The Big Six: Convent hotels

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Le Couvent d'Hérépian, France

Hérépian has long been a place of quiet contemplation: pilgrims used to stop here en route to the Way of St James in Spain. Here, in the heart of the Haut-Languedoc national park, a 17th-century nunnery is now a four-star hotel with 13 suites and a restorative spa. Vaulted ceilings, mullioned windows and stone staircases retain a sense of history, while plasma televisions and iPod docks bring things into the 21st century.

Le Couvent d'Hérépian, 2 Rue du Couvent, Hérépian, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (00 33 4 67 11 87 15; garrigae-resorts.com). Doubles start at €129, room only.

L'Hotel in Pietra, Italy

Architects Giuseppe and Michele Andrisani spent three years sculpting a rock-hewn Benedictine church into a boutique hotel. Part of the Unesco-protected sassi (ancient cave dwellings) of Matera, the 12th-century structure now has eight rooms and two suites with exposed walls, stone bathtubs and stark white linens. There's also a wine cellar in the underground cistern.

L'Hotel in Pietra, Via San Giovanni Vecchio 22, Matera, Italy (00 39 0 835 344 040; hotelinpietra.it). Double rooms start at €110, including breakfast.

Convento do Espinheiro, Portugal

Built on the site of an apparition of the Virgin Mary, this 15th-century convent counts Portuguese monarchs and nobility among its past guests. Set in luscious grounds on the outskirts of the Unesco World Heritage city of Evora, it offers escapism of the highest order, with 23 richly decorated rooms, an on-site chapel and luxury spa to restore mind, body and spirit. There's a peaceful courtyard where breakfast is served each morning, and a vaulted restaurant for evening meals, located in an ancient wine cellar.

Convento do Espinheiro, Praca de Giraldo, Evora, Portugal (00 351 266 788 200; conventodoespinheiro. com). Doubles start at €129, including breakfast.

Convento de la Missió, Mallorca

This sanctuary has 14 cutting-edge rooms hidden in a side street in Palma's historic old town. Guests can relax in the subterranean sauna, admire the art gallery in the former refectory or sample Mediterranean cuisine at the new restaurant, Simply Fosh.

Convento de la Missió, Missió 7a, Palma, Mallorca, Spain (00 34 971 22 73 47; conventdelamissio.com). Doubles from €185, including breakfast.

Hotel Sacristía de Santa Ana, Spain

This 18th-century former convent is a blissful retreat in Seville's vibrant Alameda area. It has 25 colourful rooms arranged around a serene inner courtyard, each with a name relating to the legend of Hercules who – according to Greek myth – founded the city. The decor inside reflects the classical theme, with antiques, crisp floral fabrics, frescos and simple shuttered windows offering solitude at night.

Hotel Sacristía de Santa Ana, Alameda de Hércules 22, Seville, Spain (00 34 954 91 57 22; hotelsacristia.com). Doubles from €59, with breakfast.

The Old Convent, Ireland

Dermot and Christine Gannon have turned a one-time home of the Sisters of Mercy into a gourmet haven in County Tipperary. After dinner in the old chapel, guests can retire to one of seven homely bedrooms with views of the Knockmealdown mountains.

The Old Convent, Mount Anglesby, Clogheen, Co Tipperary, Ireland (00 353 52 7465565; theoldconvent.ie). Doubles start at €170, including breakfast.

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