Child-Friendly Mallorca: Beautiful Fornalutx and Soller

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Mallorca has managed to shake off most of its tabloids ‘Boozy Brits behaving badly in the Balearics ‘ image, although if you have young children and are planning a family trip to the island, you might have a touch of the heebie jeebies about where to base yourselves. The last thing anyone wants when they’re trying to gently soothe and settle their kids down at night is a blast of  ‘Boom, Boom, Boom – let me hear you say whey-oh (whey – oh)’ rattling through the walls from the ‘Lads on Tour’ next door who are busily getting spruced up for a good old fashioned foam party mash up. It’s all good and well if it’s 1995 and you’re 17, but not when you’re a frazzled family of four with two young children looking for a relaxing summer holiday. So where do you go in Mallorca to ensure you are far from the maddening crowds?

We started with a list of non negotiables; we had to be away from the crowds but not so islolated that our only ‘neighbour’ was a toothless crone living in a dilapidated barn who would eventually murder us all and bury us in her orchard which isn’t an orchard at all, just a huge graveyard full of annoying smug tourists who just wanted to go ‘off the beaten track’ in search of an authentic holiday experience. Also, we wanted to be near a beach and/or have a private pool and critically, we wanted to be able to walk to restaurants and bars in the evening. We were happy to hire a car and it all needed to come under £2500 for two weeks including flights.

We found such a place in Fornalutx, a ridiculously picturesque village framed by the dramatic Sierra Traumatana mountains and surrounded by olive groves and orange orchards in the hills above the town of Soller. Dubbed, ‘The Prettiest Village in Spain’, Fornalutx is a beautifully preserved village within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has retained an untouched beauty and charm, in part, due to the difficulty in getting there. In the past, before the road tunnel to Soller was built, drivers wanting to visit Fornalutx would face a perilous voyage through the mountains, navigating endless hair raising hairpin bends as they tried in vain to avoid driving off the edge of the road into the sea below. Now you just pay 5 euros and drive a few kilometres through a tunnel. With its stone houses, their rustic green shutters covered with pink bougainvillea falling like confetti on to the cobbled streets below, Fornalutx is about as far away from the crowds of sunburnt Brits drinking beer for breakfast as it is possible to get.

We rented a two bedroomed, traditional Mallorcan house called  Can Guitarrer which had everything we needed, including a little private pool, an orange tree and a cactus in the garden, and a TV with Cbeebies and CBBC (great for the kids when it got too hot after lunch.)

Perfectly located, the house was only a 5 minute walk into the village to get lunch from the deli or the bakery, do some shopping at one of the little boutiques or eat at one of the many restaurants around the village square. There are lots of excellent restaurants in the village – we loved Café Med, Calzone Pizza and Can Nantuna, the latter has tables overlooking the mountains – ask for one of these when you book. If you want to eat in – there is a small supermarket in Fornalutx and a larger one in Soller, only a short drive away, for you to stock up on food and drink.  We ate in a lot; making huge paellas, drinking crisp Mallorcan rose wine and gambling playing gin rummy.

The area is famous for its oranges and at the risk of sounding like a hideous middle class foodie, every morning we ate fresh local marmalade on croissants and smugly drank fresh orange juice made from the oranges from the tree in the garden. Breakfasting and listening to the shouts of our kids in the pool, the distant tinkle of the goat bells in the mountains and the occasional wild braying of a local donkey was totally idyllic. Obviously there were arguments and too much TV and ipad time and we got in moods when we got too hot or too hungry or someone looked at us or our clothes itched or we didn’t want to eat cold soup. But breakfast was great.

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If you can drag yourself away from the sunbed, there are a few day trips worth making the effort for. Fornalutx is only a short drive from Soller – a handsome town with an old, wooden tram that runs up and down to Port de Soller, a beautiful bay and fishing port with a lovely beach surrounded by lots of bars and restaurants. Port de Soller would be an excellent place to base yourselves – if you were feeling adventurous, you could even stay on a boat.  If you tire of browsing the shops in the narrow winding alleyways of Soller and want some culture, the church of St Barthelomew sits overlooking the cafes and restaurants of Soller’s town square, and there is also the Can Prunera Museum of Modernism.

The village of Deia is also well worth a visit. An incredible, slightly anxiety inducing drive through the mountains – worth it for the sweeping views of the Mediterranean – Deia is home to the super posh luxury hotel, La Residencia, and a good variety of cafes, shops and restaurants. We headed down to Cala Deia, a shingle cove with crystal clear water for some easy snorkelling and swimming. There are two restaurants right by the sea here and we ate fresh sardines at Cas Patro March and soaked up the view.

cove-deia.jpgWe also visited Palma, spending a day wandering round the markets and shops, looking round the cathedral and taking in some modern tapas at La Botana. I’d recommend a visit to the Arab Baths; a fascinating insight into life in Palma under the Moors. The baths also have a lovely courtyard garden for your children to play in. We drove to Palma which was an almighty pain in the ass after the tranquillity and solitude of the mountains, so I would suggest getting the tram (a different tram to the small wooden beach tram in Soller) from Soller to Palma, and enjoying the beautiful journey through the mountains.

This type of  holiday is great for some family bonding, a spot of adventure and a lot of card games. Older children may find the peaceful, slower pace a little boring, but it wont do them any harm to learn the art of gin rummy or to appreciate the stillness of the morning in the mountains listening out for the tinkling of a cow bell or the braying of a donkey. All too soon they’ll be 17 and making that ‘whoop whoop’ noise over and over again in a nightclub on the other side of the island. But for now, this can be the blissful summer holiday where you ate homemade paella and played cards and swam at night and watched the moon rise over the mountains.

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