Spring is a great time to plan a hiking trip in Europe, and after long days on the trail, our carefully selected boutique hotels are the perfect place to rest your head. But what you may not know is that many of our favorite properties are also housing centuries’ worth of history. From famous writers’ hideaways to a medieval traveler’s hospital, here are five of our favorites.
1. Hotel Bella Tola, Saint-Luc, Switzerland
When & Where: France & Switzerland: Haute Route Hiking
Details: In 1859, mountain guide Pierre Pont started construction on the first Hotel Bella Tola in a great stone family house to the east of the village church of Saint-Luc. Today, this four-star Val d’Anniviers hotel still reflects the architectural charm of the Belle Époque, with 30 elegantly appointed guest rooms and a veranda restaurant specializing in regional gourmet dishes like perch à la meunière.
Insider Tip: You can’t beat the view from Bella Tola’s spa swimming pool—complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and a roaring fireplace—where you can sooth your hiker’s legs in the warm water, surrounded alpine vistas and the snow-capped Matterhorn beyond.
2. Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Ireland
When & Where: Ireland: Walking Trails of the Emerald Isle
Details: This restored mid-18th century Georgian manor house has hosted famous writers including Seamus Heaney and J.R.R. Tolkien who, it’s said, was inspired by the surrounding Burren landscape when he wrote Lord of the Rings. The 21 individually decorated guestrooms feature handpicked furniture and original antiques, and look out on the mountains or Gregans’ carefully tended gardens.
Insider Tip: The hotel’s acclaimed restaurant won Food & Wine’s best chef and restaurant awards in 2014, thanks to chef David Hurley’s inspired menu highlighting local ingredients such as organic Burren lamb and game.
3. Relais Santa Anastasia, Castelbuono, Sicily, Italy
When & Where: Italy: Ancient Sicily Hiking
Details: In the hills above Cefalu, Sicly, just steps from Castelbuono, the Relais Santa Anastasia is tucked away between rows of vineyards, offering panoramic views that extend all the way to the Aeolian Islands. This carefully restored 12th century Benedictine abbey provides a tranquil oasis, with 29 warmly furnished guestrooms, a cozy fireplace, reading room, and a scenic outdoor pool.
Insider’s Tip: Stop by the nearby Winery Abbazia Santa Anastasia for a chance to taste some of the vineyard’s acclaimed biodynamic wines.
4. Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, La Rioja, Spain
When & Where: Spain: Vintage Rioja Hiking
Details: Set in a former 12th-century hospital erected by St. Dominic to care for pilgrims traveling on the Camino de Santiago, this transporting hotel just steps from the cathedral is an architectural marvel, with Gothic arches, exposed stone pillars, and wood coffered ceilings. The 61 comfortable guestrooms are also decorated with period furnishings, including four-poster beds, and regional dishes and wine from the Rioja make up the menus at the property’s two gourmet restaurants.
Insider’s Tip: Legend has it that in the 11th century, a hermit named Domingo took up residence in the heart of the forest that surrounded the hotel, dedicating all his energy to making it easier for pilgrims traveling the Way of Saint James to traverse this difficult region.
5. The Lovat, Fort Angustus, Scotland
When & Where: Scotland: Highlands & Islands Hiking
(via the lovat.com)
Details: The Lovat sits on the former site of the Kilwhimen Barracks, one of four forts built in 1718 to pacify the highlanders after the Jacobite uprisings. Part of the fort’s curtain wall still remains today, and the hotel has been used as a railway inn since 1869. Located on Loch Ness in the heart of the highlands, the Lovat offers boat trips on the lake, an award-winning restaurant, and 28 contemporary guestrooms and studios.
Insider’s Tip: An eco-friendly property, the Lovat’s various energy-saving initiatives include a bio mass wood chip boiler, a carbon-offsetting program for planting trees, and guest discounts for walking, biking, or using public transportation to reach the hotel.