For many of our clients, a hotel is not just a place to rest your head while you visit an exotic location. The architecture, the history – the story that the property tells – is a key part of your holiday experience. We have a number of glorious hotels in our collection that have a prestigious, even royal, history.
Xara Palace, Malta
You will find this beautiful Baroque palace nestled in the medieval town walls of Mdina, the former capital of Malta. It is the only hotel in the whole city; during the day, tourists flock to this charming fortified town to explore its cultural and historical riches, but at night they all leave, making the Xara Palace’s guests part of an elite club that remain behind the medieval walls. Previous clients have commented that the tranquillity and beauty of serene Mdina in the evenings is unmatched by any other city they have visited.
This five-star boutique hotel has just 17 rooms and suites, each of which is individually furnished with antique artwork and furniture. Architectural enthusiasts and antiquarians love to appreciate the sensitive restoration of the palace’s Baroque heritage.
The onsite de Mondion Restaurant is one of Malta’s best fine dining establishments. Guests can enjoy an excellent menu of Maltese, French and Mediterranean cuisine with a backdrop of panoramic city views from the hotel’s terraces on the Mdina bastions. I would definitely recommend dining there at least once – if you’re not a food connoisseur but you want to enjoy the view, you can have your breakfast outside on the terrace in clement weather.
Those with an interest in cultural and religious sites will find plenty to explore in Mdina. It is said that St Paul the Apostle lived in the city in 60 AD after being shipwrecked on Malta on his journey from Crete to Rome. Tradition has it that he sheltered in a grotto in nearby Rabat, which became one of the earliest sites of Christian worship on the island. You can visit St Paul’s Grotto and St Paul’s Church, which was built on top of it in the seventeenth century.
Mdina’s Cathedral is also dedicated to St Paul, and was reportedly built on the site where the apostle met with the Roman governor, Publius. St Paul’s Cathedral and its Museum, which houses a fascinating collection of documents from the Inquisition among its treasures, are well worth a visit during your stay.
San Roque, Tenerife
The striking red walls of San Roque immediately pique the interest of any design-savvy clients looking for a holiday destination in Tenerife. This seventeenth-century mansion and watch tower, located in the old quarter of Garachico on the north-east coast of the island, were built in what became the traditional Canarian style.
The owners of the Hotel San Roque have done an exceptional job of marrying the old with the new. Traditional features, such as original pine floors and beams and an earthy colour palate, juxtapose with stunning contemporary art and furniture by designers such as Rennie Mackintosh, Josef Hoffmann and Eileen Grey. A lot of effort has been put into each and every one of the 20 rooms and suites – I love the fact that the hotel has an extensive film and music collection that guests are welcome to enjoy in their room, allowing them to soak up its elegant atmosphere.
Garachico is a picturesque harbour town that was largely rebuilt after the devastating eruption of a nearby volcano in 1706. One of the oldest buildings still in existence that survived the destruction is the Castillo de San Miguel, a stone fortress with a tower that you can climb for excellent views of the coastline.
Vibrant, colour-washed fishermen’s houses sit next to grand mansions and shady plazas in Garachico, divided by cobbled streets. I would recommend visiting in August, when the town celebrates the Romería de San Roque. During this annual festival, Garachico fills with pilgrims and revellers who commemorate the town’s patron, San Roque, who saved the town from the Black Death in 1601.
Kasbah Angour, Morocco
If you’re seeking North African grandeur steeped in tradition, I have to recommend the Kasbah Angour; this boutique hotel occupies a Berber castle in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Although it’s just a 30-minute drive from the bustle of Marrakech, the Kasbah is a peaceful retreat that offers an excellent base for exploring the mountains and its villages.
Its seclusion from the outside world gives this property a particularly special ambience, which is commented upon by many of our clients. They loved that they were free to explore the 10 acres of gardens that wrap around the sprawling castle, containing lawns, formal rose beds, almond trees and olive groves, a herb and vegetable garden and terraces to sit out and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.
Traditional features abound in the 26 rooms and suites, including floors made from clay tiles, walls of exposed red sandstone and furniture made from local materials by local craftspeople. One thing that I particularly like about the Kasbah is that the team running the hotel – under owner Paul’s expert guidance – are all Moroccan Berbers from nearby villages, ensuring that the hotel gives to rather than detracts from the local economy.
Exploring the Atlas Mountains
Guests can take advantage of the team of local mountain guides who are on hand to show you the Atlas Mountains and the surrounding villages. Not only will this expose you to some stunning landscapes as you explore the breathtaking terrain, but I hear that these tours give you a fascinating insight into the Berber culture as well.
If you’re willing to pull yourself away from this oasis in the mountains, you are in striking distance of the steaming souks and chattering bazaars of Morocco’s capital, Marrakech.