If you’ve never been, it’s definitely time to go, says Liz Granirer.
For years, people have been telling me how beautiful Mallorca – the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands – is, which only had the effect of making me think that if everyone had already been, it must be pretty spoiled. So, what a wonderful surprise to discover that not only is it not ruined, but that it’s as attractive as it was hyped up to be. Plus, if you head there after the summer crowds have gone home to school timetables and jobs, you have a lot more elbow room and the temperatures are reliably still in the upper 20s.
Of course, there are places, which shall remain unnamed (but which start with ‘M’ and rhyme with Hugaluf), that are what they are – though rumour has it that even this once-notorious destination has grown up and put a more sophisticated spin on things, but certainly the north and north-east have vast tracts set aside as nature reserves, even an entire island in Pollenca Bay off the famous – and exclusive – Formentor Peninsula that’s just for birds, so no houses will ever be built to disturb them there.
However, the final seal on our ‘isn’t it wonderful?’ holiday was Finca Cuxach, a three-bedroom, two bathroom traditional stone Mallorcan farmhouse that is best described as rustic luxury. By this I mean the original interior stone walls are whitewashed, the floors are tiled and the ceilings beamed, but there is fast WiFi, a fully kitted-out kitchen with microwave and dishwater; a laundry room with washing machine, ironing board and second refrigerator; baths and showers in the modern bathrooms; air conditioning in the bedrooms and the most glorious, 21st-century swimming pool sunk into the lawn. There are also two generous covered terraces, each with an eating area sporting table and chairs for six, so you can eat lunch at one, dinner at the other if you like. Or set up the table tennis and hold a tournament. Or maybe just collapse onto one of the loungers and read that page-turner you’ve been saving for just such a break.
The surrounding area is a mix of farms – think stone-walled fields of sheep, goats and geese, and olive orchards – and other high-end villas, either other restored fincas or tasteful new-builds. There’s a real sense of privacy and being away from it all, without being in the middle of nowhere either. Our pool wasn’t overlooked, but we could see the roof of our nearest neighbour peeking over the treetops. The approach is romantically charming: a wrought-iron gate that, while not locked, needs to be graciously opened and shut, followed by a long, gravelled driveway, creating a sense of being in your own private domain.
It’s very much a do-as-much-as-you-please place. With both a Lidl and an Ecoski supermarket about a five-minute drive away, you could simply stock up, kick back and do not much. Or you could mix it up with trips. Top recommendations are the local beaches – try one of the four ‘calas’ (coves) in Cala San Vincente, about a 10-minute drive away, where you’ll find beach beds and umbrellas for daily hire, beach bars and public parking. Definitely head to Pollenca, also about 10 minutes’ drive away – which is the most charming to my mind of the Old Towns – for a promenade and dinner. Alcudia, very much like a scaled-down Avignon, with its walkable fortifications and street market, is about 15 minutes away. A day trip to Palma, about a 50-minute drive, has its own Old Town, full of graceful buildings adorned with terraces, courtyards and shutters, enormous cathedrals and even a castle. Try a walk along the city’s harbour front to decide which yacht you’d most like to sail away in or just wander the pretty streets until you find a pavement cafe and stop for a reviving drink. If you like your views vertical, take the winding road out to the Formentor Lighthouse, stop at the various ‘miradors’ (viewpoints) and fortify yourself with a Fanta naranja (orange flavour) at the lighthouse cafe before the drive back (don’t worry, it’s always quicker on the return!).
If a water trip appeals – after all, this is an island – sign up for one of the many boat excursions on offer from Port de Pollenca (again, about 10 minutes’ drive). We joined the Isabel Maria, a lovely old traditional wooden Mallorcan sailing boat that berths in front of the Illa d’Or hotel, for a half-day cruise up the coast, a stop for a swim and lunch, before a cruise back. The appeal of this one is that it’s limited to 12 passengers, so you avoid the hordes.
As you’re in the north-east of the island, take advantage of the position and make a day of going to Port de Soller to catch the old-fashioned tram up to Soller itself (go on Saturday if you like street markets, remembering it will shut up and be gone by 2pm), from where you can catch the equally old-fashioned train over the mountain to Palma and back. If you’re not a train buff, but like the idea of a taste of this well-known journey, just go as far as Bunyola, which is about halfway, and then catch the return.
There’s still time to drive on to Deia, about another half-hour along the coast, where you can visit Robert Graves’ home and walk about the pretty town where Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones are rumoured to have a place.
Of course, knowing that lovely enticing swimming pool is back at the finca, just waiting for you with your sundowner of choice, always makes it easy to head home and spend a bit more time in your own little heaven.
Our villa, Finca Cuxach, in El Fort, Pollenca, Mallorca, was booked through TravelOpo. It sleeps 6 and costs from £850pw.