Four escapes with a sense of sanctuary
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Paço da Gloria, an 18th-century estate, has been the northern Portuguese retreat of Londoner Rebecca Illing since 2001. It has roots going back to the 13th century (notably the remnants of its medieval tower), and an illustrious 20th-century story populated by Portuguese dignitaries, British aristos and a bohemian writer or two. After a years-long renovation, the estate has just reopened for longer stays and buyouts. Its gothic façade, large fireplaces, lush grounds and natural lake are unchanged, but its interiors are newly imbued with lightness, quality beds made up with hand-stitched cotton linens, and a kitchen equipped for every level of chef.
A second building, called Meia Lua, holds seven suites and two independent apartments. The grounds are there for the roaming; beyond the gates is Peneda-Gêres, the only national park in the country, with rolling hills and temperate forests. Illing, a practising death doula in London, is in the process of producing a series of mind-spirit retreats that will launch early next year. Generally, she hopes guests will view Paço da Gloria as a retreat for healing and contemplation – and has tailored its beauty accordingly. pacodagloria.com, from €250
The cabin to get Down Under
Kangaroo Island, just opposite Adelaide off the coast of South Australia, suffered some of the worst devastation in the country’s catastrophic 2019-2020 fire season. The rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts have been heroic, though, and everything from animal populations to Southern Ocean Lodge – arguably the country’s most famous hotel, which burned to the ground – is on its way back. Here’s a less orthodox way to experience its striking nature: the Cabn Regenerative Retreats at Cap St Albans.
Cabn has a solid record of creating invitingly contemporary off-grid escapes across South Australia and Queensland. Five double cabins share the promontory that’s home to one of the island’s famous lighthouses, and exclusive to Cabn guests. There are rain-can showers and indoor and outdoor bathtubs, covered terraces with Weber Q grills built in, and sleek open kitchens (stocked with a selection of locally produced breakfast goodies, from muesli to cheeses). Best of all, there are hundreds of acres of remote Australia to play in. cabn.life, from about £310
Villas with a view in Indonesia
“Sumba is the new Bali” doesn’t really begin to get at the appeal of the Indonesian destination some 530km to Bali’s south-east. Sumba is much larger, far less developed, and nearly as distant culturally as it is physically from the Island of the Gods. Cap Karoso opened here last year – a resort development spread across long and sandy Karoso beach, with its own three-hectare organic farm, 47 rooms and 20 villas. The latter operate as both hotel accommodations and private homes (owners have the option to put them into the hotel inventory when they’re not in residence).
Each has its own infinity pool, wide stone terrace and outdoor kitchen with barbecue deck. The architecture is sleek: single-storey havens in local timber and stone, with retractable glass doors all around, and everything from the glazed ceramic table services to the bamboo coffee and side tables is handmade in Indonesia. Privacy seekers can book for weeks at a time; prospective owners, take note – there are four villas still available for purchase. capkaroso.com, from about £245; enquire directly for villa prices
A made-to-measure mas in the Alpilles of Provence
Tom and Judy Menier have made a name for, and a thriving business of, SJ Villas by finding some of the most characterful holidays in places we love, from Mozambique to Hydra and dozens of points in between. Their properties’ USPs – space and privacy, excellent (usually local) staff, and area knowledge – are why many rely on them to find sweet spots in even the most populous bits of southern Europe.
Case in point: Provence, where they’ve just signed Mas de Brumard, which sits in the hills between St Rémy and Les Baux. Its five ensuite bedrooms (and one kids’ dorm) are complemented by indoor and outdoor living rooms, various dining terraces, and a wide limestone-lined pool. The clincher for some will be the interior design, all light Flemish tones, simple but standout furnishings and scads of nubbly linen. For others it will be the lovely gardens that surround the house: landscaped (but not too much), the rolling lawns crossed by rows of olives and cypresses. sjvillas.co.uk, from €24,000 a week