Royal tours in glorious destinations might look like fun but they are technically classed as work. So where do the Royal Family choose to go to get their fix of sunshine and rest? Balmoral and Sandringham have always been favoured by the Queen but there are also several overseas spots that have become firm royal favourites.
Between 1949 and 1951 Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, and Philip lived in Malta in a small town called Pieta very near the Maltese capital of Valletta. Their home was the Villa Guardamangia, an eighteenth-century ‘garden palace’ loaned to Philip by his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten while Philip was stationed in Malta for naval duties with HMS Magpie. Villa Guardamangia has since fallen into disrepair but the eighteen-bedroom limestone building is set to be turned into a museum according to recent reports. The Government of Malta purchased the building in June 2020 and it was entrusted to Heritage Malta who add that ‘Villa Guardamangia is the only property outside Great Britain in which the royal family has resided’. The building has a large garden complete with historic wells so will no doubt be a popular place for locals and tourists to visit.
Until the restoration is complete, non-royals can enjoy Valletta’s architectural beauty. A walled World Heritage City, highlights include the beautiful Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens. A place for verdant reflection, both gardens overlook the sea. In the Upper Barrakka Gardens, cannons are fired at noon each day.
St John’s Co-Cathedral (so-called because it shares duties with St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina 13 kilometres away) is another must-see. Its magnificent marble and gold interiors and central location make it an essential and significant place to visit.
Princess Margaret described Mustique as 'the only place I can relax.' She stayed on the Caribbean island regularly at her home, Les Jolies Eaux, on the southern tip. It was here that she was photographed by the press with Roddy Llewelleyn, the landscape gardener, while she was still married to Lord Snowdon. News of her affair led to her eventual divorce from Snowdon but seemingly did little to colour her time on the paradise island. She would continue to visit Mustique at least twice a year for the rest of her life.
Les Jolies Eaux has been renovated into several villas and is now a popular holiday resort. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have holidayed there with the Middletons. Tourists can take in the same picturesque sea views after a spot of swimming, beachcombing, golfing or horse-riding on the ten acres of land. A one-week stay in the luxury Plantation House (hosting a maximum of twelve guests) at the height of the summer will set you back $68,000 excluding connecting flights and food but including a butler, a chef, two housekeepers and mosquito nets.
Prince Charles and Camilla have long been regular visitors to Kerasia on northern Corfu (once arriving there via a British Airways flight). Whichever way they choose to travel, one element remains constant: they always stay at the luxurious Rothschild villa. The Greek City Times states that the villa is widely known as the ‘Kensington Summer Palace’, an appropriate title as it was formerly a favourite of Princess Diana as well. The villa boasts beautiful gardens and views of the Ionian Sea, yet it feels distinctly secluded among olive groves.
Non-royals can enjoy the peace and quiet on Corfu with a walk on Kerasia Beach an hour away from the capital Kerkyra (Corfu Town). Treelined and secluded with clear waters ideal for snorkelling and swimming, it’s the best place to take in all of Corfu’s beautiful natural features. There are over 250 churches and monasteries on the island. A trip to Palaiokastritsa and its Monastery is an absolute must: twenty minutes north west of the capital, it’s a picturesque destination with villages up on a hill with very rewarding views from the top.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge love to ski and Klosters is a favourite destination for hitting the slopes. Klosters is a diverse ski resort with a variety of skiing options available, including an off-piste area for the pros. A pretty train ride takes you through the picturesque valley to Kublis and Davos. Many restaurants can be found on the mountains, although party goers might find Klosters a little flat, as hotel bars, sophisticated and chic, are the height of the après ski activity.
And closer to home…
Queen Victoria adored going to the Isle of Wight. Osborne House was her and Prince Albert’s holiday home and they would usually visit four times a year, aiming to spend their birthdays together there for private, family celebrations. When Albert died, Victoria went to Osborne House to grieve. His dressing room became the focus for family ceremonies and in the early days of her widowhood, Victoria used it for Privy Council meetings. Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, brought her family up at Osborne in the new wing built specially to accommodate her family.
Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, treasured every visit to St Mawes in Cornwall. A scenic fishing village at the end of the Roseland peninsula in southern Cornwall, there is lots of fun to be had on the beaches between sampling local produce from family-run restaurants and delis. Tourists can even stay in the same house as Her Majesty. ‘Penvola’ is a waterfront property run by St Mawes Retreats and offers a picture-perfect view straight across the water, with direct sea access via a private slipway.
Or, for a fun day trip in the style of royalty, visit Polesden Lacey in Surrey where King George VI and the Queen Mother spent their honeymoon.