All loved up with somewhere luxurious to go
There’s nothing like the thundering 21gun salute of a royal wedding to signal the start of the summer nuptials season. Prince Harry is set to marry Meghan Markle next Saturday in what is expected to be a peonystrewn pageant featuring silverplated trumpets and an elderflower wedding cake. But in a surprise move, Harry and Meghan will delay their honeymoon until later in the year and return to work within days of their wedding. They are in sync with a growing trend: couples are devoting a bigger proportion of their wedding budget to their honeymoon than ever before. After the venue hire, the post-nuptial holiday now represents the second-biggest cost. Delaying that blowout trip of a lifetime by several months or even a year after the wedding (and counting up those honeymoon contribution requests from wedding guests) makes sound financial sense. It also opens up a world of choice as couples are then not tied to travelling in the season in which they married.
Royal honeymoons have become increasingly far-flung. The late Queen Mother honeymooned at her own home, Glamis Castle in Scotland, where she came down with whooping cough. The Queen stalked deer at the Hampshire estate of Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten. Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, opted for a Mediterranean cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
But this was before the age of the private island resort. Prince William and Kate were the change-makers, splurging on a private atoll in the Seychelles where guests can watch turtles nesting on the beaches from their plunge pools. Pippa Middleton followed suit, opting for The Brando, a coral-necklaced island cast adrift in the Pacific Ocean that once belonged to Marlon Brando and offers everything from Polynesian dance classes to stand-up paddleboarding. And one wonders where Princess Eugenie can honeymoon after staying at Calala, the four-villa Nicaraguan castaway island where she got engaged.
Will Meghan and Prince Harry do things differently? Their love for African safaris is well-known; they enjoyed their first official date in August 2016 at Meno a Kwena tented camp in Botswana, a hideaway in the Okavango Delta. Meghan’s engagement ring contains a diamond sourced from the country. The bookies tip is Namibia, with its lonely desert landscapes and abundant wildlife. But the guessing game is a lot more fun when you widen the net. From Africa’s most exclusive wilderness lodges to the world’s most lavish private islands, here’s our pick of the best honeymoon hotels fit for royalty.
Sherelle Jacobs Warning: couples may be awoken in the middle of the night by elephants slurping from their plunge pool. Paying attention at dinner is impossible, what with distractions such as zebras grazing the floodlit waterhole below. There are also no televisions in the eight exclusive suites – instead full-length glass windows look out to the lodge’s round-the-clock wildlife channel. If you can deal with such nuisances (a big ask I know), you’ll be rewarded a stay at the most exclusive address in Chobe National Park, complete with four-poster beds and private pools.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive from £4,389pp, through Africa Sky (01342 889469; africaskysafari.com). Think flower-speckled baths in tubs overlooking the ocean, sipping on baobab fruit smoothies by your villa’s private plunge pool or spotting turtles on the beaches. A protected marine reserve splashing with dolphins and sea manatees surrounds this Robinson Crusoe-style island in northern Mozambique’s Quirimbas archipelago. Guests can swim straight into the super-close house reef from the beach. The raised swimming pool looks out to sea and the spa treatments are indulged from the top of a cliff. Villas have showers with ocean views.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive from £5,099pp, through Turqouise Holidays (01494 678400; turquoiseholidays.co.uk). The setting is a vast and desolate one: vast dunes and stark outcrops. The skies are so clear here that a resident astronomer offers nightly stargazing sessions at an observatory, and there are skylights over the beds. Couples spend their days having candlelit picnics in the desert, dashing about on quad bikes or tracing ancient rock paintings. Down time at the lodge typically follows – by the pool with water sourced from an underground spring, by the roaring indoor fire of one’s lodge, or on one’s private viewing deck.
Four nights’ all-inclusive from £2,850pp, through Mahlatini Luxury Travel (028 9073 6050; mahlatini.com).
Seven nights’ all-inclusive from £16,263pp, through Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk). For those who prefer their honeymoon suites with flaking, frescoed Gothic arches and Italian marble bath tubs big enough for six. This medieval palazzo set on a rocky spur high above Ravello may have a commanding air, all marble hallways and cathedralic ceilings, but it’s also fabulously romantic, with its climbing rose gardens and infinity pool that appears suspended in the clouds. Opt for one of the rooms with clifftop terraces, perfect for candlelit private dinners, and don’t miss the champagne and caviar breakfasts.
Seven nights’ B&B from £2,130pp, through Citalia (01293 831970; citalia.com).