The perfect winter mini-break at Aphrodite Hills, Cyprus
Enjoy golf, horse riding and relaxation at this beautiful resort
If Scott's heart sank a bit when he saw his newest pupil step up to the driving range, he didn't show it. "High heels!" he remarked, his friendly smile firmly in place as he surveyed my rose gold wedge trainers – the closest I generally come to 'sporty' footwear and which suddenly seemed so much more dazzling in the sunshine of Cyprus than when we'd left a gloomy Gatwick. "This could be interesting..."
Ok, so I will admit it, when my husband and I initially booked our five-day winter break at the luxurious five-star Aphrodite Hills Resort near Paphos, the spectacular golfing facilities weren't the main draw for me, so I hadn't come prepared. A recent 2.5m euro overhaul of the PGA championship standard 18-hole course, which last December saw Aphrodite Hills voted European Golf Resort of the Year at the annual International Association of Golf Tour Operators awards, had – and golf aficionados, please forgive me here – kind of gone over my head, as someone who had only ever putted a few lucky shots of the crazy golf variety.
Visiting the driving range at Aphrodite Hills, Cyprus
Likewise, that you can get one-to-one coaching of the caliber of record-holding players like Scott Beaven, the European Long Drive Champion of 2016 and 2017 – and a man who, I can testify, has monumental reserves of patience with clueless newbies. So much more appealing for me had been the setting. Situated in almost 600 acres of lush countryside, with views that knock your socks off, Aphrodite Hills – a resort comprising a fabulous five star hotel and an assortment of luxury villas and apartments - is a stone's throw from Aphrodite's Rock; according to legend, the birthplace of the Greek Goddess of Love, and a spot of breathtaking beauty.
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Add to that the resort's award-winning Greco-Roman style spa, The Retreat Spa by Atlantica Hotels, which had come with numerous personal recommendations from friends praising its varied menu of tantalizing treatments for soothing the mind, body and soul, and I was all set for five blissful days of being the most content and pampered golf widow on the planet.
Hubby would go and drive balls and hit birds and eagles, or whatever it is he does (or dreams of doing!) when he's out golfing with his buddies at home, whilst I lounged around reading books and indulging in divine massages and rejuvenating facials and the like. Sorted! Because that's the great thing about Aphrodite Hills Resort: no matter who you go with – solo, as a couple, a family (the kids facilities are fantastic) or with friends - no one need ever feel left out on a limb or bored. There is so much on offer for those who want more than to chill out – and for those holiday sloths like me that generally don't, it's a paradise.
We stayed in a deluxe swim-up room
he genuinely friendly and unfailingly helpful attitude of the staff is a credit to a resort that sees 25 per cent of its guests returning, including regular famous faces such as former Manchester United and England footballing legend Rio Ferdinand – a fact that pleased my reds-since-birth Manc husband no end. Already, we were onto a winner.
After waving goodbye to a wind-battered Blighty, we arrived at the resort early evening to a delightfully mild breeze – the thick jumpers I'd packed "just in case" having read that February in Cyprus can be iffy already appearing delightfully superfluous. Another big tick came when we were shown to our hotel suite: one of the ground floor's Deluxe Swim-Up Rooms, in addition to every creature comfort for a relaxing stay, its private terrace boasted direct access to a pool shared by a limited number of similar rooms - but more excitingly for my husband, views over the 9th hole of the admittedly hugely impressive golf course.
There is an impressive golf course at Aphrodite Hills
It was an enthusiasm that, much to the amusement of our friends back home, would eventually tempt this resistant cynic into giving the game a go - with surprising results... But not before I'd prioritized a few pursuits of my own. Following a wonderfully serene yet invigorating Swedish massage with ELEMIS oils at the Retreat Spa by Atlantica Hotels, courtesy of the magic hands of the softly spoken Chrystalla, my first day was spent luxuriating in the sauna and relaxation rooms, snacking on healthy nuts and fruit-infused teas (in readiness largely to indulge later in Aphrodite Hills Hotels' dessert "trolley" - quite something to behold.)
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Full day number two saw me persuading my husband to join me on a gentle hack around the countryside on horseback with the Aphrodite Hills Riding Club. Having ridden regularly during my youth and early 20s, it was a hobby that, for various reasons, had fallen by the wayside. But the combination of Twizzle, my sweet-natured Bulgarian-born mount, our engaging guide Kypros and the stunning scenery, reinvigorated a passion that, 30 years on, sees me taking up the reins again back home, having realised how much I miss it.
Guests can also visit the Aphrodite Hills Riding Club
But marriage is all about give and take - and if my husband was game for saddling up, it was only fair that I take a stab at swinging a few clubs. And so it was that I bowled up on our third day for my golf lesson with Scott. It was left to one of Scott's colleagues to tell me about his championship credentials later – which I'm pleased about, as I would have chickened out if I'd known in advance. As it was, he put me instantly at ease and was so encouraging, so keen for this new arrival to "get" the buzz of the game.
And yes, I had totally the wrong shoes on. And yes, perhaps the flamingo print capri pants weren't entirely in keeping either - but guess what? It turns out I'm not half bad with a seven iron. Who'd have thought! After a few misfires, I got into my groove - so much so, I went back for seconds, after treating myself to some slightly more appropriate kit.
Professional golfer Scott taught Belinda at the Aphrodite Hills golf course
Will I keep it up? Time will tell. As for the Aphrodite Hills Resort, I'm aiming to swing by there again very soon.
For more information on the Aphrodite Hills Resort and the Aphrodite Hills Hotel by Atlantica Hotels, visit aphroditehills.com