If you're looking for a peaceful hideaway this summer, a military fort might not immediately stand to attention. But while Cap Rocat started life as a defensive fortress, dug into a rocky outcrop across the bay from Palma in 1889, today its drawbridge and battlements welcome guests into a rather more serene scene. A farewell to arms, then – and a warm welcome to a peaceful and luxurious hotel.
Cap Rocat was used for defence purposes until 1997 – what is now the restaurant would have had soldiers bunking up in it, while the suites were munitions storage rooms. However, last year the fort reopened after a lengthy and stylish makeover by Mallorcan architect Antonio Obrador (who has also designed island pads for Claudia Schiffer and Michael Douglas, and the subterranean art gallery at Ben Jakober's sculpture park in the north).
Don't expect ostentatious luxury: there's no glitz or chintz here. Instead, Obrador has worked with the existing building and its stunning cliff-top setting with views right over the bay to Palma. This being a fortress, it was, of course, designed to be difficult to spot; meanwhile the surrounding area is a protected wildlife reserve, so the development had to be low-impact. It also means that no other hotels will be popping up around it: this will remain a blissfully quiet corner of Mallorca.
Besides the ramparts, the military theme is mercifully understated, with hints such as the rather nifty use of enormous old bullets as door handles. The interiors stay on just the right side of rustic, all flagstone floors, white-washed curved ceilings and exposed, honey-coloured walls (the whole place feels like it's dug down into a great big block of cinder toffee).
And Obrador certainly knows how to make the most of the views: there's an unheated infinity pool up beyond the ramparts; The Sea Club restaurant clings to the cliff side, with guests able to arrive by boat; or you can just dive right in – there are steps and sunbathing spaces on the shore, a short stroll from the rooms.
You could be quite content not venturing beyond the ramparts at all; the hotel's two restaurants serve excellent Mediterranean dishes created from local ingredients. The Sea Club makes for a perfect lazy lunchtime destination, the light dishes suited to al fresco dining: salads, pastas and fresh fish cooked whole on a traditional open firewood grill. The Fortress restaurant, inside a pavilion, is more formal; dishes are fancier in presentation but the menu is also Mediterranean and seasonally determined. Trust the staff's wine recommendations too – their selection from the island is excellent.
Cap Rocat is a 20-minute drive south, curving down round the bay, from Palma airport and the city centre. Make time to explore Palma's historic old town, strolling around the narrow streets, stopping for tapas and peeking into pretty courtyards, or gazing up at the Moorish La Almudaina palace and the gothic Cathedral. A look inside the latter will reveal an altar by Gaudí.
Otherwise, the hotel offers a real retreat: you're surrounded by scrubby greenery in one direction and blue sea in the other.
There are two double rooms, 21 suites, and El Cabo, a larger suite. The rooms are at the bottom of the fortress, but behind each are three tiered outdoor terraces, leading up to ground level with perfect island views. The first is furnished with a table and chairs, the second has a couple of sunloungers, while the top level has a sheltered daybed and the breathtaking vistas.
Rooms are cool, spacious and surprisingly light. The walls and floor are of the same pale stone as the rest of the hotel, with simple rugs and coverings made of a traditional woven cloth that add splashes or red, yellow or blue to the otherwise neutral palate. The décor is understated and rustic, and similar across all the rooms, which have much the same layout with spacious sitting areas and unostentatious furniture. Beds are high and firm and the linen lovely, and Wi-Fi is free and reliable.
The large El Cabo suite occupies the highest point within the fortress, giving it the best views over the bay – plus it has a private outdoor pool. Worth investigating if you've got a don't-leave-the-room honeymoon in mind.
Breakfast is a universal treat. You could saunter to the restaurant each morning – but why bother, when you can have a wicker basket is delivered to your door, at whatever time you request instead (or 20 minutes after phoning in the morning, allowing for lazy lie-ins)? Contents change daily, although you can choose your freshly squeezed juice, newspaper, and tea or coffee. Inside the basket, expect fruit platters, cheese plates, a selection of breads and pastries, plus umpteen dinky glass jars of spreads, cereals and yoghurts. Those private terraces are an infinitely preferable breakfast setting to a busy dining room, too.
Cap Rocat, Carretera d'Enderrocat, Cala Blava, Mallorca, Spain (00 34 971 747 878; caprocat.com)
Double rooms start at €378, room only.