Childless paradise

No matter how much we love them, there are times when most of us crave the peace and quiet of a child-free environment.

So as the friendly voice at the other end of the phone announces, “Welcome to Monart, the great escape,” she might well add, but does not, “from your own and other people’s kids”.

Even in hard economic times, Ireland’s premier spa hotel resort, rated one of the world’s top luxury retreats, has no intention of relinquishing its ‘adults only’ policy. From the moment of its conception it was decided that award-winning Monart would be an adults-only haven, says its director Liam Anthony Griffin.

“Children are great but they do not exactly create a relaxing and tranquil environment and a lot of our guests — 70% of our business is repeat — are parents who need to escape, even if it is only for one night and re-engage away from their kids.”

Mention separate adult and children zones and he argues that that would defeat the whole purpose of what they stand for at c, a magnificent 18th century mansion set in beautiful grounds outside Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

“We have carved a niche for ourselves, guests wanting to book in their children understand our policy once they experience all that peace and tranquility, the sumptuous interior, guests drifting around in bathrobes, all our de-stress facilities, a lake in the middle of the garden, flickering candles everywhere... None of it conductive to children.”

I am fond of kids but as the humorist and actor Robert Benchley once remarked, “there are two classes of travel — first class and with children”. So bearing that in mind, we opted for a Thomson Holidays couples-only package on the Algarve, tempted by a place where ‘little people’ were persona non grata, adoring grandparents had but photos to worship, and parents only recent memories of their offspring.

The first thing that strikes you on arrival at the five-star Hotel CS Atlantic Sao Rafael, an adult hideaway, plucked from the Thomson 2011 brochure overlooking a pretty cove on the Algarve is the sense of order. A lobby of gleaming marble floors and long cream leather sofas, each dressed with rows of perfectly parked cushions, undisturbed by grubby little hands, set the scene.

A receptionist later reveals, “it all changes at the end of October when the ban on children is lifted until next year and Portuguese guests arrive with their kids. The children run wild, they climb all over the furniture, ride on luggage trolleys, staff are forever running around after them and tidying up.” Ah yes… that all sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Welcome to a world devoid of kids wildly racing through corridors and of lagoon-shaped swimming pools where chlorine levels can be maintained at remarkably low levels (adults tend to use the bathroom first or delay that call of nature).

Here I could enjoy a blissful swim without having a beach ball thrown on my head or a wild child hurl itself from a poolside causing a mini tsunami.

At CS Atlantic, Sao Rafael — part of a high-end Portuguese hotel chain — middle-aged guests and senior citizens — though there was a sprinkling of dewy-eyed young honeymoon couples too — were entertained with wine and cheese tastings, French Bowles and a Danny Maverick lookalike performing Neil Diamond.

The only sound throughout the day was a distant crashing of waves, bird song and the rustle of book pages being turned. At the height of last summer 80% of their guests were teachers, I learn, needing that essential break away from children before the new term.

* Monart Spa Hotel, Co Wexford (www.monart.ie) two-night breaks, including one dinner and one spa treatment from €235, per person sharing.

* Turkey, known for its family-friendly packages also caters for the developing adult only market with top hotels such as the elegant 5-star Blue Bay Classic, with impressive facilities on a private section of Marmaris Beach on offer. Ex-Dublin, from €729 per person, two adults sharing, one week all inclusive and from €809 ex-Shannon (www.wingsabroad.ie)

* The first mainstream tour operator to introduce a range of 100% child-free destinations Thomson (www.thomsonholidays.ie) has adult- only packages in favourite destinations including Cyprus, Crete and Portugal. In Majorca, a week, all-inclusive at hotel Luabay Galatzo, with fine views, hidden away from Paguera, starts at €809 in May, including free treatment in its spa.

* Long-haul for adults which are child-free year-round range from exclusive and stunning locations like Antigua Hermitage Bay Beachfront cottages, the ultimate romantic escape (www.hermitagebay.com), and Galley Bay (www.galleybayresort.com) to the Dominican Republic where 7-nights all-inclusive at five-star Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana (www.travelmood.ie) costs from €1,649, per person including flights, taxes and transfers. Similar packages to The Secrets Capri Resort and Spa in Mexico start at €1,499 per person (www.travelmood.ie).

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