Monastery hotels: From 12th century English abbeys to 17th century Italian monasteries
The Big Six
Saturday 05 April 2014
Lord Crewe Arms, England
This building started life as Blanchland Abbey in the 12th century when it was founded by monks from Prémontré in Normandy. Situated in the Northumberland village of Blanchland, it later came under the ownership of Nathaniel Crewe – the influential 17th-century Bishop of Durham. After his death in 1721, it was named the Lord Crewe Arms in his honour and served as the village pub. But on Monday, it remerges as a 21-bedroom hotel after a joint £1.5m renovation by the Lord Crewe's Charity and Calcot Hotels – known for Barnsley House and Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds. Expect a vaulted ground-floor bar and manicured gardens in what once formed the abbey's cloisters.
Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, Northumberland DH8 9SP (01434 675 469; lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk). Doubles from £140, B&B.
Monastero Santa Rosa, Italy
This former 17th-century monastery overlooks the Bay of Salerno on the Amalfi Coast. Poised on a dramatic cliff, a short drive from the pastel-painted buildings of Positano, it once housed nuns who were famed for baking heavenly desserts, such as sfogliatelle – a shell-shaped pastry, known to this day as the "Santa Rosa". As a hotel, the offering is equally indulgent, with sea-view rooms, a terraced pool and a cavernous spa, complete with ancient vaulted ceilings.
Monastero Santa Rosa, Conca dei Marini, Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy (00 39 089 832 1199; monasterosantarosa.com). Doubles from €429, B&B.
Parador de Santo Estevo, Spain
This converted Benedictine monastery is hidden away in the northern Spanish region of Galicia, in an area known as "Ribeira Sacra", where the Sil and Mino rivers meet. Surrounded by glistening green hills, it's the perfect spot for some quiet reflection. Built during a range of architectural periods, it features 75 idiosyncratic rooms, with exposed stone walls, overlooking a series of interlinked cloisters. Modern additions include a spa.
Parador de Santo Estevo, Galicia, Spain (00 34 902 54 79 79; www.parador.es). Doubles from €65, room only.
Pousada de Arraiolos, Portugal
This pousada stands in the Alentejo region outside the medieval city of Evora, with its wealth of well-preserved palaces and cathedrals. The gleaming white building even retains its chapel, complete with original tiles that relay scenes of saints and sinners from the Bible. Elsewhere, there are 35 whitewashed rooms, a pool with sun terraces and a restaurant that proffers traditional Portuguese dishes. Spend days riding, cycling or walking in the Alentejo countryside.
Pousada de Arraiolos, Arraiolos, Alentejo, Portugal (00 351 266 419 340; pousadas.pt). Doubles from €110, B&B.
Le Couvent des Minimes, France
The tiny town of Mane in Provence is home to this converted monastery – which is due to reopen on 18 April, following a renovation. Founded for the religious order of Les Minimes in 1613, it continued to act as a working monastery until 2000. Over the years, successive residents cultivated fruit trees, grape vines, nasturtium and fuchsia plants, meaning that today, the grounds flourish. In spring, a surrounding grassy plain also bursts into a vivid display of wildflowers.
Le Couvent des Minimes, Mane, Provence, France (00 33 4 92 74 77 77; bit.ly/couvent). Doubles from €200, room only.
The Augustine, Czech Republic
For an original stay in the Czech capital, check into to The Augustine. Located in Prague's historic centre, the atmospheric hotel was converted in 2009 from a 13th-century monastery, that once housed the friars of Saint Augustine. Contemporary furnishings and modern art now rub shoulders with ancient frescos in the stand-out suites, while the vaulted inner sanctum holds the sleek 1887 Bar. A European restaurant and spa provide space for sybarites.
The Augustine, Prague, Czech Republic (00 420 266 1124 22 23; theaugustine.com). Doubles from €212, room only.
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