Mediterranean climates are a persuasive draw for those who love the sun, but not whopping heatwaves. Whether you prefer laps across rugged Swiss lakes or stargazing lazily in a Norwegian farm, we’ve got your cool summer break sorted.
1. Trains, trails and bucket-list dips: Vitznau, Switzerland
Hotel Terrasse am See
Stretch your legs on spiralling hikes to Vitznau’s mountaintops, snapping obligatory photos of the extensive panorama below. If you’d prefer not to break a sweat, take a trip to the top on Europe’s first mountain railway, which made its first departure from Vitznau in 1871. For a poster-perfect plunge, you’ll find easy-to-reach lake life at Hotel Terrasse am See. Built just three years after the railway, the historic hotel sits on Lake Lucerne – take a dip in its waters or savour the view in the shade of chestnut trees at the hotel’s exquisite Lakeside Restaurant.
2. State-of-the-art seaside: Pembrokeshire, Wales
St Brides Spa Hotel
You’re spoilt for swimming choice at this Welsh bolthole: the marine spa infinity pool blends seamlessly into Carmarthen Bay, while the frothy coasts of Pembrokeshire beckon for a salty plodge in the surf. St Brides Spa Hotel has been designed around the view – remodelled with clean decor, big squishy beds, power-showers, and timber-meets-limestone floors throughout. This is how seaside holidays in the 21st century should be.
3. Beauty and the books: Fjærland, Norway
Fjærland Fjordstove Hotell & Restaurant
Fjærland leaps into life for summer, bringing travellers to the petite farming town to walk the glacier, trek the mountains and indulge in some serious bookworm bragging rights. The tiny place is known as the Book Town of Norway – old farmhouses, sheds, houses and even a hotel have been converted into bookshops. Fjærland Fjordstove Hotell & Restaurant has bedrooms lined with bookshelves, while also sitting on the sublime Sognefjord – just the spot for watersports a-plenty.
4. Hotel-pool heaven: Graubünden, Switzerland
Take a trip to the heart of Pontresina, in the bucket-list holiday region of Engadine St. Moritz. With its Art Nouveau dining room and belle epoque elements, Hotel Saratz may sound royally high-and-mighty, but the atmosphere in this 19th-century gem is far from stuffy. Elegant yet cosy, contemporary yet charming – it blends old and new worlds luxuriously. Plunge into the first outdoor swimming pool in the Upper Engadine or bike and hike the mountainous lands of pine forests and azure lakes that surround the retreat.
5. Wine-lover’s waterworld: Athlone, Ireland
Clamber from the native Irish woodlands into Wineport Lodge, where you’ll be swathed in luxury from the moment you step inside. Lose yourself in a hot tub by the waterfront, watching the gentle ripples of the lake beside you. Go on a fairy walk, cycle the old rail trail greenway from Athlone to Mullingar or take a tour of the Hill of Uisneach, part of Ireland’s Ancient East. As befits its name, each guestroom is linked with a wine theme. See in the evening by candlelight with a glass and enjoy waking up to the sweet sound of lapping waters.
6. Picnics & poster-perfect plunges: Küsnacht, Switzerland
Romantik Seehotel Sonne
Switzerland has dreamy lakes by the dozen, but one of the best is Lake Zurich, a hill-hugged slice of tranquility. Romantik Seehotel Sonne sits on its shores, bringing 4-stars and 350 years of history to your European adventure. They’ll even pack up a picnic or backpack, so you can stroll or hike your way to the prettiest spot and munch on family-sized spreads or lovingly prepared hampers for two. Swiss bliss.