotels to make all of you happy and stylishly so.

L’Alpaga, Megeve, France

The Cambrian, Adelboden, Switzerland

Lagacio Mountain Residence, San Cassiano, Italy

Carlton Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland

Avenue Lodge, Val d’Isere, France

Arlberg Hospiz, St. Christoph, Austria

Les Granges D’en Haut, Chamonix, France

Spotlight: Podere Palazzo

There’s hardly a traveler who has not, at least momentarily, wished for a leisurely  week spent at a classic yet modern farmhouse in Tuscany. What better home base for exploring the countryside? What better setting for visiting with family and friends than in front of an outdoor fireplace at a long table with bottles of Chianti, plates of pasta and a perfect hillside view?  A restored stone house that’s mere miles away from Italy’s best vineyards and thermal pools is the most ideal locale. The Podere Palazzo in Tuscany, nearly smack in the middle of Rome and Florence, is therefore an ideal hideaway. With five bedrooms, three fireplaces, a pool and views on all sides it would be hard to leave.

Photos curtesy of Podere Palazzo

Alemenys 5, Girona Spain

Girona is located right in between Barcelona and Perpignan, France in Catalonia at the confluence of four rivers; the Ter, Onyar, Galligents and Güell. It’s a great homebase for exploring this unique part of the world. The town itself has a well preserved medieval center and one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. The recently restored Alemenys 5, owned by architect Anna Noguera and her husband Juan Manuel Ribera would be an ideal place to stay while seeing the area.  Ms. Noguera has accomplished with this property what the Spanish seem so adept at doing, which is to incorporate a modern aesthetic into an historic setting. It’s at once sleek and of the moment but also comforting and beautiful. The house can be rented as a whole or divided into two smaller apartments.

Girona in the Summer

Medieval part of Girona

View of the house from the square

All house photos by Enric Duch

Beaujolais, France

Working in the wine business means that I often think of holidays in terms of what to drink. With Thanksgiving around the corner, my thoughts are focused on the perfect wine for the season: Beaujolais. Made from Gamay Noir the wines are delightful all year, but really resonate with roasted birds, cranberry sauces and stuffing. Located in the southern part of Burgundy the Beaujolais region is pretty but not the tourist destination that it’s more northern vineyard cousins are. There are fewer glitzy hotels but that’s best as the wines are less glitzy too. Below are a few places to call home base while touring the region.

Auberge du Paradis, Saint-Amour-Bellevue

Cour des Loges, Lyon

La Colline du Colombier, Iguerande

La Longere

La Longere

La Tour

Les Cadoles

Chateau de Bagnols, Bagnols

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