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Our little black book of enchanting places


Hotels on holy ground

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

In the Middle Ages, one of the functions of a monastery was to provide hospitality for pilgrims and other travellers, so it’s appropriate that so many have been reincarnated as hotels, from grand bastions of luxury to more contemporary establishments. Here are five great locations for a religious experience.

Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Cusco

Monastery hotels don’t come much grander than this fabulous example built in 1592. I stayed here a number of years ago on my way to Machu Picchu and was entranced by the hotel’s tranquil cloistered courtyard, with its fountain and 300-year-old cedar tree, and Baroque chapel decorated with gold picture frames. The stones around the doors bear the Spanish Arms Escutcheon and the image of Bishop Monsignor Juan Serricolea y Olea, while each of the Colonial-style rooms is enchanting. Mine came with an unexpected extra: added oxygen to help with the effects of Cusco’s high altitude. From £262 per night.Monastero Santa Rosa on cliff tops, Amalfi CoastMonastero Santa Rosa, Amalfi Coast  

Monastero Santa Rosa but it has been at the top of my wishlist since it opened three years ago. Perched on the edge of a cliff, it dates from the 17th century when it was inhabited by the sisters of Santa Rosa who were famous for their baking, in particular their sfogliatelle, or filled pastries. The present owner renovated the Santa Rosa in 2012 and it now has 20 rooms and suites, beautiful terraced gardens and an eye-poppingly gorgeous infinity pool. The Mediterranean restaurant is presided over by Christoph Bob whose attention to detail is legendary: even the pasta shape he uses is unique to the hotel. Monsastero Santa Rosa reopens for the season on April 22 2016, from £310 per night.Exterior of Bruisyard Hall, SuffolkBruisyard Hall, Suffolk

There are lots of hotels in England with a monastic past, but Bruisyard Hall is slightly different in that you can have it all to yourself. Set on a peaceful and unspoilt estate near Saxmundham, 14th-century Bruisyard Hall was originally inhabited by the Poor Clares and still has its original Priest hole and faceless clock with bell tower. There’s accommodation for up to 20 people in the main house (with an additional four in the event barn) and action-packed activities on offer include driving a Land Rover blindfolded (no, we’re not sure about that one either), racing buggies or country pursuits such as air rifling, axe throwing, crossbow and clay shooting, falconry, traditional archery and laser clays. Contact Bruisyard Hall for price details.Bedroom, Fontevraud L'Hotel, Loire ValleyFontevraud L'Hôtel, Loire Valley

10 miles from Saumur, this hotel is set in a priory within the mighty Abbaye Royale, the dynastic necropolis of the Plantagenets and the final resting place of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henri II and Richard the Lionheart. It’s perhaps what you might call ‘monastery chic’ – comfortable and contemporary in design but nonetheless pared down, with rooms almost cell-like in their simplicity. The gourmet restaurant – which opens onto the cloister – serves what it calls ‘back to basics’ cuisine, with many of the ingredients sourced from the abbey’s own vegetable gardens, including honey from the abbey’s beehives. From around £128 per night.Reception area, Hotel Sant Agusti, BarcelonaHotel Sant Agustí, Barcelona

Similar to the Fontevraud in its modern, minimalist design, Hotel Sant Agustí was built in 1720 and was a working convent for 120 years. Its former inhabitants would no doubt recognise some of the exposed brickwork and the stone arch in the reception area though the emphasis here is on the contemporary rather than the historical. But there’s no denying its perfect location, a few minutes’ walk from Las Ramblas, the cathedral and the Boquería Market. From around £86 per night.

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