Far from the madding crowds, Pollensa in north Mallorca is perfect for families who want peace, quiet, sun and sea, but also good food and great wine
When you come out of Palma airport, turn your back firmly on the high-rise hotels and British pubs that give Mallorca a bad name, and head north up the spine of the island. Emerging out of the barren landscape and craggy Tremontana mountains at journey's end are the quiet resort and marina of Puerto Pollensa and the town of Pollensa, its older, inland sister. If you are a youngster after booze, discos, activity and noise, this is not the place for you. If you are a family who likes peace, some gentle swimming, and good food and wine, it's perfect.
We are a couple with two boys aged 10 and 6, and have booked two weeks at the same three-bed villa for three summers running, through Sealand Villas. With car hire, this comes to about £1,900 per week. Flights are extra (about £200 per head), and we fly with Palm Air from Bournemouth. What has made our holidays even more fun has been coinciding with friends who have stayed in another villa a few kilometres away. Theirs was a glitzy modern affair set in the mountains and booked through Villa Parade, and it was fun to be able to text each other when the fancy took us, to meet up for a barbie or a meal, or just to be separate when we chose. The area is so small, though, that we bumped into each other a couple of times. Just like being at home, really – only with sunshine...
The Villa Coloma, an apricot-coloured one-storey villa down a quiet lane lined with olive groves and other private villas, and about 10 minutes' drive from both Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa, has a slightly old-fashioned interior but cool master-suite extension and possibly the biggest, deepest pool in the brochure. The garden is secluded, with palm trees, curious springy grass and pots full of cactus, bougainvillea and other flowering plants, left trustingly by the owners, as well as their china and glass crammed into cupboards in the house.
Self-catering in our world means eating breakfast and lunch in, and going out for supper. The supermarket down the road has everything - enormous, juicy tomatoes and huge round cheeses, warm baguettes, seafood, pasta, yoghurts - and both towns have markets by day and restaurants by night, catering for every taste from really superior menus to cheap pizzerias. In Pollensa town, our favourite is Il Cantonet (+34 971 530429), set on the terrace of a church at the top of town and reached through alleyways lined with boutiques and bars. Here, you can eat home-made ravioli with truffle shavings or asparagus. Three courses costs €35. Or, down in the main square, there's Il Giardino (+34 971 534302), a similarly priced, friendly, popular Italian restaurant, with dishes such as pasta, lamb and goat's cheese to die for, while people of all shapes and sizes promenade about.
The charm of Puerto Pollensa is that you can eat on the famous Pine Walk with the sand in your toes, watching the world saunter by while the kids run about on the beach until the moon comes up. The Hostal Bahia has traditional Spanish food, while Little Italy does pizza the size of wagon wheels. At the peaceful end of the Pine Walk is the select art deco Illa d'Or Hotel (www.hotelillador.com), where you can dine on a smart deck that feels as if you're floating over the sea – ideal for anniversaries or other celebrations.
A block back from the sea is the shady patio of The Ivy Garden (+34 971 866271), run by an English guy who greets you from the bar, and attended by beautiful waiters and waitresses. It serves international cuisine for about €22.50 for three courses.
On the rare occasions when you can tear yourself away from your lovely pool and your book, the rest of the island is all very accessible. The Palma-Soller train is an Agatha Christie-type experience with six journeys a day; two trips include a 'panorama stop' in the mountains. Smart marinas such as Andratx are worth a visit, and we went one day in the pouring rain to Deia, knowing from Hello magazine that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones (and various other celebrities such as Bob Geldof, Claudia Schiffer and Mike Oldfield) have a villa in the area. We were tickled to find an old restaurant doubling as an antique shop full of old lace and commodes, where there was a virtual shrine to the famous couple, with photographs everywhere of them grinning with their arms round the owners.
But mostly we stay closer to home. There is a spectacularly vertiginous drive over the cliffs to Formentor, where boats come in from along the coast and smart Spaniards strut along the beach from the isolated expensive hotel there. Or we just drive a few miles along the coast to our personal favourite, the little cove at Cala San Vicenc, where you can snorkel lazily amongst the exhausted trainee scuba divers then pad through the soft sand to have a beer at the little beach bar.
Then back to Coloma, our home from home.