Who says the holidays are over? Back to school season is when parents come out to play. Here are 10 holidays for grown-ups this September
Take a grown-up break on the Queen Mary 2
Avoid the kids at adults-only Sun Rocks resort in Santorini
R&R in Kerry
If running around after kids were an Olympic sport, you’d be up there on the medals podium, right? Well seeing as no one else is going to festoon you with accolades for your parental performance, why not reward yourself with a relaxing break at Aghadoe Heights, a five-star hotel and spa on the lakes of Killarney.
Soothe the aches and pains of a summer spent separating combatants and leave the confiscation of mobile phones to teachers, while you wallow in an Athlete’s Recovery Package, a rejuvenating spa treatment available at a special price through September. Having limped over the back-to-school line, enjoy a revitalising session in the thermal suite, a renewing foot rub, back, neck and shoulder massage, seaweed leg masks and relaxing scalp massage, for €95. Rest in the relaxation area with herbal teas, fresh fruit and iPods that aren’t a means to drown out the noise of squabbling kids. Stay B&B from €229. aghadoeheights.com
Norway in a nutshell
Views are wasted on little ones so there’s absolutely no point feeling guilty about not bringing them to see the stunning landscapes of Norway.
As for getting them to appreciate the blissful silence of its soaring cliffs, forget it – it doesn’t take them a minute to figure out that these babies are God’s own echo chamber. Much better to leave them with friends or family and soak up the country’s sensory delights for yourself, taking a signature Norway in Nutshell tour tour by rail from Oslo to Bergen, stopping off for a cruise down Aurlandsfjord.
A totally grown-up playground, it’s perfect for restoring summer-weary souls. From 2,370 Norwegian Kroner (around €288) for a round trip from Oslo. A Ryanair flight to Oslo (Rygge) can cost as little as €19.99. norwaynutshell.com
Take a seriously grown-up voyage on the Queen Mary 2, Cunard’s flagship (and how often do you get to say that about an actual boat?). It’s launching an elegant 12-day sojourn along New England and Canada departing New York on September 15th and taking in Newport, Boston, Bar Harbour, St John, Halifax and Quebec before heading back south. Billed as the most magnificent ocean liner ever built, the QM2 has all sorts of mod cons which, to be honest, the kids would love, including 3D cinema and planetarium.
But hey, massage the guilt away in its Canyon Ranch Spa – and see if they can do something about the stretch marks/grey hairs/wrinkles the kids have bequeathed you while you’re at it. From €1,399 (€1,746) cunard.co.uk
Shopping with kids is tedious at the best of times so tackling the world’s biggest shopping centre, the Dubai Mall, would be simply insane. Let’s face it, in a place like this the only one storming round shouting “I want, I want” should be you. Of course there’s more to Dubai than shopping and skyscrapers, there’s also camel trekking and falconry, 4x4 rides through the desert, a Dhow Cruise, chic beach clubs, watersports and wildlife sanctuaries. There’s a waterpark too, Aquaventure, but out of deference to the kids the least you could do is avoid it. Or at least, not tell them. GoHop.ie goes to the top of the class for its short breaks in September – a month when temperatures hover around 33 degrees, heat that will set you up very nicely for the darkening school runs ahead. These include five nights at the three-star Citymax Sharjah Hotel, on a B&B basis, from €471pps, including Dublin flights, departing 3rd September. gohop.ie
Date with Dubrovnik
You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that kids into city breaks won’t go. It’s why clever clogs will be quick to bag one of Travel Department’s Dubrovnik super saver deals. Given that these depart August 27th for seven nights, you’ll barely have time to drop the kids to school on your way to the airport but it’ll be worth the rush to bag a B&B stay in a three-star hotel here for €699, including flights and taxes. The hotel is 6km from the city centre, on the shores of the Babin Kuk peninsula, home to Dubrovnik’s longest beach. Swim in the sea, relax by the pool and, when you get your breath back, spend your days exploring the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage site. Climb its ancient city walls or just plonk yourself outside one of its many restaurants or bars for a spot of restorative people watching. Just be quick before it books out. traveldepartment.ie
Make for Morocco
When it comes to five-star luxury at three star prices, Morocco is hard to beat. September’s a great time to go too because it’s not too hot – average temperatures in the resort town of Agadir typically hit the mid 20s, with the summer-warmed sea not much cooler. Even better, the crowds have gone the way of migrating birds.
Stay at the Atlantic Palace Resort, built in a traditional Moroccan style 10 minutes from the centre of Agadir with extensive gardens, large pool and thalassotherapy facilities, casino and golf course. The hotel is 300m from Agadir’s sandy beach and a 500m stroll to the nearest shops and restaurants. A week’s stay in a garden view room is currently on offer from €399 from ClickandGo.com, including Aer Lingus flights and transfers, departing Saturday 27th September. clickandgo.com Cruise into autumn If you’ve spent the summer ferrying the kids around, September’s the time to ditch the ferry and take a cruise. Hop aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas and let someone else, the captain, do the navigating for a change, plying you between some of Europe’s most historic cities while you just concentrate on steering yourself from restaurant to restaurant, pausing only to snooze on deck. Push the boat out with a 12-night western Mediterranean cruise departing Rome on 29th September and taking in Messina, Valleta, Venice, Split, Dubrovnik and Corfu, from €1,334 per adult sharing, flights extra. abbeytravel.ie
Walk the way in Spain
There’s just no point bringing kids on a walking holiday. Wherever you go, your route will be mapped out in wails about blisters/boredom/hunger/the loo and endless pleas to carry them. And that’s just the teenagers.
It’s useless attempting the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrim route, en famille. Instead, be a cheat and take on just the last 100km of the epic trail, beginning in Sarria and finishing in Santiago de Compostela, enjoying the hilly landscapes of Galicia completely unencumbered. While it’s actually a physically demanding stretch, requiring a reasonable level of fitness, for your brain it’ll be as relaxing as a warm bath. Specialist operator Follow the Camino has B&B packages including luggage transfers, staying in suitably modest two and three star hotels, from €485. followthecamino.com
Get down to romance
The school holidays can be hard on a couple’s intimacy. It’s bright so late the kids are up until all hours. So, if you reckon it’s time to refuel the romance, what could be better than a tower immortalised by Romantic poets. Helen’s Tower, deep in the dark woods of the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor, Co Down, features in the work of both Browning and Tennyson.
A gothic confection of intimate proportions, from the top it offers stunning views out across forest and sea as far as Scotland. Inside the romance continues with a poetic plaque with an inscription referring to the “tides of passion” that built this “love-enchanted tower”. It holds just two, natch. From £88 (€109) a night in September. irishlandmark.com
Sun salutations in Santorini
Soak up the last of the summer sun at Sun Rocks, a luxury hotel dramatically carved out of the caldera high up on the Greek island of Santorini.
A haven for lovers, and even married folk, it is spectacularly situated 300m above the shimmering waters of the Aegean – a perfect place apart.
And, given that the last thing you want when you’ve worked up the courage to leave your own kids is to be tripping over someone else’s, you can relax in the knowledge that the entire hotel is a child-free zone. What price a break from the kids? £319 (around €400) per night. mrandmrssmith.com