Aside from the astonishingly quaint scenery, it’s the warming food, architecture and distinct culture of Europe’s village hotels that make them dream havens over the festive period. All frost-tipped in the winter sunshine, every country hamlet has its own unique charm – as do our historic properties. Snuggle up in front of the fire with a glass of red in these peaceful off-grid sanctuaries…
1. Ghan House: Carlingford, Ireland
With the medieval heritage town of Carlingford, ancient UNESCO burial sites and 10th-century Celtic crosses on your doorstep, Ghan House is a dream base for exploring Ireland’s historic past. Hop in the car and you’re a 40-minute drive from the place the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690, and 135 minutes from the legendary Giant’s Causeway. During the winter months, it’s arguably one of the loveliest village hotels in Ireland to snuggle up in. Think log fires, walled gardens, mountain views and award-winning belly-fillers in the two-AA Rosette restaurant.
2. Fernhill House: West Cork, Ireland
Smell the gorse among the magical snowy countryside of West Cork, where Fernhill House plays star role as your home-from-home. With an accolades list as long as your arm, the 19th-century country house packs in centuries of history and an abundance of golden services. Guests especially love the food – the O’Neill’s are passionate about using only exceptional local ingredients. Fish fresh from the sea, meat from green Irish pastures and foraged herbs ensure your dining experience is nothing less than sublime.
3. Hotel Alte Goste: Puster Valley, Italy
North of Venice, South Tyrol is famous for its stunning Alps, curious cuisine and intriguing culture. There’s mountains of Mediterranean tradition, but you still feel like you’re in Austria. In fact, most locals speak German. Hotel Alte Goste is as unique as the region itself – a blissfully hearty guesthouse with the snowy Dolomites in view. You’re in the heart of a skiing Shangri-la – the 12th-century house is intrinsically linked to the history of winter holidays in the area. In fact, it was the first of the village hotels to offer accommodation for tourists. After an adrenaline-packed day exploring Puster Valley, Alte Goste’s award-winning restaurant and stylish rooms and suites are the ideal way to unwind and relax.
4. Castello di Gargonza: Arezzo, Italy
A 13th-century castle, perched like a wedding cake topper atop the Tuscan hills, Castello di Gargonza is one of the most unique village hotels in Europe. Centuries of stories lie within the walls of the fortified village it’s located – Dante Alighieri of Divine Comedy fame even stayed here in 1303. With open fires, rooms excavated into rock and rich wooden beams, you’ll find it tough to leave the snug suites in winter. It’s rural simplicity at its finest – with genuine, traditional cooking (think homemade pasta, Chianina meat smoked over embers and more than 60 regional wines) to boot.
5. Llansantffraed Court: Monmouthshire, Wales
Wales is lovely whatever the weather, but its village hotels are extra cosy in winter. At Llansantffraed Court, warm welcomes, belly-hugging meals and postcard-worthy views come naturally. The historic country house is one of the grandest village hotels in the country – all plush furnishings and hushed tones, without the pomp or stuffiness.
6. Hotel Schloss Hertefeld: Weeze, Germany
Hotel Schloss Hertefeld is an icon of Weeze, delivering a real-castle experience on the banks of the Niers, around 70km from Düsseldorf. It’s not had it easy, this building – it was destroyed to the ground in WWII. In 2004, the castle tower and historic cross vaults were stunningly rebuilt into the luxurious stay it is now. As Germany’s only inhabitable castle ruin, it’s arguably one of the most special village hotels in Europe. Guests love spending festive weekends here – kicking back with a good book in a castle bedroom to the sound of a crackling old fire is always a cherished winter experience.