It's all about Europe this summer, and while we're delighted that everyone is content with the continent it does mean that the usual hot (please let it be so) spots will be as busy as ever. The solution? Explore the parts of Europe that fly under the radar - the 'forgotten abouts' and 'not yet knowns' that it's our job (and immense pleasure) to unearth. And speaking of earth, these are the sort of places that don't cost it, either. So, welcome to our guide to Alternative Europe, with the accent on affordability...
Padaste Manor, Muhu Island, Estonia
Summer on the Baltic? Who knew? With the weather as weird as it is, it's just as likely to be scorchio in Estonia as Spain. The main draw here is the absolutely delicious Padaste Manor on the elegant island of Muhu. While the manor dates back to the 14th Century the rooms are anything but old-fashioned and this is the perfect place to while a way a week in the hot tub, mountain biking around the island, or snuggled up in front of a romcom in the private cinema of a long, long summer's evening.
Ta' Cenc, Gozo
Malta's often forgotten sister island of Gozo is an all time favourite of ours thanks to the best diving in the Mediterranean and a summer punctuated by the local villages throwing whopping great fiestas seemingly every weekend. Even better, after years in need of a good refurb, the best hotel on the island, Ta' Cenc, is back in the game with newly redone rooms, a lovely pool and 160 hectares of grounds overlooking the sea.
BanSala, The Peloponnese, Greece
We've fallen for all things Peloponnese and in to the bargain think we've now cracked a long-term conundrum - that of finding villas that cater for couples. Enter stage left BanSala, a collection of five two-person villas just a few minutes walk from the magical Peroulia Beach, often deserted and somewhere to swim in crystal clear water or explore hidden coves.
Hotel Indijan, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
The words Dubrovnik and uncrowded may not often appear in the same sentence because the 'jewel of the Adriatic' is understandably overwhelmed with cruise ship hordes in summer, but just two hours north along the same beautiful Adriatic Coast is Hotel Indijan, set on a stunning beach with Mount Ilija as a dramatic backdrop. The Dalmatian Coast minus the crowds. Keep it under your sunhat.
Casa Antiersis, the Dolomites, Italy
Our long-standing campaign is to preach the delights of the mountains in summer. Yes, it's true - alpine ski resorts have a life after April, and a pretty special one at that. A favourite spot of ours is the excellent value self-catering apartment hotel Ciasa Antiersis in impossibly pretty San Cassiano in the Dolomites, the perfect base from which to go walking or mountain biking, tackle the hair-raising Via Ferrata or sample the wares at several excellent mountain restaurants.