A world away from package holidays

A world away from package holidays

When Ruth Penny and her father, Ernest McKeown, invested in the Holiday Property Bond 20 years ago, it was a bit of a leap of faith. Living in Ballymena, Co Antrim, there was no nearby Bond site to visit. “All we had to go on was the say-so of one of Dad’s fellow lecturers at Ulster University,” Ruth recalls. “But his enthusiasm for HPB, plus a modicum of research (not as easy then as now – the internet was in its infancy) convinced us that this was a viable option.”

Early Bond holidays took Ruth and husband Mark primarily to HPB’s UK homes, sometimes with Ruth’s parents in tow, sometimes not. “We went to Tigh Mor Trossachs a few times, and St Brides Castle, Perthshire and Pembrokeshire are fairly easy to get to from Northern Ireland. We did venture a bit further too: Buckland Court, in the Cotswolds; Langton House, in Dorset; Duloe Manor, in Cornwall; and Lower Knapp Farm, in Devon spring to mind. Back then the only ‘foreign’ site we visited (and bear in mind that all HPB sites are overseas to us!) was Stigliano in Tuscany – just stunning, and I gather a lot of work has been done to the palazzo and surrounding buildings recently. I can’t wait to go back with our children.”

The couple have three children: Jacob , Simon and Kara; and foreign holidays are now the order of the day – including a recent trip to Rocha Brava, the Bond’s home on Portugal’s Algarve, where they encountered our photographer.

“We have had the best time,” enthuses teacher Ruth. “It’s miles away from any package holiday, but there’s enough structure there to give the days a shape, if you see what I mean. The children love the swimming pools and with a site the size of this one, we’re spoilt for choice. There are five! And, like most youngsters these days, internet connectivity is key; the site-wide WiFi has been an absolute blessing. And the activities, on site and off, have kept them – and us – entertained. On site, you’ve got Thai massage, tennis, table tennis, snooker, and a host of bars and restaurants. But if all that’s not enough you can easily walk to Carvoeiro – a bit lively, but none the worse for it – or beautiful Benagil, a fishing village with some stunning clifftop eateries.”

The Pennys also tried their hands at e-biking – “a great way to explore the area” – and sailing. “It was a fantastic experience – and I urge any Bondholders visiting Rocha Brava to give it a go,” says Ruth.

So, will the Pennys be making Rocha Brava a regular port of call? “It’s been grand, no doubt about that,” says Ruth. “But there are so many other HPB locations to visit and things to see. We love that as soon as we go home, we can start planning our next trip. I fancy Santa Rosa in Lanzarote, but may find myself outvoted – there’s a strong lobby group banging the drum for El Pueblito de Alfaix, in southern Spain. Oh well... we’ll just have to do both.

“We love the fact that you can carry your Holiday Points over for a year,” Ruth continues, “and there are no timeshare restrictions, where you can be tied to the same place, and often as not the same week, year in year out. We can go to any HPB property we want – and we want to go EVERYWHERE!”

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