From Necker Island to South Africa and Verbier, Sir Richard Branson has homes all over the world.
And yet, there’s one place he holds particularly close to his heart – Son Bunyola, a luxury retreat on the north-west coast of Mallorca, which is open to the public as a Virgin Limited Edition property.
But how often does the busy business magnate actually get to visit the sprawling 680-acre estate with three villas nestled amongst seemingly endless rows of trees?
General manager Lee Bowes reveals her boss rocked up to stay twice this year, and on his most recent visit, he even challenged some guests to a game of tennis.
Eager to sample the place for myself, I head over for a long weekend.
Location, location, location
The founder of Virgin group first visited Mallorca as a child, and he later took his own children to the Spanish island for summer holidays. In fact, the Bransons are such fans of this region, his son, Sam, even named daughter Eva-Deia after the town Deia, which is a 45-minute drive from Son Bunyola.
Surrounded by the Tramuntana mountain range, jutting out from the lime green coastline to the azure sea, Son Bunyola is close to plenty of hiking and cycling trails and is perfect for an adrenaline junkie like Branson. It’s also peacefully unspoilt.
A property with a story to tell
On the helter skelter of a drive down from the main road, you’ll gasp at the central 18th century finca building, typical of the grand farmhouses that can be found all over Mallorca and Spain. Rows upon rows of crumbling terraces lead down from it, making patterns on a landscape dotted with vines and towering olive trees.
Amazingly, some members of the team who work at Son Bunyola today actually lived in the finca as children in the 1970s. Back then, the estate was used as farmland and harvested alfalfa, almonds and vegetables.
As for the future? Plans are in the pipeline to transform the finca into a villa, and olive oil will be produced on the estate within a year.
Holidaying in the lap of luxury
Perhaps it’s the secluded location, with no other buildings in view for kilometres, or the fact guests have their own team and chef on hand to cater for every need – but I’ve never stayed somewhere so tranquil.
There are three individual villas to choose from – Sa Terra Rotja, Son Balagueret and Sa Punta de S’Aguila – and each feels very different.
With handcrafted terracotta flooring and local Binissalem stone used throughout, the vibe is undoubtedly traditional – and yet, there’s a clever contemporary contrast thanks to pops of bright artwork.
I stay in Sa Punta de S’Aguila, which translates as ‘Eagle’s Point’ – a five-bedroom villa located along a track above the coastline.
My room feels light and airy, thanks to the exposed beam ceiling, large windows and traditional dark green shutters opening out onto a terrace.
I have access to a private heated swimming pool with a great choice of fun inflatables, and relaxing with the mountains in view is a picture-perfect holiday memory.
Post-swim, I relish my huge walk-in shower – it takes up the entire length of one side of the bathroom.
Unwind and relax
Mornings begin with downward dogs at sunrise on my terrace overlooking the sea. Jay from Earth Yoga, a studio in Deia, comes to lead classes tailored to experiences and preferences.
Spa therapists from Mountain Wellness also venture onto the estate to rejuvenate me with an outdoor massage. The sound of birdsong means there’s no need for relaxing spa music.
When it comes to eating and drinking at the villa, you’re encouraged to help yourself to anything in the fridges – there’s every alcohol imaginable on hand, ice lollies for the kids, canapes, punchy cocktails and bowls brimming with chocolates.
Grinning chef Bruno cooks lunch and dinner at the villa, and will sneakily listen in on mealtime conversations for inspiration about what guests might like to eat next.
Breakfast is laid out in the mornings, so you can come and go as you please – just make sure you ask the chef to pre-cook his special pancakes to leave in the fridge for you.
Out and about
My favourite activity is a hike along the path to Banyalbufar. Our guide, Eduard, who founded MallorcAlpina with his brother David, teaches me about the flora. I spot wild strawberry trees and mushrooms – along with houses belonging to famous faces, such as Michael Douglas.
Following a quick swim and fiery sunset at Banyalbufar, I head for dinner. (Once a week, staff at the villas have a day off, encouraging everyone to go out and explore.)
Run by a local lady called Magdalena, Can Paco is a favourite haunt for Son Bunyola guests. After devouring their crispy garlic squid, I can see why. But if you really want to holiday like Sir Richard Branson, he always goes for their signature paella.
It’s true, the entrepreneur is a man with good taste. And his special retreat Son Bunyola is quickly becoming one of my favourite places too.