I watch my youngest count the four orange lifebelts he can see and then the passengers on our boat. He then whispers to me dramatically: ‘It’s going to be a fight to the death.’ I show him the wooden bench full of lifebelts and he relaxes and starts chatting about football shirts, his perennial concern when we visit anywhere new.
The sea is calm and we’re on our way to Marmaris in Turkey with the teen, my husband and some other guests from the lovely Dionysos hotel. We’re travelling by boat because the roads are somewhat narrow and meandering in this corner of the world. The teen is after a new school bag and I’m hoping to find some Christmas presents. We all find what we’re after and enjoy the day shopping and pottering before returning to the haven of the Dionysos without any need for lifebelts.
The boutique hotel is set in a gloriously remote location high up on the mountainside above Kumlubük bay in south-west Turkey and is like a paradise on earth. It’s genial creator Ahmet Senol lives here with his family and says: ‘This is our life, this is our home and we share it with our guests.’ It’s a beautiful spot, the food is wonderful (Turkish chocolate pot is the kids’ favourite), the staff all seem to have worked here for years and nothing’s too much trouble for them. The red-roofed hotel is laid out on the mountainside as a series of buildings amongst olive and fruit trees to resemble a Mediterranean village. We’re staying in one of the beautiful private pool suites at the highest point of the hotel-village, over 100 steps above the restaurant and bar. I wouldn’t fancy coming here with tiny children or pushchairs but it’s perfect for us.
It was snowing at Stansted when we left on the best flight ever but here it’s shorts-and-T-shirts weather during the day and is just about warm enough to swim in the twenty-five metre long infinity pool overlooking the bay. It’s cooler in the evenings but never really cold.
We’re in Turkey for the October half-term week because I’ve been commissioned to write a couple of family travel features about helping with the olive harvest. There are around 1500 organic olive trees on the Dionysos estate and hotel guests are invited to get involved with a range of activities during the olive harvest. The teen says that picking olives is easy: ‘A bit like blackberry picking.’ We go to the pressing room to see how the olives are made into oil. Both children need biscuits after the olive oil tasting session, but I’m amazed by how different each oil tastes. The Turkish cooking lesson with Hamit, one of the hotel chefs, is fun and the children eat more vegetables in one go than I’ve ever seen before.
The hotel’s nearby beach club is closed at this time of year but we make use of the gym, outdoor hot tub, spa and library and enjoy walks to local ancient ruins, lunch at the Dionysos farm, visiting local markets as well as the boat trip to Marmaris. Dionysos has no kids clubs or entertainers but it’s a wonderful place to come if you just want to spend time together as a family. All four of us loved our week there.
Family travel lowdown
(Updated July 2015): Turkey specialist Exclusive Escapes offers seven nights’ B&B at the Dionysos Estate from £850pp based on two people sharing, including return flights (from the private terminal at Stansted, Heathrow, or Manchester) to Dalaman, transfers, and a day’s cruise.