Explore rural Menorca – and the island's fabulous beaches and fascinating archaeology – by staying with locals on a working farm
As one of Europe's key destinations, Menorca is renowned for it's family-friendly beach-based package holidays. Development on the island is low-key – and even in the busiest resorts, the atmosphere is relaxed and easy-going.
If you really want to get to know the island though, there's an alternative to package hotels and apartments. Agritourism offers an opportunity to stay on a working farm – often in beautiful old farmhouses or country estates – and to experience all that rural living has to offer, from delicious local produce to fabulous scenery.
There are a number of different places offering agritourism across Menorca, from adults-only hotels and family-run bed and breakfast places to self-catering holiday cottages and apartments. And by choosing this type of holiday, you'll be supporting the local economy by staying with a Menorcan family.
We booked a stay at Son Triay, an 18th century colonial farmhouse halfway between the pleasant whitewashed, red-roofed town of Ferreries and the bustling holiday resort of Cala Galdana.
Son Triay is a working farm, where Menorcan sheep and cattle are raised, and is surrounded by gardens and 126 hectares of farmland, pastures and forests.
The farm is reached along narrow countryside lanes, with the final stretch along the driveway revealing the magnificent peach-coloured façade of the historic house.
Son Triay has been a rural hotel since 1995. With a choice of accommodation – double rooms and self-catering apartments – beautiful gardens, swimming pool and tennis courts, it's a wonderfully relaxing place to stay.
We booked a one-bedroom apartment. On arrival this turned out to be a little bungalow with pastel-painted walls, tucked at the edge of the garden and surrounded by a neatly clipped hedge.
The accommodation was simple, traditional and very beautiful. Stone-flagged floors and high, raftered ceilings kept the rooms cool (there was air conditioning too) and the bedroom had wonderful views across adjacent farmland, with the mountains of Mallorca just visible across the sea.
These lovely views could also be enjoyed from the bungalow's private terrace – a wonderful spot to watch the sun set while enjoying a glass or two of Menorcan Xoriguer gin. We saw lots of birds while sitting here: Egyptian vultures circled over the fields, swallows swooped overhead, and a pair of hoopoes – with their exotic colourful plumage and distinctive two-note call – perched in the branches of a nearby olive tree.
We found the limes for our gin in the orchard alongside the bungalow. Figs, pomegranates and plums grow here too – and food produced on the farm, alongside other local Menorcan produce, is served in the main house each morning for breakfast.
The orchard is just a small section of Son Triay's stunning gardens. Alive with colourful blooms, bees and butterflies, and with plenty of shady places to sit and read a book, the grounds are a lovely place for a wander. Gateways with traditional Menorcan olive wood gates offer glimpses across the surrounding countryside.
You could easily just hole up here for a day or two and soak up the atmosphere. But Menorca is justly famous for its stunning beaches – and there are some real beauties just a short drive away.
Cala Galdana is a large (by Menorcan standards, anyway) resort that has one of the best beaches on the island – a picture-perfect semi-circular cove with a curve of white sand lapped by a tranquil sea.
Galdana does get very crowded though. For a quieter experience, head to one of the island's south coast cove beaches, such as Mitjana, Macarella, or Trebalúger. Each of these beaches involves a walk to reach it – but the effort is worth it.
In high season even these remote coves draw the crowds – so if you're visiting in summer, aim to get to the beach early. Mitjana, in particular, gets very busy as it's so close to Cala Galdana.
Heading back to Son Triay from Galdana, be sure to stop at Binicalstix – the archaeological remains of a talayotic settlement dating from around 1400 BC.
The Talayotic period takes its name from talayot – a conical dry stone tower up to 10 metres high.
Also common at Talayotic sites is the taula – a T-shaped structure consisting of two huge stones, one balanced on top of the other. No-one's really sure of the taulas' function – some think that the T-shape represented the head of a bull, while others believe it formed a supporting column for a roof structure.
If Binicalstix whets your appetite for archaeology, there are no fewer than 1,500 archaeological sites on Menorca. Good examples of talayots and taulas can be seen at Talatí de Dalt, near Mahon, and Torre d'en Gaumés, south of Alaior – but there are many others dotted all over the island.
These sites are immensely atmospheric to visit – especially in the evening when the shadows have lengthened, the crickets and grasshoppers are singing, and the stones are bathed in golden light.
At this time of day, you may find you have the place all to yourself. And there's something magical about wandering through these little pieces of rural Menorcan history – a world away from the bustling resorts down by the sea.
Green Adventures May 2019