How to celebrate a milestone birthday or special wedding anniversary: Mark Hodson of 101 Holidays is your guide.

The pandemic has put countless travel plans on indefinite hold. After all, those bucket list trips to Antarctica and Macchu Pichu can wait a year or two, can’t they? But some special holidays can’t be pushed back so easily. How are we to celebrate that 50th birthday, or that precious 20th wedding anniversary? Mark Hodson of 101 Holidays is your guide.

Treat hotels close to home

If you have a big birthday or a round-number wedding anniversary to celebrate this year, the most obvious destination is the UK. If it’s just the two of you, I’d opt for a high-end hotel in a beautiful location. Countryside trumps city centre right now, and my wish list would include the fabulous Gilpin Hotel in the Lake District for lazy spa days, invigorating hikes and unstuffy Michelin-starred food, and Pen-y-Dyffryn, a cosy Georgian country house hotel in the Welsh borders.

Wine lovers should consider a stay at the five-star Three Choirs Vineyards, set on England’s oldest vineyard in Gloucestershire. If the ocean calls, how about Gwel An Mor on the north coast of Cornwall with its Scandi-style lodges and private hot tubs. For more inspiration, see this guide to the best boutique hotels in the UK.

If you want the feeling of going abroad without crossing a border, I’d point you in the direction of Jersey which has wonderful weather in spring and autumn and has succeeded in establishing strict health protocols. Stay at the Pomme d’Or Hotel in St Helier or the Greenhills Country House Hotel.

Rent your own slice of paradise

If you prefer the idea of your own space and you want to keep the celebrations low-key, I would look at renting a luxury cottage in the Cotswolds, the Peak District or the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Looking for something more remote? Cottages and Castles has more than 600 rental properties across Scotland including more than 100 with private hot tubs.

Perhaps you’d like to invite along friends and family? Oliver’s Travels has a fabulous collection of historic houses to rent across the UK while The Big Domain has luxury house rentals for groups of 12 and over. The Lakeland Cottage Company has houses for up to 14 people. In warmer months you could rent a canal boat that sleeps up to 12.

Venture abroad

Subject to travel restrictions and quarantine measures, there are some great opportunities right now to travel in Europe. The dramatic fall in visitor numbers to Venice, for example, offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the city without multitudes of tourists. Book with a trusted tour operator such as Kirker Holidays which provides its own personal concierge service. Other cities to consider include Rome and Lisbon. One city that’s returned to near normal after successfully containing the virus is Copenhagen.

While Portugal remains in the government’s good books, the islands of Madeira and the Azores offer dramatic countryside - perfect for gentle hikes - along with gorgeous winter sunshine. Madeira has some superb hotels, many converted from historic quintas. The Azores is one of the best destinations in Europe for whale and dolphin watching.

Iceland has been another country with an exemplary record in dealing with the pandemic. Go in winter for the Northern Lights, or wait until next summer for the Midnight Sun.

Another option is to head abroad by private jet. It’s not as expensive as you might think if you take a short trip. For example, Jet Escapes offers indulgent lunches in Paris, Dublin or anywhere else you fancy with an airstrip. If you stretch the budget - and perhaps share the cost amongst friends - you could spend a couple of nights on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. If quarantine rules change, you could switch to a UK destination.

On the back burner

If you’d rather wait until things have settled down a bit, the world really is your oyster. You could marvel at the art treasures of St Petersburg, join a wine and gastronomy break in Spain or discover the canals and rivers of France on a luxury hotel barge.

Further afield, you could join an expedition cruise through the famed Inside Passage in Alaska, go on a tailor-made safari with Mahlatini, explore the colonial cities and coffee plantations of Colombia, or take a journey on the Eastern & Oriental Express train between Bangkok and Singapore.

If it’s a tropical beach you crave, how about Mauritius, the Maldives or the Caribbean island of St Lucia? Dream on.

September 2020


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