We pull up abruptly outside a rather austere-looking stone building. “Here we are,” announces the driver. I look around wondering where the boutique hotel we’re supposed to be checking into is, but the driver has already jumped out and is heading around the back of the building. I guess this is it.
From the other side of the building things starts to fall into place. I spot modern chairs on the lawn and a sun-filled, glass-fronted restaurant attached to the building. Upon closer inspection I spot bright red trimming breaking up the brickwork and note that the leaves in the garden match it beautifully. When I step inside and spot the immaculately styled reception it makes me wonder if the coordinating garden is not such a coincidence.
We’re greeted in reception by Mónica who runs El Castaño Dormilón with her husband Alex. She’s wonderfully warm and accommodating and you feel immediately like you are staying at her home rather than her hotel. Her home just happens to be a chic, contemporary, boutique hotel hiding inside a traditional, stone building. The building, its friendly owners reveal, was once a school-house – suddenly it all starts to make sense.
Whilst the accents of red outside the building are continued in this cosy reception, the rooms, we are to discover, are decked out in stylish monochrome. I am lucky enough to be staying in one of the two extensive attic rooms – mine has accents of black whilst my neighbour’s is a stark white.
There are only 11 rooms at the hotel and the attic rooms, if you ask me, are definitely the best. Nestled under giant wooden beams, my room is a minimally decorated nook filled with sunshine from the skylight. The glass-walled bathroom hosts a giant tub, with accompanying rubber ducks, and a tall, rectangular window near the bed overlooks the garden and woodland beyond.
Little touches like luxurious, golden shower gel, a (much appreciated) Smeg kettle and arty books add to the comfort and style of the room. I’m also secretly overjoyed to discover there is an elevator hidden in a closet. (So I needn’t have worried about lugging my bags up to the loft!)
Mónica has been the perfect hostess but at dinner it’s time for her husband to shine. We sit down to eat in the light-filled front room and Alex appears intermittently from the kitchen, his arms filled with platters of clams, plates of meat and cocktail glasses filled with mint choc chip ice cream. Candles, table decorations and fantastic local wine help set the scene. It’s like we’ve been invited to a dinner party with the couple; I feel bad that they don’t get to take a seat.
Breakfast is an equally elegant affair – smoothies, coffees, pastries, eggs and ham feel almost artfully arranged on the table. I tuck into a cherry pastry with a hint of liqueur and have to check with my fellow diners that the taste of alcohol isn’t just in my head. (It’s not, apparently this is a local speciality. I like it!)
Whilst I’d love to stay longer at this table, eating fresh bread and sipping endless tea, we’ve come to this region for the incredible scenery. Just beyond the hotel’s front door are dramatic cliffs, colourful coastal villages, wild horses and even wilder beaches.
A stay at El Castaño Dormilón is like staying at a very elegant home from home – just with much better food compared to what comes out of my kitchen!