It’s weird, but as a veteran of more than 140 countries who has spent over 35 years of my life travelling for a living, I actually felt a degree of trepidation after Covid, when going back on a foreign trip. Luckily, for my first journey back I chose a destination that is among my favourite places in Europe, and boy, it was nice to get back travelling.

Croatia has so much going for it, and both Split and the island of Hvar are amazing destinations. The easyJet flight was simple enough (and as an Edinburgher it was an added bonus to find that the Holiday Inn at Glasgow airport has at last given the hotel a makeover so a stop and meal there is now an actual pleasure).

On arrival at Split’s shiny new airport I was cheered to find that the transfer had worked, and a friendly driver was waiting to scoot me to the impressive Radisson Blu Hotel. This is a star in Split’s hotel scene. It’s on the beach, so not central, but the 15-minute drive is certainly worth it. Ivan – my Uber-driver – absolutely loves the Scots so he gave me a special rate for every ride in Split that I needed.

Once at the Radisson Blu, the early morning alarm call mattered a lot less to me as the facilities started to kick in. The rooms there are large, incredibly well-put-together, and the meal I had on my first night in their Caper Grill restaurant was simply superb (best octopus salad ever). It also has an impressive spa and it’s a four-star hotel at the price of a three-star – typical of Croatia.

Split has so much to recommend it. Obviously, the highlight is the mind-boggling fourth-century Diocletian’s Palace, which dominates the old town. The old cobbled streets are full of individual boutiques, art galleries and cafes, and don’t miss the fish market from where hails the wonderful seafood and fish served in the local restaurants.

Sample the delights from this outlet at its best in Zoi – arguably the best restaurant in Split. Located in Diocletian’s Palace with views over the water, this is rich Mediterranean cuisine at its best. Simply wonderful fresh food.

Now for the topical angle – the whole world knows about Bond, James Bond, but not many know this. According to my well-informed Tourist Board guide, JB himself was “born” on the island of Hvar. His name was Gian Francesco Biondi or, in Croatian, Ivan Frane Biundiović. He was, among many other things, His Majesty’s spy and wrote the first history of England. According to the legend, Ian Fleming tailored the character of the famous spy – well there you go, you read it here first.

Taking the catamaran from Split to Hvar on a Saturday morning is not for the faint-hearted. The complete lack of signage, information and sheer pressure of pushing and shoving crowds remind you of Ryanair in the days before allocated seating. After an hour on Kapetan Luka’s vessel, however, the relaxation begins.

Hvar is simply stunning. It’s the Monte Carlo of Croatia (with super-yachts and prices to match). It’s also a venue for nightlife (Prince Harry favoured the Veneranda Club) and the yacht set swan about in their designer labels in abundance.

This island really does have “the lot”. It’s allegedly the sunniest island in Europe, and it definitely does have beautiful clear turquoise water, breathtaking views and a plethora of pinewoods. One caveat – the beaches are mainly stony, so ensure your hotel has a good swimming pool.

Hvar has the most historical UNESCO heritage of any island anywhere. This little island also has the biggest town square on Dalmatian coast and it’s the epicentre of civic life, with the cathedral on one side and a beautiful City Hall on the other. If you were to design a Mediterranean paradise island, this is exactly how it would look.

The Hvar Theatre, in the Arsenal building, with its beautiful velvet-clad spectator boxes, was built in 1612 and was the first communal theatre in Renaissance Europe. It’s a definite on the sightseeing list. But, the thing about Hvar is that, as in Venice, the best way to enjoy it is simply to lose yourself in the labyrinth of its beautiful old cobbled streets.

OK, if you really can be bothered, climb up to the hilltop fortress, which has been watching over the city for more than five centuries (but frankly it’s a bit like Stonehenge – best seen from a distance as there’s not much there, after all that effort).

Reading this, you don’t need me to say much more – just trust me, go to Split and Hvar. So, accepting the premise that now you may be going, the most useful thing I can do is tell you where to stay and eat. I trolled round a lot of options and this is my honest assessment.

I stayed in two contrasting hotels. The first (my definite favourite) was the Adriana Hotel & Spa. The harbour setting (overlooking the super-yachts) is unbeatable. Then there’s the fantastic rooftop bar; the huge indoor swimming pool and spa; the waterfront terrace restaurant on which you eat breakfast – all in all I can’t say enough about this place. And it’s a steal with prices starting from 174 euros including breakfast.

The second hotel – the Amfora – is more of a large resort, with outdoor pools, a family atmosphere and buffet meals. Prices there are from 137 euros a night, but I did notice that Jet2 also sell packages there, so that’s possibly a cheaper option. It’s a fun and buzzing big hotel, but as an “older lady”, I’d stick to the Adriana ...

Both hotels are owned by the company Suncani Hvar. It has have the monopoly on Hvar so pretty much all the good hotels and restaurants are under its umbrella. The absolute jewel in the company’s crown though is the Palace Elisabeth, and for a meal to truly savour try the degustation menu in their San Marco terrace restaurant. For 92 euros you’ll get a magical experience of seven courses and the setting is simply divine –a five-star hotel built in the residential complex of the Duke’s Palace on the main town square. The food, service and ambience are all truly exceptional.

From starched white napkins and silver service it was off the next evening to wonderful Dalmatian peasant food and a place where you can arrive in shorts and sandals (and where a lot of the super-yacht crews hang out). Take a 15-minute speedboat ride over to Palmižana on the neighbouring island of Sveti Klement.

Thank God I wore flats (and brought insect repellent) but after a 10-minute hike I was in one of the most chilled places I’ve been in years – a million miles away from the huge wealth on show on Hvar. This is The Art Resort, owned by the wonderfully eccentric Romina Meneghello. You can stay in one of her villas or, like me, just eat there. There’s art everywhere – from funny fat nudes to slightly more serious works – the place is a blast. See

Another restaurant well worth pre-booking is Passarola. It serves Mediterranean cuisine with a heavy focus on risotto, pasta, delicious seafood and meat of all varieties. It has a romantic rooftop setting in the Old Town. The last place to pre-book is Giaxa – a modern restaurant in a 15th-century palace with the emphasis on all-local cuisine.

You’ll have to return to Split to fly back and as the flight to Glasgow is an early start it makes sense to spend your last night there. Though I didn’t stay there I ate on my last night at the beautiful Meridien Hotel Lav in adjacent Podstrana (15 minutes away from Split). If you want a classic large beach resort it’s definitely worth considering.

With its own marina, four restaurants, spa and kids’ clubs, it’d be a great choice for a luxury family holiday. The food is suitably five-star, but at four-star prices. I intend to go back at some point with the grandchildren.

But that’s the thing about Croatia – you really do get excellent value for money, and with direct flights from Scotland, what’s not to like?


Travel facts:

easyJet offers flights from Glasgow-Split from £250 return: Hotels in Split Radisson Blu, rooms from £105: Le Merien: Hotels on Hvar