Balearic bliss: Majorca is the perfect destination for a civilised family holiday

 

Last summer's most fashionable Balearic backdrop? Not overhyped Ibiza, nor even its louche neighbour Formentera. No, in August, according to the pages of Grazia, there was only one place to be. After all, why else had Britain's top paparazzi magnets decamped en masse to our tiny stretch of Majorca's spectacular northern coastline, the one to which we'd reluctantly waved goodbye only days before?

There were the Camerons in matching dark-blue in Pollença's pretty town square. There was Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins letting down those famous sideburns (and sneaking a cheeky post-Olympics fag) on the local harbourside. And there was Kate Moss (plus entourage, of course) relaxing a short hop away in hippie-chic Deia.

That the country's Prime Minister, national sporting hero and pre-eminent supermodel should be soaking up the sun on adjacent loungers may have come as a shock to those whose image of this island is based on sangria-soaked repeats of ITV's Magaluf Weekender. But our celebs are parents all – and to those who treasure Majorca's quieter north-eastern corner as the perfect destination for a civilised family holiday, it was really no surprise at all.

As more people are coming to realise, there are two sides to this island – safely separated by the jagged peaks of the Serra de Tramuntana, which divide the island from east to west. And over here to the north, the fleshpots of Magaluf and Palma Nova seem a world away, as the hillside tumbles down through groves of orange, lemon, olive and almond trees, past some of Europe's most expensively renovated farmhouses, before plunging over granite cliffs to secret coves, such as remote Cala Tuent, and more sheltered, child-friendly beaches, such as Formentor, lapped by a crystalline sea.

Lacking an invite from the Wigginses, the Mosses or the Camerons, we stayed at the spacious Villa Pepi, outside the elegant little town of Pollença, famed for its cobbled streets, perfectly preserved buildings – admired by Churchill as well as the current PM – and the 365 steps that lead to the hilltop known as Calvari, scene of dramatic torchlit parades.

With its luxuriant garden, mountain views, fabulous pool and satellite TV, it proved the ideal base – and at first we found it hard to drag ourselves away. Before long, however, we ventured out – picking up supplies at the busy market, bagging bargains at the Camper shoes factory shop, lingering over delicious tapas (try 13% in Calle San Feliu) amid the unmissable medieval magnificence of Palma's Old Town, and returning again and again to the light- demerara sands of Formentor, fast becoming our children's favourite beach in the whole wide world.

One memorable day, we drove high into the hills, visiting the cool cloisters of the ancient monastery at Lluc, home to Spain's most famous boys' choir, then zig-zagging down through hairpin bends and past mountain lakes, pausing to admire the vertigo-inducing views at the Mirador de Ses Barques, before descending again to the bustling quayside at Port de Soller and one of the freshest plates of prawns we'd ever tasted.

From Soller, we drove on a while to a fêted country-house hotel, the Gran Hotel Son Net in the village of Puigpunyent. Only a 20-minute drive from the bright lights of Palma, this beautifully converted 17th-century finca, perched on a hillside above a verdant hidden valley, seems to belong to a more rarefied world, with private cabanas around the pool, paintings by Hockney and Chagall on the walls, and what may be the most romantic restaurant terrace in the Med.

This is the high life, we thought, settling in to watch the stars come out with a cool white from the estate's own vineyard. As we perused the dinner menu, our waiter told us that the hotel's regular guests include another Tour de France winner, the Spanish champion Alberto Contador, who bases himself here during training. For perhaps the first time in our lives, we wondered whether all these cyclists know something we don't.

Mallorca Farmhouses, the award-winning accommodation specialist celebrating its 25th year, offers a selection of self-catering country cottages, converted farmhouses and luxury villas; prices for Villa Pepi from £846 per week (0845 800 8080, mallorca.co.uk). Rooms at Gran Hotel Son Net from €155 per night (sonnet.es)

More family frolics

1. Take a bite-sized cookery course led by River Cottage chefs, at Hugh’s home in Devon. Try out one-day sessions geared to families, such as Pizza Bites (rivercottage.net)

2. Learn how to track animals as a volunteer in the Kenyan wildlife conservation area of Rukinga Sanctuary (campsinternational.com)

3. The newest craze to hit the waters of St Lucia, snuba-diving combines scuba and snorkelling, a stress-free way to get little ones below the water. Try it at the revamped Sugar Beach resort, in the Pitons National Park (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com)

4. The Brothers Grimm penned their first fantastical tale 200 years ago this year. Explore the 370-mile Fairy Tale Road, from their birthplace in Hanau to Bremen, the landscape that inspired Rapunzel, the Pied Piper and more (germany.travel)

5. Go camping with a concierge. Head to Cornwall and get everything from your tent to your food delivered, set up and all your family’s activities arranged (adventuretemples.com)

6. Encourage your teens to roll their eyes to the heavens, on a new family astronomy and adventure holiday to the Sinai Desert (adventurecompany.co.uk)

7. Stay 30ft up a redwood fir on a château estate deep in the Normandy woods, in a treehouse designed to resemble a medieval castle. (chateaudelagrandenoe.com/grande-noe)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor