Bed and breakfasts that offer much more than their title implies

Relais D'Orsa, Spain

Built in the early 1900s, Relais d'Orsa is an elegant mansion in the hills above Barcelona. Round the side of the house, crumbling stone steps lead down to the small kidney-shaped pool and patio, where sun loungers face on to panoramic views. Its owner is an interior designer, and each of the five rooms has been individually decorated in rich silks and scattered with hand-picked antiques. In the wardrobes are smartly folded dressing gowns, while in the bathrooms, L'Occitane toiletries are bundled into crunchy organza bags.

Relais d'Orsa, Mont d'Orsa 35, Vallvidrera, Barcelona (00 34 93 406 94 11, Rooms cost from €230 (£164) per night. Breakfast is €18 (£13) Lucy Gillmore

Jan Harmsgat Country House, South Africa

At Jan Harmsgat Country House there's a hat stand slung with Panamas for guests to borrow, the pillows are made from local sheep's wool and the soap is tied with a sprig of rosemary from the garden. No detail has been overlooked. Judi Rebstein (once a successful film producer) and her businessman-turned-farmer husband Brin run one of the most stylish B&Bs in the Western Cape. The house was once an old farm dating back to 1723, and accommodation is in the original slave quarters, a whitewashed building with shuttered windows and thick stone walls. There are just four large rooms, with polished concrete floors scattered with Persian rugs and oil paintings in gilt frames on buffed grey walls. The rooms look out over fragrant citrus orchards and the towering Langeberg mountains.

Jan Harmsgat Country House, Swellendam 6740, South Africa (00 27 23 616 3407; Doubles from R1,380 (£119) including breakfast LG

Parador de la Vina, Chile

In the heart of the Colchagua valley, one of Chile's wine-producing regions, is the mustard-hued and flower-strewn Parador de la Vina. Located in the grounds of a neighbouring hacienda, surrounded by vineyards and with the Andes towering in the distance, it was originally the caretaker's lodge. Now a guesthouse run by the hacienda's owner, Cecilia Diaz, its four bedrooms are tastefully decorated in florals and thoughtfully chosen antiques. The whole place exudes a sense of laid-back charm and Cecilia is always at the ready to offer local tips on things to see and do. A further two rooms are currently in progress, as is a swimming pool, which will be ready in 2005.

Parador de la Vina, Camino Los Boldos, Santa Cruz, Chile (00 56 72 825788; Double rooms start from 45,000 Chilean pesos (£40), based on two people sharing

Aoife O'Riordain

Kilgraney House, Ireland

County Carlow is not necessarily on most people's radars when it comes to a visit to Ireland, but Kilgraney House, between Carlow town and Kilkenny, is a firm favourite among weekending Dubliners. Surrounded by five acres of well-tended gardens, this gracious Georgian house, with sections dating from the 1820s, has been lovingly restored. The resulting six guest rooms are a stylish mix of old and new; Irish antiques stand beside objects inspired by the owners' extensive globetrotting. A further two suites, located in a courtyard behind the main house, have more pared-down, contemporary interiors. The nightly dinners are long drawn-out affairs around the communal black Kilkenny marble dining table. In winter, the house is only open on Friday and Saturday nights.

Double rooms start from €55 (£40) per person, based on two people sharing. Kilgraney House, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow (00 353 59 977 5283; AO'R

Il Convento di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, Italy

Something of a cult address in Italy's newly trendy Puglia, Lord and Lady McAlpine's Il Convento sets the gold standard for luxurious B&Bs. The rambling 14th-century convent is half an hour's drive from the tip of the Italian heel, and the building forms the perfect gallery for the couple's enviable collections of furniture, tribal art and textiles. Guests staying in the eight bedrooms are given the run of the house, grounds and swimming pool, and dinner each night offers an array of imaginatively adapted Pugliese cuisine.

Il Convento di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, Marittima di Diso, Puglia (00 39 0833 771206). Double rooms start from €250 (£178) per night, based on two sharing. The house is open from May until the end of October AO'R