Villa holidays: Viva La Villa!
From the Costa de Sol to Corsica and Mallorca to Morocco, Pol O' Conghaile chooses 20 of his favourite wallet-friendly villa escapes for a family adventure.
Dar Tangier, Tangier, Morocco
The devil lies in the detail where this splendid villa overlooking the Bay of Tangier is concerned.
Two housekeepers are included in the price, and they'll collect you at the airport, shop for groceries, clean the villa and cook all meals -- at no extra cost.
"You're basically waited on hand and foot," we're assured.
The five-bed villa itself (sleeping eight) dates from the 1930s, and anchors a large garden fed by natural springs.
There's a private pool, and French windows open onto panoramic views of Tangier.
Details: Elysian Holidays (0044 158 076 6599; www.elysianholidays. co.uk) has Dar Tangier from €4,147 (i.e. €518pp) per week in June and September.
Aer Lingus connects via Barcelona, BMI via London.
Villa Supranu, San Ciprianu, Corsica
Set on a slope of olive groves, basking in the sun and keeping vigil over San Ciprianu Bay, Villa Supranu is straight off the cover of a holiday brochure. It's a three-bed villa (sleeping up to eight) with a pool, terraces and a daily delivery of fresh bread and a newspaper. The beach beneath the house is a 15-minute stroll (or five minutes by car), and Coastline offers an à la carte menu of services ranging from a private nanny and in-villa chef to poolside beauty treatments.
Details: Coastline (0044 844 557 1020; coastline.co.uk) has seven nights at Villa Supranu from €981pp, including car hire and return flights from London Gatwick. Based on June 6 departures.
Finca Figueral Nou, Pollença, Mallorca
Here's another reason to get the calculator out. This large, five-room, stone-clad property in Pollença rings in at almost €3,000 per week in June. It sleeps 11, however, which means a possible rate of €272pp if you can drum up the numbers.
The farmhouse is a new-build, a luxuriously appointed finca set amid five acres of open countryside, with a private pool and views stretching towards Puerto Pollença. Oak floors, a Playstation 2 and a poolside shower add to the luxury.
Details: Mallorca Farmhouses (0044 118 947 3001; mallorca.co. uk) has Finca Figueral Nou from €2,296 per week in May and €2,996 per week in June. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Palma.
Casa do Lago, Foz do Arelho, Portugal
In peak season, villa prices go through the roof. It's worth doing your sums before writing them off as too expensive, however. This luxury bolthole on Portugal's Silver Coast, roughly an hour's drive from Lisbon, rings in at €4,250 per week in high season. It can sleep 11 people in five bedrooms, which we calculate at a more agreeable rate of €386pp. For that, you get views of the Obidos Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean, a heated infinity pool, panoramic gardens, sun terraces, a kids' playground, brick-built barbecue and a mini-golf course.
Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomesdirect.ie) has this villa from €2,000 per week in low season rising to €4,250 in July/August. Aer Lingus flies to Lisbon.
Lacanau Océan, Aquitaine, France
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The Icelandic volcano played havoc with European airlines, but brought ferries a roaring trade. Their offerings go beyond the boat, too. Brittany Ferries, sailing weekly from Cork to Roscoff, has this villa in the resort of Lacanau Océan in Aquitaine. Based in a complex of 54, it comes with a private pool, overlooks a 27-hole golf course, and is close to a long, sandy beach. It sleeps up to seven, and the Médoc vineyards and Bordeaux are both an easy drive away.
Details: Brittany Ferries (021 427 7801; brittanyferries.ie) has this villa for a family of five, including return ferry crossings, at €4,895 for two weeks from June 26. That's €489.50pp per week.
Colina Del Paraiso, Marbella, Spain
Marbella is the jewel in the Costa del Sol's crown, and this resort -- located in the hills of El Paraiso between Marbella and Estepona -- offers a good mix of liveliness and leisure.
The villa complex shares three swimming pools, tennis courts and a children's playground, and all properties are fitted out in a "modern Mediterranean" style (i.e. heavy on the marble).
There's free Wi-Fi, beaches are eight to 10 minutes away by car, and Marbella is a 25-minute drive away.
Details: Self-catering.ie (1850 200 236; self-catering.ie) has three-bed accommodation at Colina Del Paraisio from €950 for the week starting July 3. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Malaga.
Villa Paloma, Menorca
A 15-minute drive from Menorca's airport, Villa Paloma is a simple three-bed villa (it sleeps six) in the resort of Cala'n Porter. This one could work well for families, as it is set on a single level and there's a sheltered, sandy beach within 1.5km. It comes with a private garden, large sun terrace and small, bean-shaped pool.
The tapered fireplace and whitewashed walls will put you in a sunny frame of mind, and Cala'n Porter's bars, restaurants and shops kick into action about 500m away.
Details: Selfcatering.ie (1850 200 236; selfcatering.ie) has a week in Villa Paloma from €1,022 in June. Aer Lingus connects with Menorca from Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid.
Natural Retreats Yorkshire Dales, UK
Think 'villa' and we tend to come over all Mediterranean -- conjuring up visions of rocky hills, olive groves and azure skies.
But thinking outside the box will get you places too. The UK's Yorkshire Dales National Park, established in 1954, never ceases to surprise visitors, and these glass-fronted wooden cabins are a pretty luxurious addition.
It's rural England through floor-to-ceiling windows -- and the Egyptian cotton sheets, open-plan kitchens and organic welcome hamper seal the deal.
Details: Natural Retreats (01-685 3013; naturalretreats.ie) has three nights in the Yorkshire Dales from €121 per night (sleeping up to six adults). Ryanair flies to Leeds.
Borgo degli Olivi, Umbria, Italy
Two families looking to strike out on holiday together? The 'Hamlet of the Olives' could be a perfect fit. This 19th-century farmhouse is a four-bed villa sleeping up to 12 people, but can be split into two separate apartments. Situated on six acres of olive groves near the Tuscan border, it's a five-minute walk to the village of Casalini, a five-minute drive to Lake Trasimeno, and about an hour by car from Sienna. The recently renovated property also comes with an 18m swimming pool.
Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomes direct.ie) has this villa from €1,500 per week in June and September (rising to €2,100 in peak season). Ryanair flies to Pisa.
Villa Olivia, Cephalonia
Fancy kicking back like Nicolas Cage or Penelope Cruz? Cephalonia was where these stars filmed the movie version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, and you can sample it in Villa Olivia -- a four-bed retreat overlooking a sweep of olive groves reaching down to the Ionian Sea.
The villa sleeps eight, is kitted out with the owner's collection of art and antiques, and comes with a large garden and Tuscan-style pool. It's 2km from Castello di San Giorgio, and less than a kilometre from the sea.
Details: SJ Villas (0044 207 801 4010; www.sjvillas.co.uk) has Villa Olivia from €612pp per week, a price that includes a car in high season. Aer Lingus connects to Cephalonia via Munich.
Alondra Villas, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote
When you take the flights into account, Falcon's Alondra Villas are among the cheapest we've been able to find this summer. Set in a hilltop complex in Puerto del Carmen, they come as two-beds (sleeping four) or three-beds (sleeping six), and all are equipped with a private pool.
The complex is 1.5km from the local beach. Pre-bookable baby packs (from €56) are a nice touch; they include a cot, highchair, buggy, steriliser and so on. Best of all, the villas come with free car hire.
Details: Falcon Holidays (1850 946 164; falconholidays.ie) has the Alondra Villas from €449pps based on May 27 departures. A car suitable for four is included in the price.
Il Castellare Di Tonda, Tuscany, Italy
Here's your ticket to Tuscany. Made up of 12 farmsteads batched together in the Italian countryside, Il Castellare Di Tonda dates back to the Strozzi, a noble family of the Florentine period. The farmsteads have been restored, however, into villas featuring one, two and three-bedroom apartments -- all with access to a pool area.
Facilities on the 280-acre estate range from a fully-equipped riding stable to a wellness centre, boating lake, Tuscan restaurant and 30km of walking and biking trails.
Details: Topflight (1890 240 170; topflight.ie) has seven nights' accommodation from €1,599 for two adults and two children, up to May 29. Prices include car hire and return flights, but not taxes.
Padre Aviles, Olias, Spain
Mention the Costa del Sol and a wall of apartment complexes comes to mind. It doesn't have to be that way, however. Set in a 17th-century convent, this remote tranche of villas and apartments is squirreled away in the mountains near Olias. It's a 10-minute drive (and dozens of hairpin bends) from civilisation, so you're the middle of nowhere, but there are pools, toys and tennis courts to hand. The English owners have three young girls, speak Spanish and know the area well -- tap them up for tips.
Details: Padre Aviles (0034 952 294 242; padre-aviles.com) has accommodation ranging from €1,150 per week in June to €1,450 per week in July/August. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Malaga.
Villa at Punta Laura, Nerja, Spain
Lying some 45km east of Malaga, Nerja ranks amongst Andalucía's more refined resorts, with beaches such as Playa Burriana achieving a good mix of rocky outcrops, clear water, loungers, and your daily fix of English-language newspapers.
This two-bed villa (sleeping four) is located 500m from the beach at Punta Laura and comes equipped with a private pool and terraces with sea views.
If you want to splash out a little, you can head for the communal pool complex at Punta Laura, and Nerja is 1km away.
Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomesdirect.ie) has this villa from €325 in low season rising to €650 per week in July and August. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Malaga.
Finca Sa Cavea, Cas Concos, Mallorca
June is a peachy time to visit Mallorca, with temperatures on the rise, sea breezes kissing cliffs and crowds yet to hit their peak.
Finca Sa Cavea is a four-bed farmhouse (sleeping nine) within walking distance of Cas Concos village. It's a traditional home in the pine-clad hills, and comes with big lawns, a private pool and a covered barbecue patio.
Mallorca Farmhouses also has Gaballi, a three-bed country cottage (sleeping five) in the Campanet Valley, which it recommends for hikers -- you can spot loads of migrating birds here, including the mountain eagle.
Details: Mallorca Farmhouses (0044 118 947 3001; mallorca.co. uk) has a week in Finca Sa Cavea from €1,134 and Gaballi from €1,484, for travel in June. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Palma.
Villas Salobre, Salobre, Gran Canaria
The beauty of villas located on hotel grounds is that they allow guests to do their own thing with the comfort of hotel facilities nearby. That's exactly what you get with these four-star villas, offered by Sunway, in Salobre.
Set alongside the fairways of the Salobre Golf Resort, with dining opportunities available in the nearby Casa Club house or Sheraton Spa Hotel, the villas are available as two or three-beds. Maspalomas beach is six kilometres away, and properties come with small pools.
Details: Sunway (01-231 1888; sunway.ie) has the Villas Salobre from €579pp for a week in June and €729pp in July, including flights. Villas with a pool are charged at a supplement.
Casa Olivo, Costa de Luz, Spain
Casa Olivo is a two-bedroom cottage (sleeping four) on the Costa de Luz. With its own private pool, enclosed garden and in-built barbecue, it's a pretty intimate option for Andalucía.
For a larger villa, Vintage Travel also has Casa Leza, a four-bed country home (sleeping up to nine) with a private pool. Both properties are situated close to the pretty fishing town of Conil de la Frontera, and are roughly a 10-minute drive from a choice of sandy coves.
Details: Vintage Travel (0044 195 426 1431, vintagetravel.co.uk) has a week from May 29 in Casa Olivo from €706, or at Casa Leza from €943. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Malaga.
Les Cygnes, Poitou-Charentes, France
And now for something a little different. This three-bed farm cottage (sleeping eight) dates from the 19th century, but it's entirely carbon neutral. Sharing a pool with two other properties in the heart of Poitou-Charentes (on France's west coast), it consists of an architect-designed barn and maison, with five acres of gardens and pasture, and a 10m saltwater pool. There's also a large games room, and it's within easy travelling distance from Limoges, Poitiers and La Rochelle.
Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomesdirect.ie) has this villa in July and August from €1,000 per week; from €615 per week in September. Ryanair flies to La Rochelle.
Villas Maribel, Cala Santandria, Menorca
Sunworld is another tour operator offering villa holidays, with these three-bed boltholes (sleeping six) just a short walk from the Menorcan resort of Cala Santandria. The properties come with private pools, shaded patios, fully equipped kitchens and satellite TV, and are just 300m from the sandy beach.
There's a supermarket close to hand too, and Cala Santandria has a steady enough offering of shops, bars and restaurants. If you're looking for a livelier nightlife, Cala Blanca is 1km away.
Details: Sunworld (0818 200 400; sunworld.ie) has these villas from €459pp for seven nights, based on six adults sharing. The price includes flights, accommodation and transfers.
Villa Flora, Vilamoura, Portugal
Feel like upgrading from an entry-level self-catering apartment in the Algarve? Villa Flora could be that next step. A compact, three-bed villa (sleeping four adults and two kids), the property is basic but comes with air-conditioning and its own small pool.
It's a short walk from the local shops and restaurants in the resort of Vilamoura, within 2km of the beach, and a kilometre away from the nearest golf course. Vilamoura also boasts a water slide park, and several sporting clubs.
Details: Self-Catering.ie (1850 200 236; selfcatering.ie) has this villa for €781 for the week starting June 5, and €1,167 for the week starting July 3. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Faro.