Enlist the right pro, and that fantasy escape — a rustic farmhouse in Ireland, a sexy stay overlooking the Ionian Sea — is easy to nail down.

Updated May 25, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

The idea seems so simple: a European villa gives you space for the whole family, a wealth of built-in amenities, and unbeatable bragging rights. But as countless operators clutter the market, it’s getting harder and harder to tell which Scottish lodge or Provençal estate will actually deliver a superlative experience. Fortunately, the following rental firms can turn your Euro dream into real life — and then go above and beyond with high-touch extras like private concierges and local experiences you can’t book anywhere else.

English and Scottish Estates

The 14-bedroom Kinross House Estate, situated on 100 acres on Scotland’s east coast and dating back to the 17th century, is just one of the eight distinctive and unapologetically over-the-top Masterpiece Estates by Oetker Collection. On-site hosts at each of the properties can arrange activities such as clay-pigeon shooting, fishing, mountain biking, and distillery tours.

Kinross House Estate, near Edinburgh, is available through Masterpiece Estates.
Courtesy of Oetker Collection

Grecian Escapes

Many firms focus on whitewashed rentals in the Cyclades, but the lineup at Travelive spans the whole of Greece, including the Peloponnese and Crete. Company cofounder and president Mina Agnos, who’s on T+L’s A-List of the world’s best travel advisors, vets homes as well as immersive activities, which include a last-minute reservation at a day club like Scorpios Mykonos, an after-hours tour of the Benaki Museum’s jewelry vault, or cooking lessons led by a local home chef. “The sky is not the limit for us,” Agnos says.

Irish Castles

Dublin-based Adams & Butler has access to 60 castles — including many with crenellated towers — throughout Ireland, and some in the U.K., too. Visitors can go hunting on the Duke of Abercorn’s property in Baronscourt, Northern Ireland, or fish on the grounds of the 16-bedroom Lismore Castle, in County Waterford, which dates back to 1170. Other on-property pursuits include falconry, horseback riding, and grand Victorian-inspired dinners. Adams & Butler owner Siobhan Byrne Learat, also on T+L’s A-List, can even arrange for interactions with Irish and British aristocracy — grouse shooting with the Earl of Erne, anyone?

Villa Marchand, near Grasse, France, available through Oliver’s Travel.
Courtesy of Oliver's Travels

Rustic French Retreats

Multigenerational trips are the focus for London-based Oliver’s Travels, says cofounder Ravi Sabharwal, whose collection of finds in Provence and southern France includes more than 200 homes. The 10-bedroom Water Lily House in Avignon, for example, is set on 20 acres, with manicured gardens, a pool, and a grass tennis court among the many on-site amenities. The company’s 24/7 concierge service can pull off feats like landing you the best table at one of the region’s Michelin-starred restaurants — and arranging a babysitter for the night.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline How to Unlock the Perfect “Feels Like Home” Villa Vacation.