Joanne O'Connor, The Guardian, October 06, 2013
Take me there: Chueca, Madrid
It may feel a little rough around the edges, but Chueca is one of Madrid's most exciting and creative neighbourhoods, thanks largely to its adoption by the city's gay community. A new boutique hotel, fab food market and dozens of cafés, independent boutiques and bookshops are breathing new life into the once down-at-heel streets north of the Gran Via.
What to do
The area around Plaza de Chueca and Calle Augusto Figueroa is shopping nirvana. Design store Do (Calle de Fernando VI, 13) and Lotta Vintage, a treasure trove of retro clothing (Calle de Hernán Cortés, 9), are both worth a detour. The pavement cafés around Plaza Vázquez de Mella offer some of the best people-watching in the city.
Where to stay
Only You hotel has just opened in a converted 19th-century townhouse on Calle Barquillo offering 70 contemporary bedrooms and a lively lounge bar which will host art, music and gastronomic happenings (from €110, onlyyouhotels.com).
Where to eat
The recently refurbished Mercado de San Antón (mercadosananton.com) is a great spot for lunch, with food stalls dishing up everything from sushi to gourmet burgers. Noisy, smoky, chaotic, El Tigre serves some of the best free tapas in the city and is the place to rub shoulders (quite literally) with the locals (Calle de las Infantas, 30).
For city views and cheap cocktails, Jerome Apolda, a columnist for the English-language mag InMadrid (inmadrid.com), recommends the roof terrace at the new Gymage Lounge Resort (gymage.es): "Lounge on the fake grass or on a bed while sipping a tinto de verano. Unlike most terraces, which charge you to get in, this one is free."
Nightclub in the basement: Why I won't be dancing at the capital's cool new hotel
The recent opening of the London Edition (editionhotels.com), is the result of an unlikely collaboration between Ian Schrager, godfather of the boutique hotel, and mega-chain Marriott. And if it has shown us one thing, it's this: it's no longer enough for a hotel to offer just a place to sleep. It has to be an event, a destination, a hub. Or, as the press release puts it, "a cultural epicentre and… a portal into the essence of the city".
Hotel nightclubs used to be the epitome of naff, a place where jetlagged tourists and businessmen on expenses would go to drink overpriced cocktails. But these days no hostel or boutique hotel worth its salt will open without a cool lounge-bar offering DJ nights and cultural "happenings". It's a formula which has been rolled out with great success by French budget chain Mama Shelter (mamashelter.com) and is being mimicked from Berlin to Barcelona.
If anyone can create a buzz around a new hotel and nightclub, Schrager, founder of Studio 54, can. But as a hotel guest, a nightclub comes quite far down the list of things I'm looking for when I check in. Surely half the fun of staying in a new city is wandering out into the night, not quite knowing where you're going to end up. If I want to take the pulse of a city, to mix with the locals, to find – as the Edition's publicity blurb will have it – "a new kind of gathering place", then the last place I'm going to look for it is in a hotel basement.
Spectacular autumn colours? Head for... Perthshire
Loch Tay Highland Lodges
A perfect base for an active break. Try archery, kayaking or mountain biking, or hire a boat to fish on the loch. Accommodation includes yurts, cabins and new wooden wigwams among the trees. TV, fridge, kettle and microwave are supplied and there's a kitchen and shower block (but bring your own bedding, crockery and cutlery).
£20 per adult per night; £10 per child (lochtay-vacations.co.uk)
Bay Tree Cottage, near Dunkeld
The owner of this charming stone-built cottage in a lovely village works in interior design, and it shows, from the tasteful but cosy sitting rooms with open fires to the country-style kitchen with slate floors and the two pretty bedrooms upstairs. The garden, with heated summerhouse, backs on to forest, with miles of woodland walking trails from your back door. Sleeps four.
From £55 per night (unique-cottages.co.uk)
Barley Bree, Muthill
A little corner of France, this family-run establishment is garnering awards (Scottish Restaurant Awards 2013) for its Gallic cuisine served up by owner-chef Fabrice Bouteloup. Dine on wood pigeon breast, beef bourguignon and mash and tarte tatin in the cosy restaurant with its stone walls and log fire before sleeping it off in one of the six simple but elegant bedrooms.
Doubles from £105 (barleybree.com)
Fonab Castle Hotel, near Pitlochry
Perthshire has no shortage of grand baronial boltholes, but this new hotel raises the bar for luxury and style. Built in the 19th century by the Sandeman family, the house is a cosseting retreat overlooking Loch Faskally, with two restaurants and an impressive cellar. State-of-the-art kennels ensure dogs get five-star treatment, too.
Rooms from £170 – special introductory rate (fonabcastlehotel.com)
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk