Honeymoon destinations close to home but out of this world.

When you plan your wedding there are so many decision to make.  Finding a suitable wedding venue is obviously pretty high on the list of priorities but not far behind is the big issue of where to go on Honeymoon!

You have the whole world to choose from, but be sensible – why start your married life with a long drive to Gatwick or Heathrow, and sit on a plane for half a day or more, when there are some wonderfully romantic destinations you can reach with a short flight from Bristol Airport?  In this post we give you three Honeymoon ideas that don’t involve the motorway and jetlag!

Marrakech, Morocco

image05

Easyjet fly direct from Bristol to Marrakech a couple of times a week and the flight takes three hours and 25 minutes.  Although it’s a relatively short journey Morocco feels a million miles away from Europe.

In some respects it’s quite westernised.  For much of the 20th century Morocco was a Protectorate of France and the recently developed suburbs to the north of the city have a distinctly French feel to them.  What’s more, a number of palatial hotel complexes have been built just outside the centre offering every modern amenity.  But enter the Medina, the ancient walled city, and you are immediately plunged into a world that is most definitely African, Moslem and in many respects medieval – you’ve stepped from the 21st century straight into a tale from ‘Arabian Nights’ and are sure to get hopelessly lost in the endless labyrinth of souks, alleyways and squares.

image04

The Royal Palm

Most visitors stay in one of the big modern hotels in the suburbs or just on the edge of town.  You are spoilt for choice but the Royal Palm Beachcomber is surrounded by its own lush golf course and has amazing views of the Atlas Mountains, while the Mandarin Oriental is The Telegraph’s top pick and the Selman Marrakech oozes French chic on a heroic scale.

If money is no object The Royal Mansour, built by the king of Morocco himself just outside the city walls, is totally overwhelming in every sense – 1500 craftsmen were employed to create a palace that is utterly mesmerising.   Nearby is La Mamounia, equally glamorous and breathtaking.  If the rates are out of your reach at least pay a visit – La Mamounia will let you wander round but at the Royal Mansour you’ll need to make a reservation at one of their wonderful restaurants.

image06

La Sultana

If you want to book a traditional riad hotel right in the centre of the Medina La Sultana is an absolute gem – the city’s smallest 5 star hotel, it’s exotic and intimate, opulent and decadent, fit for the legendary narrator of One Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade herself.  Another enticing option is Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s magically romantic retreat in the High Atlas Mountains.

image10

Kasbah Tamadot

We’ve given you a selection of the more expensive hotels here but in Marrakech there are so many places to stay that you can find some real bargains whilst still relaxing in the lap of luxury – this destination offers terrific value for money.

Venice

image12

Easyjet and Ryanair have regular flights from Bristol airport taking just two hours and 15 minutes, with a short walk to the ferries and water taxis that will take you across the lagoon.

Deciding where to stay requires a bit of thought.  The most romantic option is to stay on the cluster of islands that form the main city – that way you are just a short (but winding!) walk or boat ride from all the attractions.  What’s more, Venice is at its most enjoyable and beguiling in the evening when most of the visitors have returned to their cruise ships, their hotels on the mainland (in the town of Mestre) or the Lido (the sandbar that forms the outer boundary of the lagoon).  That is your dilemma – pay less and take a short boat ride in the morning and the evening, or pay a bit more and have both days and nights to enjoy all that this utterly unique destination offers.

image01

Rather than recommend places to stay (you are spoilt for choice) we feel a couple of other tips would be more valuable.  Firstly, it pays to pick your season.  In summer Venice can be unbearably crowded (and smelly!).  In the winter it can be very cold and wet – we’re not just talking rain but high tides that can flood the squares, streets and alleyways!    The best months to visit are probably October to May (but be sure to bring warm clothes for the winter months)– it’s much less crowded, it’s cheaper, and when there’s a mist it is even more mysterious than usual!

image00

You’ll obviously visit St Mark’s Square to explore the Basilica San Marco and the Doges Palace.  But if you eat or drink in one of the restaurants or cafes here it’ll cost you an arm and a leg – walk just a hundred metres away in any direction and the prices drop dramatically.  There are countless great eateries but in many ways it’s more interesting, and cheaper, to find little bars, known as bacari, and snack on cicheti (the Venetian equivalent of tapas).  That’s what the locals tend to do, so when in Venice…  The Veneto is famed for its wines, with each bacari serving favourite local vintages.  Or you may prefer a spritz – prosecco, a dash of a bitter liqueur such as AperolCampari or Cynar, with sparkling mineral water and ice.

image02

What else can you do?  Take a gondola ride, see the dungeons where Casanova was imprisoned after getting too friendly with the local nuns, visit some amazing museums, art galleries and churches, take a boat trip to other islands in the lagoon and feast your eyes on mountains of seafood in the fish market next to the Rialto Bridge – there is nowhere so beautiful, fascinating and surprising as Venice!

Sardinia

image11

You can fly from Bristol Airport to Olbia, in Northern Sardinia, from the beginning of May until the end of September (but avoid August because the island is very crowded that month).  The flight time is about two and a half hours and the airport is small and efficient so you’ll be on your way in next to no time.

So, what are the attractions of Sardinia?  First off it has an amazing coastline that’s a quarter the length of Italy’s – there’s over 1000 miles of absolutely drop dead gorgeous beaches, cliffs and rocky headlands that are virtually deserted, even in June and July.  What’s more, the development of holiday resorts, hotels and villas has been rigorously regulated – even the most popular areas are so low rise and low impact that you have to look quite carefully to see them at all amidst the craggy outcrops and dense vegetation.

image03

Inland the country features huge areas of uninhabited mountains, dark ravines, thick forests and meadows of bright sun-baked yellow grass, with the occasional village perched on a hilltop.  It’s still very much a land of peasants and shepherds where visitors seldom venture – and are still viewed as something of a novelty by the locals.

image08

Hotel Su Gologone

If you want to enjoy a honeymoon that gives you the best of both, superb beaches for swimming and sunbathing and dramatic mountains for walking, biking and exploring, Hotel Su Gologone is perfect.  It’s one of the very few hotels in the interior, and the most highly rated.  However, some of the island’s most amazing beaches and hidden coves are just 30 minutes’ drive away – Madonna stayed here when filming her movie Swept Away, so you get the idea!

image09

Hotel Su Gologone

Family owned the hotel has a very rustic and homely feel – the buildings hug the top of a small hillock and are almost entirely hidden by trees.  Giovanna, the owner, has an artist’s eye and sensibility.  She and her parents have created a series of wonderful terraces on the hillsides.  Each is of brilliant white stone walls and wood decking, but with brightly coloured cushions – green and turquoise for the terrace overlooking the kitchen garden, light purple for the rooftop Terrace of Dreams, green for the Wishes Terrace, orange and yellow on the terrace next to the art gallery.

image07

Hotel Su Gologone

The most spectacular terrace of all is entirely white – white decking clinging to white painted rock, with white cushions and triangles of white cloth stretched between white wooden poles to provide some shade.  This is the Bar Tablao – jaw-droppingly dramatic and perfect for pre-dinner drinks and complimentary anti-pasti as you admire the sheer cliffs of the Supramonte massif in the sunset glow.

The cuisine is traditional Sardinian, and there are plenty of activities to give you a real experience of the local culture and heritage – tastings of local wines, olive oils, cheeses and prosciutto, courses in cookery and crafts, yoga sessions, singing recitals by shepherds, star gazing with powerful telescopes and expert astronomers.  For the more energetic there’s trekking and cycling, Land Rover and quad bike excursions, horse riding, canoeing and kayaking, as well as plenty of archaeological sites and caves to explore.

This is by no means the only wonderful hotel on Sardinia but it’s hard to think of a better one for your Honeymoon!

Bon voyage!

So, three ideas for honeymoon destinations that are within easy reach but blissfully romantic and definitely out of the ordinary.  Clevedon Hall is a fantastic venue for your big day itself and if you follow these suggestions you are sure to get your married life off to a spellbinding start!