Four idyllic hideaways to book now
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
A gorgeous Georgian home outside Edinburgh
Gilmerton House, in the bucolic East Lothian countryside some 20 miles from Edinburgh, is a Georgian beauty whose foundations date a century earlier to the 1600s. Home to the Kinloch family since it was built, it sits on six landscaped acres — croquet lawn and barbecue to this side, sunken botanic garden with rare centuries-old trees to the other, rose beds embraced by hedgerows, an ideal place for evening drinks straight ahead. Inside, the house holds billiards, music, and two drawing rooms, as well as a huge wood-panelled library lined with ancestral portraits.
The house sleeps 20 in 10 bedrooms, and there’s also a sweet lodge that accommodates another six. It’s ideal for packs of golfers — some of the world’s finest courses are nearby or just across the Firth of Forth. Now it’s also great for celebrations, group getaways and retreats, thanks to the recent restoration of Gilmerton’s barn-like, c1804 laundry house as a charming indoor-outdoor party space full of natural light and with original flagstones intact. gilmertonhouse.com, from £3,000 a night
Sri Lanka’s new house on the Hill
Scott Williams has long had the corner on the Greek Ionian islands’ best villas, as well as the local expertise to sort you all manner of lunches, dinners, boat and hiking excursions, wine tours and more. Launched in Paxos, over the years it has expanded to Italy, Croatia and even the West Country. Last month it debuted in Sri Lanka, with a full 17 houses, ranging from a sprawling contemporary eyrie above Kudawella Beach to a historic three-bedroom bungalow, all colour and charm and blowsy gardens, in the heart of Galle Fort. We particularly like the look of Armitage Hill, a short drive inland from Koggala Beach, and equally accessible to Galle and Weligama.
The property — consisting of three buildings set horseshoe-like around a central court; the main one was designed by the late, great Kerry Hill — has a long and lovely green-tiled pool, spare décor that marries contemporary and antique (with a smattering of ancient pottery and modern canvases for good measure) and huge, beautiful bathrooms, some with freestanding tubs or polished-concrete basins, throughout. There’s scads of outdoor space, meaning privacy for everyone, even when it’s a full house of 10; and views for days. scottwilliams.co.uk, from £5,500 for seven nights including full time chef-house manager and daily housekeeping
On Bali, three houses in one
Maximilian Jencquel grew up in Venezuela and studied in Paris; that combination of the organic and the urbane defines the work of the interiors architect, who practised with Christian Liaigre for years before moving to Bali and setting up his own design studio. The Rumah Hujan Estate consists of three separate houses, ranging in size from three-bedroom Rumah Hujan — whose foundations Jencquel built using a stockpile of ironwood reclaimed from a bridge in Borneo — to the loft-like Sebun Kedis, with its open-plan living-sleeping space and its terrace overlooking the jungle, strung with a long soft hammock.
Each is available to rent on its own, or the estate can be booked in its entirety, sleeping 12 people. Joglo wood and unbleached cotton and linen, bamboo and woven rugs, handmade tiles and volcanic stone: the materials are unadulterated and, save for that ironwood mother lode, ultra-local. There’s a quite fabulous bamboo-ceilinged badminton court, and views over a tributary of the holy Ayung river, and it’s an easy 10-minute walk into Ubud town. rumah-hujan.com, from $1,090 for the whole estate, $120 a night for 2-person loft
The Royal treatment in South Africa’s Kruger Park
Since they first set up Royal Malewane, their lodge in the Greater Kruger in South Africa in 1999, Liz and Phil Biden have been refining a business model that combines ebulliently designed camps and lodges (and hotels, too, in Franschhoek and Cape Town) with the leadership of some of the continent’s most experienced and qualified guides and trackers (Juan Pinto, who co-heads the team, is something of a legend in safari circles).
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Royal Malewane, in the game-rich Thornybush Reserve, has long been a favourite of A-listers of all stripes, from presidents to producers and beyond (Elton John is a repeat guest). The Bidens’ newest accommodation here is also arguably their most dazzling, worth considering for anyone planning a milestone blowout they’d pull out the stops for: Africa House, which guests buy out in exclusivity, has six ensuite guest rooms, each opening out onto a private wood deck with an outdoor shower. There are two private courtyards; a “long” room full of merry-making clobber, from billiards to board games, plus a huge communal dining table; and the house’s own boma, complete with fire pit and pizza oven (and, naturally, a chef who can turn out tasty pies). Dedicated teams of guides and trackers lead Africa House’s guests into the bush on their schedule; so lie-ins are encouraged. theroyalportfolio.com, from R43,000 (about £1,765) a night