Le Chateau Du Lac, Spa
Sleeps 10

There are woods to explore around Le Chateau Du Lac, but for a more sedate introduction, the swimming pool that hangs over the lip of the castle, unveiling the entire swathe of scenery is a good place to start. Located in Wallonia, Belgium's French-speaking district, the chateau itself was built in 1913, but the decor is resolutely Anglo-Norman, with beautiful wood-panelled walls, elaborate staircases, carved stone fireplaces in every room (including the bathroom) and high ceilings dressed in chandeliers. Long hiking trails ( through the Ardennes forest, as well as kayaking at the nearby Coo waterfalls half an hour away ( are on offer.

• 0032 8777 3287,, from £192pp per week. Nearest train station: Spa, via Brussels and Verviers.


Muskerry Castle, Co Limerick
Sleeps 14

While pubs like The Wicked Chicken and Sin Bin in Limerick city, 50 miles away, have an obvious allure, we'd rather have a deep soak in Muskerry's claw-foot bath, drink wine in the thatched gazebo and hunker down in leather armchairs. Dark wood and patterned rugs grace the communal areas, with gilt mirrors on the walls. The bedrooms are outstanding, with intricately carved four-poster beds and chiffon drapes. Explore the estate farm and play tennis when the weather is fine - relax in the billiard room and sauna when it isn't.

• 01608 658878,, from £210pp per week. Nearest airport: Shannon.

Glengarriff Lodge, Co Cork
Sleeps 8

Glengarriff, a former hunting lodge and retreat for the Earls of Bantry, is perched just above the river that runs through the property. Victorian in style, the bedrooms are large and light and filled with white furnishings. The 1,000-year-old oak woods are great for summer walks and the picturesque village is only a 30-minute walk away if you fancy a mid-afternoon pint. From 5-11 July, Bantry holds the annual West Cork Literary Festival.

• 00353 288 9355,, from £170pp per week. Nearest airport: Cork.


Casa Oraj, Lovran
Sleeps 8

Casa Oraj's huge terrace, which overlooks the Adriatic, is crying out for a party. A renovated stone farmhouse set high on a hill among chestnut and olive trees, rooms are basic but clean - not that you'll notice much since open-air massage can be arranged, and afterwards a dip in the pool belonging to Villa Astra below (it has the same owner) is great for shaking off a sunbathing fug. The caves in the hills below are not just for the brave - there are ropes to guide your way - but make sure you don't do it after sampling Casa Oraj's wine cellar.

• 00385 5129 4604,, from £50pp per week. Nearest airport: Pula.


Winter and Summer Dream houses, Rauhala
Sleeps 14

These two quintessentially Scandinavian houses have top-notch interior design features: a soapstone fireplace, leather chairs and Miele kitchens. Bang & Olufsen sound systems provide the soundtrack, and on nights when you're not barbecuing on the terrace, you have the option of summoning up hotel-style room service. The Natural Park Pallastunturi is great for hiking, with marked trails, while the lake can be explored with the Canadian canoe provided., from £155pp per week. Nearest airport: Kittlia.


Holiday cottage Klitmøller, Jutland
Sleeps 12

This blue wooden house rises up from golden dunes, with a pool room affording a panoramic view of the south and an enormous kitchen. It's perfect for lovers of the outdoors, especially as Klitmøller is one of the best places to windsurf on Jutland, and is located near the Thy national park. Long walks uncover all manner of wild birds, while the more adventurous can head to the Surfhouse Klitmøller ( for a windsurfing lesson. The local brewery in Thisted flavours its beer with herbs from the park.

• 0045 73 75 66 11,, £50pp per week . Nearest airport: Aalborg.


Correze holiday barn, Limousin
Sleeps 6

In June, a nightingale sings its heart out in the trees around this delightful converted barn, and one look at the oak-beamed house surrounded by walnut groves and flanked by miles of countryside, it's easy to see why. Eat alfresco at the long, linen-covered table or congregate in the vast, stone-floored kitchen sampling foie gras and cheese from the local market. Be careful, though - you might fall out over who gets the antique four-poster bed. The house has a private pool, but river swimming and canoeing await in the Dordogne, as well as sailing at Lac Du Causse.

• 01264 810308,, from £70pp per week. Nearest airport or train station (via Paris): Limoges.


Timber log house, Voss
Sleeps 12

With the scent of fresh pine and the creak of old leather, this luxury lodge in a golf resort is a great find. The Hardanger and Sogn fjords glitter below, hemmed in by green mountains. As well as a barbecue, it has an outdoor Jacuzzi, steamroom and sauna - great after a day spent cycling, mountain climbing, rafting or paragliding., from £90pp per week. Nearest airport: Bergen.


Beaver and Fox House, Kuldiga
Sleeps 14

From the windows of these spacious houses (which sleep eight and six), you can watch a stork family milling about, or glimpse deer skittering through the woods. The town of Kuldiga is great for a meal, and local sights include the widest natural waterfall in Europe and plenty of sandcaves., from £50pp per week. Nearest airport: Riga.

Villa Villakula, Jurmala
Sleeps 8

This 19th century wooden house has pretty art nouveau flourishes and dainty porcelain fireplaces, but most of your time is likely to be spent outside in the large garden barbecuing fresh food from the farmer's market 20 minutes down the road or lying on the powder-soft beach two minutes away. Jurmala is a spa resort town, so there are plenty of treatments to try when you're not horseriding or cycling along the coastline. At only a 25-minute train ride from the capital, the stags can keep Riga.

• 08456 800 642,, from £130. Baltic Travel can arrange for flights and transfers. Nearest airport: Riga.


Villa Lavender, Vonyarcvashegy
Sleeps 6

Set by a lake, the house is fairly contemporary apart from the odd piece of dark wooden furniture, but it's the activities that make this such a compelling place to stay. As well as the beaches and sailing on the lake, there are lots of beer and wine tours during the summer because the surrounding countryside is vineyard territory. Try Egregy vineyard in nearby Heviz, which also boasts the largest hot-water lake in the world. (Property 36581), from £65pp per week. Nearest airport: Budapest.

Juhasz Kuria, Domoszlo
Sleeps 11

Resolutely keeping its old Hungarian feel, this traditional village house boasts intricately carved wooden furniture, woven rugs, beautifully crafted chairs, whitewashed fireplace and long stone veranda. The latter is a great place to sip Egri Bikaver wine, also called Bull's Blood of Eger for its deep, strong hue. Apart from horse-riding in the Tarcal Forest of Zemplen and walking, the vineyards and thermal baths in Eger are worth the day trip.

• (Property 52717), from £30pp per week. Nearest airport: Budapest.


Wierzchowie cottage, Krakow
Sleeps 7

Set on a hilltop with views of limestone cliffs at the front and the Tatra mountains to the rear, this country house has spacious bedrooms and a smart kitchen. The back gate opens to the woodland beyond, or to explore the canyons and caves, head for nearby Ojcowski national park. Krakow is a 20-minute drive away.

• 01865 312000,, from £60pp per week. Nearest airport: Krakow.


Shepherd's House, Transylvania
Sleeps 6

This traditional Transylvanian house has a large living room with high peaked ceiling. Surrounded by the stunning Carpathian mountains, if it all seems a bit Bram Stoker, that's probably because Dracula's castle is about 10 minutes away. When you're out walking and hiking, don't gawp at the farmers carrying pitchforks - chances are they are simply baling hay rather than hunting old Vladimir.

• 0040 368 003040,, from £120pp per week. Nearest airport: Bucharest.


Byala Sea Villa, Byala
Sleeps 12

This imposing villa perched on a white cliff affords magnificent views of the Black Sea below. Unlike Varna, Byala is still relatively unspoilt, but if you don't feel like heading to the beach, the pool is large enough to have a respectable swim. A large barbecue means plenty of outdoor cooking, and the local fishermen who supply Byala's restaurants are well worth visiting. And with beer at about 60p a pint, you can't go wrong.

• 01865 312000,, from £50pp per week. Nearest airport: Varna.

Parlapanova House, Bojentsite
Sleeps 17

This large mansion is an impressive example of traditional Bulgarian Revival architecture. Set amid sunflower fields and hills, it has beautifully designed rooms. (Property 139), from £100pp per week. Nearest airport: Sofia.


Oscadnica House, Oscadnica
Sleeps 12

This wooden house set in lush countryside is a great introduction to Slovakia's rural beauty. There's a spacious living room and the long dining table ensures the whole group can eat together. A huge deck spills out on to a rolling patch of emerald green countryside and you can turn up the music as loud as you like because there's no one around to witness any impromptu dancing.

•, from £80pp per week (long weekends by arrangement). Nearest airport: Zilina.


Lustica Mill House, Marovici
Sleeps 8

Many of the original features in this restored mill house have been retained - the kitchen, window arches and exteriors - alongside a few modern flourishes such as spotlights in the bedrooms, comfortable bathrooms and pretty wicker chairs in the living room. A large shaded terrace with high stone walls is lit at night for evening parties, while the upper terrace is good for taking in spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Beaches Mirista and Janjice are a 20-minute walk away. A van calls round with groceries to save you a trip to the shops.

• 00353 86 806 4321,, from £90pp per week. Nearest airport: Dubrovnik.


Castle Lohrbach, Mosbach
Sleeps 30

While the interior décor is slightly crazy - mosaic bathrooms and vast murals in the living room - this is a superb place for a giant gathering of friends. It is set within a vast area of nature reserves 60km east of Heidelberg. Horseriding through the surrounding Odenwald forest or cycling through the villages with their timber-framed buildings is the best way to get familiar with the area.

• 0049 6261 17359,, from £170pp per week. Nearest airport: Nuremburg.


Midingstorp, Smaland
Sleeps 10

An 18th-century converted farmhouse set on land once owned by Swedish royalty, its jetty juts out over Lake Mien, 50m away. It has two floors, each with its own kitchen if you'd like a bit of privacy from one set of friends and family. Nearby green fields call for long, lazy afternoon picnics, while dessert can be found in the form of berries in the local woodland.

• 0046 459 84042,, from £80pp per week. Nearest airport: Kalmar.


Compiled by Poorna Shetty

The GuardianTramp

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