Winter sun? Souk some up in Agadir

If you're already thinking that the holiday season is over and from now until spring time it's all frosts, snow, icy blasts and the central heating turned up, there is an alternative. And one that doesn't mean a mega-bucks winter dodging trip to the Caribbean or South Africa.

It's Agadir in southern Morocco, just a three-hour flight from the UK. Here, temperatures are guaranteed to be very warm to hot, prices are cheaper than you might think, it's not crowded - and it's certainly not tasteless.

On the contrary: Agadir, after a catastrophic earthquake in 1960, has been carefully planned as a modern tourist resort with charm and the kind of facilities we can only dream about during Britain's endless winter.

This means broad beaches, plenty of sunshine and hotels bang on the beach, rather than half a mile away on the wrong side of a noisy and dangerous coast road.

Agadir has a 5-mile stretch of sand, next to which is a hugely attractive red-brick promenade and facing that, some 56 hotels over-looking the sea.

The promenade, only recently built, is as broad as a motorway and is designed for pedestrians and cyclists only. The walkers are largely Moroccan families, who will all be, like you, enjoying their time in the early-season sun.

For cyclists like me, this is paradise on wheels. Each day during my visit I rode the full eight miles from our hotel at the southern end of the promenade down to the modern marina at the northern end of Agadir. To do this trip first thing in the morning, on a car-free track with a warm cross breeze coming in from the Atlantic, is to experience a brush with Heaven.

Unlike the worst of the European concrete-hell Mediterranean resorts, this location has real elbow room. It also has its very own micro-climate - early morning mist burns off by about 11am, leaving blue, hazy skies and cool evenings.

We stayed at the Sofitel Royal Bay Resort. The hotel is large, roomy and comfortable, with a gigantic atrium that has a sliding glass roof at its apex. Its restaurants serve excellent cuisine - but the buffet breakfast make the rest of the day's food requirements largely redundant.

I had one large niggle: few rooms have balconies, even though they face the sea. And there were two smaller gripes: the air-conditioning is centrally controlled so you can merrily switch it on or off, and we found some of the receptionists rather peremptory. Still, there was nothing here that some re-training won't improve.

There are very large swimming pools in the extensive grounds, and they boast luxurious pool furniture - real Moroccan single and double lounge beds - and the poolside service that works without you having to spend an hour waving at a pool bar attenadant. The hotel is also child friendly, with its own large junior pool and trained nannies to look after your little dears while you wrestle with your kindle and gulp your cuba libre.

Does it work as a four-day break from the late winter grip at home? You bet. The handful of Brits we met in the resort all agreed on that.

Getting there: EasyJet (easyjet.com) offers flights from Gatwick to Agadir from £29.99 one way. Double rooms at Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort start from about £94 per night. For more information, visit www.sofitel.com.

 

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