Take a walk on the wild side with the new breed of mountain hotels.
We may not be as bad as the Dutch, but the Brits can hardly claim to have a naturally occurring head for heights. In comparison to other parts of the world, the UK’s mountain ranges are modest affairs and can be scaled in little more than an afternoon. So, for those with serious ambitions to scramble up epic peaks and explore the foothills and valleys below, we’ve discovered four amazing hotels, each well off the beaten track, which boast a location guaranteed to take your breath away.
From the workers’ accommodation in Iceland that has been converted into the impressively hip Ion to the über-luxe hotels that are the Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman, the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi in Georgia, Blackberry Mountain, Tennessee and Morocco’s Kasbah Bab Ourika, we’ve scoured the globe to find designer style set among some of the most fabulous scenery imaginable. Time to climb aboard…
The lowdown A mountain retreat where you can get back to nature in style
Best for Embracing indoor and outdoor activities, from rock climbing to wood whittling
Bali, the Maldives, Tahiti – all places that might spring to mind when on the hunt for a dose of total relaxation. But for several decades now, some of the world’s most high-profile travellers and celebrities have instead sought out a farm in America’s rural Tennessee to decompress.
That farm is now opening a sister hotel, Blackberry Mountain, set high up in the Great Smoky Mountains. The new property – which looks like something out of a festive Ralph Lauren ad – encourages guests to embrace the great outdoors by hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.
After the day’s activities, head back to the timber-lined cabin bedrooms to dress for a dinner at the Firetower restaurant, a restored Forties lookout post.
The lowdown An abandoned workers’ inn turned luxury hotel.
Best for Fans of the extreme – the surroundings range from fire to ice.
Located among mountainous lava fields (we kid you not) an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the Ion is the perfect place to explore Iceland’s unique landscape. Austere in appearance – it originally served as a bar for workers employed at a geothermal power station – the concrete building has been expanded with a new wing made up of locally salvaged driftwood (and lava!) to create a beguiling mix of post-industrial and prehistoric.
Inside, the rooms are all positioned to take in the surrounding views, which include Mount Hengill volcano and Lake Thingvellir, and their naturalist décor reflects the wildlife, such as fox and mink, that wanders freely outside the hotel.
The fare on offer is simple, fresh and seasonal – think shellfish soup and sautéed cod – and just the thing to keep you going as you enjoy the hikes, dives, kayaking or horseback rides that enable you to experience this amazing countryside at close hand.
Book itDouble rooms from £173.
AlilA JAbAl AkhdAr
The lowdown A Middle eastern jewel, perched 2,000m above sea level.
Best for well-heeled nature lovers in search of a desert adventure.
Unaffected by vertigo? Then Alila Jabal Akhdar is your kind of resort. Glance down and you’re rewarded with views of a dramatic gorge, look around and you’re dazzled by awesome vistas of the Al Hajar Mountains just made for sharing on Instagram.
The 86 suites and villas are decked out in a contemporary Omani style, with a subdued palette of neutrals, accented with bold furnishings and plenty of wood and stone. And in a nod to the national heritage, one wall of each suite has been gifted with a hand-painted mural of juniper leaves.
Food-wise, the Juniper restaurant boasts an international menu inspired by the golden age of Omani cuisine – think the healthiest of mezze platters and salads, plus carb-tastic pastas perfect for fuelling a hard day’s trekking or canyon walking.
And after you’ve spent your energy exploring the rugged terrain, there’s no questioning the fact you’ll have to stop off in the sanctuary that is Spa Alila for a blissful bout of pampering.
Book it double rooms from approx £155.
The lowdown A hip cosy-cool hotel from upcoming local designers.
Best for Adventure seekers with a penchant for design.
Raw, rugged, romantic – remote Northern Georgia is well known to hikers and skiers, but thanks to the stunning Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, it’s now on the style map too. Bang opposite the 5,047m Kazbegi mountain (the third largest in the Caucasus), the hotel has been designed with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout to make the most of the breathtaking views. Inside, chalet chic meets industrial, with raw timber floors, woven rugs and minimalist steel shelving and lighting.
The large lobby, library and lounge are ambiently lit and decked out with vintage movie posters from Georgia’s Soviet past. Each of the 156 pared-back bedrooms is decorated in mushroom or taupe and has a balcony. For dinner, expect a delicious mix of traditional Georgian and international dishes.
There’s all sorts to do, from heli-skiing and wild swimming to spotting wildlife, including lynx and chamois. And check out the local churches and folklore – Kazbegi is said to be the mountain Prometheus was chained to…
Kasbah bab OuriKa
The lowdown Traditional Berber architecture with stunning views.
Best for Trekkers and anyone who wants to get away from it all.
Less than an hour’s drive from Marrakech, yet perched majestically on a hilltop overlooking a lush river valley, the Kasbah Bab Ourika is the ideal spot to leave (most of) the modern world behind. There’s no TV and Wi-Fi is patchy, so pack a few good books and luxuriate in this charming oasis in some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable.
Built in traditional ‘packed earth’ style by an expat Brit, the 15-room Kasbah Bab Ourika is staffed entirely by locals. All water is recycled, much of the power is solar, beauty products are supplied by local specialist Nectarome and salt comes from the mountain mine.
As for the food, Kasbah Bab Ourika’s grounds include its own herb and vegetable beds, while the restaurant specialises in slow-cooked lamb, charcoal-cooked beef tagine and Moroccan salads. And remember to bring your walking boots – a trek through the nearby Atlas Mountains is an experience you’ll never forget.