Lazy days or fun getaways on island

Ciutadella, Menorca. See PA Feature TRAVEL Menorca. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Menorca.
Ciutadella, Menorca. See PA Feature TRAVEL Menorca. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Menorca.

On the surface, Menorca seems like a good place to spend a few days relaxing on the beach with a book.

But actually the quieter sister of Balearic neighbour Mallorca, has so much more to offer than lazy days.

Venture away from your hotel and you discover a mesmerising world of unspoiled white beaches, panoramic vistas, rich history and mouth-watering local delicacies.

Our base is the tranquil resort of S’Algar: situated on a sleepy bay to the south east of the bustling capital of Mahon.

Although families love Menorca, it’s an attractive destination for couples, too. Our hotel, the four-star Hotel S’Algar, is in the Thomas Cook Style Collection, which means a lower age limit for guests of 16; that makes life a bit quieter in the pool during the day, and dinner time is calm and relaxed too.

Our hotel room looks out at one of the island’s six black-and-white painted lighthouses which guard the bay at night, while by day the turquoise sea glimmers resplendently in the sun.

A short jaunt in sandals along the coastline takes us to the unspoilt beach of Cala d’Alcaufar, where tiny boats bob in the water between steep cliffs and sunbathers stretch out or enjoy a cana or glass of sangria at the nearby beach bar.

In search of adventure, we trek north from S’Algar towards the island’s modern capital, Mahon, and its busy harbour.

Strolling down the promenade, we admire the array of cruise ships and private boats moored in the mouth of Menorca’s busiest bay.

Hundreds of Catalonians arrive here daily in search of sun, following an eight-and-a-half hour ferry ride from Barcelona, and we soon slip into the throng to soak up the atmosphere.

Seafood is the speciality of the day in the many fine restaurants that line the harbour. Waiters proudly serve up bacalla, a dried and salted cod dish, while we sup xoriguer gin with lemon, produced using the plentiful juniper berries of the region.

If you make the trip to Mahon, it’s essential to call in at the beautiful old port of Es Castell, just two miles to the east.

Founded as Georgetown by the invading British in 1771, the Catalan name of Es Castell (The Castle) reflects the presence of the large fort of St. Philip’s Castle which guards the harbour.

But nowadays the town allows you to let your guard down, and we amble along the water’s edge, enjoying another bite of the famous local fish dishes - this time merluza (hake) is on the menu - as well as picking out some pieces of fine locally-crafted jewellery.

Legend has it that Lord Nelson conducted his affair with Lady Hamilton at The Golden Manor on the north side of town, and romance still lingers over the bay, as the moon shines serenely across the water at night.

We catch a glimpse of Menorca’s military history as we gaze out to the bay’s headland, La Mola, where the magnificent Fortress of Isabel II dominates the skyline, presenting a fine example of mid-18th century Spanish architecture.

The open road snakes up the east coast past Es Grau (The Step). This tiny village boasts a stretch of beach so beautiful that the yearly population of 167 swells to the several thousand during the summer months.

A secluded strip of white sand frames one of the most precious areas of natural beauty the island has to offer, the Parc Natural de S’Albufera des Grau.

The largest wetland area in the Balearics is home to more than 10,000 species of animal all year round.

North of the nature reserve lies Fornells, where we hoped to make a royal appointment.

King Juan Carlos of Spain famously weighs anchor at this former fishing village, where he dines on caldereta de langosta, a lobster soup exclusive to this part of the island.

Indeed the Spanish monarch has been known to enjoy his soup so much that, rumour has it, he treats all present in the restaurant at the time to a bowl, at an estimated cost of €75 per head.

Sadly, the king’s yacht is not moored to its jetty when we arrive, but nevertheless we unwind by absorbing the stunning views over Fornells Bay and its high surrounding hills.

Restaurants spill out onto terrazas on the charming town squares. Notably, the village is styled in Catalan terracotta colours rather than the uniform whitewash of the south.

Back on the road, we pass Monte Toro, the island’s highest point at just 1,175 ft above sea level.

The kestrel, or xoric in Catalan, circle the summit, which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the island.

You might even fool your family and friends into thinking you had visited Rio de Janeiro as ‘El Toro’ boasts its very own Cristo Redentor statue.

* James Cann

This trip was offered through Thomas Cook Adult Style, on a seven nights’ half-board at S’Algar from £572, including return flights and transfers. To find out more contact Thomas Cook Adult Style reservations team on 0844 412 5970 or visit Thomas Cook

Factfile:

Best for: Endlessly discovering secluded beaches and areas of natural beauty.

Time to go: Early September. Sunny, cloudless skies by day and cool, tranquil nights.

Don’t miss: The unique Cova d’en Xoroi. A stunning sunset leads to an all-night party.

Need to know: Mahon’s harbour is the second deepest natural harbour in the world.

Don’t forget: Car hire for the furthest corners of the island.