Ten Best: Self catering escapes
Mr & Mrs Smith for The Irish Independent
Juliet Kinsman from boutique gurus Mr & Mrs Smith selects her favourite self-catering escapes from Donegal to the Dordogne.
Best for blowing off the cobwebs
Stragar, Co Donegal
Set on a rugged seven-acre plot, Dolly Cottage is a cute thatched property just a stroll from the beach. There's no TV or Wi-Fi, but plenty of deserted dunes and rolling hills to explore. If the weather isn't on your side, pop some soda bread in the Aga, browse the bookshelf and flop into an armchair by the fireside. You're also close to Killybegs and the buzzing pubs of Ardara.
Details: Sleeps two to four in one double and a twin. Two nights, €295; one week, €595.
Best for cycling holidays
Maison de Mons
This 17th-century maison de seigneur lies in a pretty courtyard in a tourist-free Provence village and houses six chic apartments. Each one is decorated with hand-picked antiques, exotic artifacts and designer-label furniture. Embrace local life and keep things simple: stock up on fresh bread, butter, cheese, meats and confitures from the epicerie and boulangerie or dine in friendly local bistros. You can cycle everywhere here, exploring hidden Provencal villages and stunning country landscapes at your own pace.
Details: Apartments vary in size, but all sleep two in a double bed. The penthouse 'honeymoon suite' has a huge bathroom and master bedroom, which opens on to a roof terrace. A week's stay from €500 in low season; €800 in high season.
Best for big occasions
West Buckland, Somerset
Dating back to the 13th century, this lavish pile comes with its own banquet hall, perfect for glamorous dinner parties. Sprawling green grounds beckon -- have a picnic on the lawns, take a dip in the heated outdoor pool, or play a game of tennis. Then let your two-dozen guests retreat to the romantic boudoirs. Need some canapes with cocktails? Say the word and the can-do owners will make it happen. The Manor is a terrific venue for weddings: your hosts are happy to take charge of the planning.
Details: Up to 24 guests, with extra beds possible. From €6,015 a night or €250pp; week-long stays from €12,000 or €500pp.
Best for wintry walks
Original terracotta tiles, wooden beams and old floorboards hark back to this cottage's 18th-century past, but it's kitted out with all the creature comforts you crave from a petite self-catering property -- a fully equipped kitchen, super-comfy beds and a private well-kept garden. It's an ideal base for dipping into the Cotswolds or dropping a bet at Cheltenham, less than 10km away. You're a 10-minute trot from the charming town of Winchcombe and its many shops and pubs, and in pole position to tackle a strip of the Cotswold Way walk. For lower-octane strolls, hit one of the many nearby National Trust gardens, then relax in a gastropub.
Details: Sleeps two to four. Long weekends, from £595/€717; one week, starting Monday or Friday, from £875/€1,054.
Best for cultured city breaks
Gothic Quarter, Barcelona
With its surreal Gaudi architecture, colourful markets and thriving social scene, Barcelona is in a league of its own when it comes to city breaks. Destination BCN is the ideal pied a terre. Created by the impossibly cool Miklos and Anne, these apartments are elegant, warm, functional spaces soaked in Spanish sophistication. Ever fallen in love with an apartment in a design magazine and wished you could decamp to a foreign hub and pose as a native? Nothing's stopping you.
Details: Four one-bedroom apartments with sofa-beds; the others are two bedroom. From €140pn for up to two people; €20-€40pn for each extra person. Excludes cleaning and 8pc tax.
Best for foodie ski holidays
San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge
The Dolomites, South Tyrol
This 16th-century hunting lodge is surrounded by breathtaking forest and meadow scenery. Keen skiers can head to Plan de Corones mountain or the Alta Badia region, then return and hit the mini-spa for a massage. Reward your exertions with a dumpling feast in one of the local gourmet restaurants; opt for self-catering and you can make use of Giorgia's well-stocked kitchen, or indulge in the VIP package, with breakfast, afternoon tea, aperitifs and delicious home-cooked dinners.
Details: Up to 10, in three doubles and one bunk-bed room that sleeps up to four. A week's stay, from €8,400 or €840pp; €1,200 (€120pp) daily (lodge only). If fewer then four guests stay, a 20pc discount applies. Food extra.
Best for invite-your-friends-along honeymoon
Santa Maria, Mallorca
This chic, rustic farmhouse in bougainvillea-filled gardens combines traditional stone and polished oak with extravagant furnishings. There's an air of Bali-meets-the-Baleares in a palm-framed house that's perfect for entertaining al fresco with its poolside bar and open-air kitchen. It's five minutes from the pretty village of Santa Maria, in countryside just north of the historic city of Palma.
Details: Sleeps up to 10. From €4,375 a week or €437pp.
Best for family reunions
The Hunting Lodge
The Hunting Lodge in the Dordogne is as flexible as luxury self-catering pads can be. The historic house has two sections, La Maziliere and La Dronne. Smaller groups can stake out a room or three, or pop a couple in the boutique barn, La Grange. In contrast to artfully aged architecture -- parts date back to the 11th century -- rooms are bold and contemporary, with furnishings from far-flung lands. Plunder a kitchen stocked with pasta, sauce, cheese and bread, or hit local markets for the Périgord delicacies: wine, walnut oil, mushrooms, truffles, foie gras. Then find a sunny corner of the six-acre grounds for long, lazy suppers. Head up lakeside or relax in the shade of centuries-old fruit trees, and listen to the Dronne River gurgling at the bottom of the garden.
Details: Sleeps up to 14. A week costs from €4,078 or €291pp.
Best for getting away from it all
Montechiaro di Palma, Sicily
Understated rooms, colour-splashed gardens, a dazzling pool and fabulous food in the south Sicily hills. If you fancy having a farmhouse all to yourself, this is a mini version of the wonderful Azienda Agricola Mandranova, which is only a few hundred metres away. With the same genial husband and wife team at its helm, there's still a homey feel throughout, and owners Giuseppe and Silvia Di Vicenzo invite La Robazza residents to share the hotel-guest perks. Say the word and they'll book you a boat trip or leave you tasty homemade suppers.
Details: Sleeps up to six. One week from €1,500-€2,700.
Best for late-summer sunshine
The traditional trullo exterior of this hideaway in verdant Valle d'Itria conceals a sleek, modern-design den. Trullo Fico is resplendent in Eames and Philippe Starck pieces, Tom Dixon jack lamps and splashes of retro style -- pretty cool for a former dry-stone farm storehouse. Along with the colourful Puglian countryside, sound-system-equipped pool and three bold boudoirs, every detail of this luxury family property has been considered, down to a wet-weekend's worth of toys, games, entertainment (there's even a trampoline and tepee) and delicious local treats.
Details: Sleeps six to eight. Four nights from €990, based on six sharing.
To book any of these properties, contact 1800 812 925 or see mrandmrssmith.com. Mr & Mrs Smith’s properties have all been personally visited and anonymously reviewed