The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel

Sweet (hotel) dreams are made of these

Subtly concealed, discreet service, stunning views and hammock and caipirinha­s to hand... Fiona Duncan and friends imagine the places they’d most like to review


Like many people, I have unexpected time on my hands. I get up when I like, I go to bed early to avoid the prolonged consumptio­n of alcohol, and in between I drift about in a daze.

Normally (whenever that was) I’m pretty busy, dashing about reviewing hotels for this newspaper. I love hotels and have stayed in hundreds of them but, I reflect as I loll on my lockdown sofa, I have never yet given a perfect 10/10 score. What then, I muse, is my dream hotel?

It’s an absorbing pastime. Without moving from said sofa, I have created, in minute detail, my perfect hotel, and when this awful pandemic is finally over, there, my foggy brain tells me, it will be, ready for me to step into and probably never leave.

I haven’t got much imaginatio­n of my own, but I know what I like. My dream hotel is born of multiple elements from real hotels that, when I opened my mind to it, simply floated in. Here is a thumbnail sketch.

The great advantage of my hotel, for anyone who would like to build it, is that it can exist anywhere. It has to be hidden, though not impossibly so, preferably reached by a mile-long private drive à la Endsleigh, the Pig at

Combe, Gidleigh Park, to name but three; it has to be under the radar (forget the latest designer hotel, the newest Soho House, the coolest celebrity hang-out) and it has to be privately owned and personally run, with friendly but unobtrusiv­e service from long-serving staff who love working there.

But as long as the view from my bedroom window makes me melt, then I don’t mind if it’s in a cove or up a mountain or on a windswept moor, because wherever it is, there will always be walks to go on, sights to see and places to explore. Put me in Devon (where the three aforementi­oned hotels happen to be) or Dominica, Cumbria or Umbria, Paxos or Paraguay: I will be equally happy.

You won’t see my hotel until the very last minute, but turn a corner and suddenly, there it will be, architectu­rally quirky and enchanting (Endsleigh again comes to mind, or the Pig on the Beach or Villa Fiordaliso on Lake Garda). Its walls will be pleasingly coloured – perhaps the ravishing golden limestone of Hadspen House, now The Newt, or the apricot wash of Langar Hall. For sure, it will be encircled by a wide veranda, like the heavenly Brazilian farm hotel Comuna do Ibitipoca, on which guests (not many, because it will only have a dozen bedrooms) will be idly reading and relaxing in hammocks and on easy chairs, caipirinha­s to hand. Wherever my dream hotel lands, I want a hammock and a caipirinha.

Let’s step inside. At this point, nothing will shift the memory of the Abbey Hotel in Penzance, which is not very helpful because it closed four years ago. But oh, it was heaven, created and presided over for 30 years by a beautiful person, inside and out: the model Jean Shrimpton. A cosy, comforting, free-spirited haven full of big, slouchy sofas, kilims, colour and interestin­g things. The key attribute for my dream hotel is “generosity of spirit” and so there will be compliment­ary newspapers, homemade cakes oozing with cream for tea, and an imaginativ­e honesty bar, preferably including the hotel’s own liqueurs and gin (such as Bertha’s Revenge at Ballyvolan­e House). There will be good books everywhere, fresh flowers in pretty vases, and interestin­g, unusual art. Hotels and paintings go together: how thrilling to find Picasso in the Fife Arms or Freud in the Gunton Arms or one of the specially commission­ed new works that pops up every spring somewhere on the walls of Il Sirenuse in Positano.

In my dream hotel, there will be no electronic gadgets, QR codes and such like. Check-in will be recorded in a register the way that Jacqui Baldry has done it for the past 50 years at Howtown Hotel on Ullswater. Lighting will be from lamps and candles, with ceiling lights operated by a simple switch, ceiling fans to cool one down and roaring fires to warm one up. There will be a vintage-style radio but no television in my room, which will be decorated by ravishingl­y pretty yet subtly disruptive wallpaper: anything by Lewis & Wood will do, as in Gravetye Manor, The Nare, Gliffaes or the Swan in Ascott-under-Wychwood. My bathroom will be just that: a room, with a bath. It will have pictures on the walls and a tub under a window with a view so glorious the water goes cold before I can drag myself out. Bath pillow and rack, with champagne and canapés, courtesy of Padstow Townhouse.

The food (nothing fancy; save me from tasting menus) will be an array of home-cooked local dishes, laid out on the flat-topped stove top as at Ibitipoca. Feasts shared with other guests at Coombeshea­d Farm and Ballyvolan­e House also bubble into my mind, as well as a particular dish of freshly picked alexanders at Gurnard’s Head, of salsify gratin at the Pheasant in Harome, of wild mushrooms at Hambleton Hall and of lobster, prepared at the table as if by magic by Diego Masciaga at the Waterside Inn. As well as a cosy, panelled dining room, there will be an outdoor summer restaurant recreating the “Fish Shack”, a simple platform overlookin­g the water on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, where you loll against cushions and a local fishing family bring you the latest catch, wood-grilled kebabs and heaps of gleaming vegetables.

There will be no gym or spa, but treatments and yoga in a waterside pavilion. No chlorine-filled swimming pool, but a natural one, cleverly heated (I just invented that) and a boating lake, as at Domaine des Etangs (gourmet picnics provided).

And who is going to run it? It will take continuity (a fifth generation of Italian hoteliers such as at the Santa Catarina or Sirenuse would be good), commitment and – essential – humour. I won’t name names, but there are a dozen English and Irish hoteliers who fit the criteria (and you know who you are). They must, for my purposes, roll themselves together in order to create my perfect owner and then inhabit the diminutive form of the late, inimitable, Imogen Skirving, of Langar Hall, whom I call down from heaven. On my lockdown sofa, I am the master of my universe.

 ??  ?? iArtfully done: the Fife Arms, main; Villa Fiordaliso on Lake Garda, left
Outdoor excellence at Domaine des Etangs
How would your dream hotel look? And where would it be? Please email travelview­s@
iArtfully done: the Fife Arms, main; Villa Fiordaliso on Lake Garda, left Outdoor excellence at Domaine des Etangs How would your dream hotel look? And where would it be? Please email travelview­s@
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