Thotalagala is one place – a magnificent Edwardian bungalow built among the tea plantations originally planted by famous British merchant Sir Thomas Lipton in the 1800s. It is now a boutique guest house featuring seven majestic rooms set on a vast 8,000 hectares. Staying here is like stepping back to a time when house guests changed for dinner and entertained themselves with parlour games. A relaxed, convivial house-party atmosphere lingers on. Uniformed butlers, who are unobtrusive and friendly, are happy to serve your favourite dishes wherever and whenever, because despite its old world charm, this is the easiest going of retreats, and the thrill of the view that spreads out across the valley far below the infinity pool never palls.
In the magical city of Cusco, a short cobblestoned walk from Plaza de Armas – the magnificent central square – a secret passageway connects the Nazarenas convent to the Monasterio, once home to the most powerful monks of the South American Catholic Church. Today, Belmond, the luxury hotel group, rents the magnificent 17th-century buildings from the church and now its holiest of altars and place of worship, replete with golden statues and ornately painted walls, also doubles as bar. Built on Inca foundations with charming cloistered courtyards, bubbling fountains and flower-laden trees, here mysterious passages lead to spacious rooms with balconies and vast Peruvian marble bathtubs stocked with pretty soaps made using local flowers and herbs.
Hacienda Santa Rosa is special: now a 11-bedroom sustainable luxury hotel, it actively encourages locals to bring their traditions, customs and artisanry back onto its sprawling late-19th-century estate. Passing between the chiselled columns of the arched, brilliant cobalt-blue façade is to enter a portal, not to the past, but to a time where the past is ever-present.
Recently built and stabilized against earthquakes, the house has reverted back to a descendant of the original Sherpa landowner. Ang Tshering Lama is 29-year-old scion of this family, who last year opened up the house to visitors and launched these singular adventures in the sacred Solukhumbu valley. A week dreamed up by Ang’s Beyul Experiences might include participating in Buddhist festivals, staying in remote monasteries, dinners at village homestays, treks, mountain biking, yoga and candlelit evenings of Nepalese food. Sherpas believe in Beyul, a safe harbour protected by natural forces: snowstorms, snow leopards and mists. The Solukhumbu valley, on which The Happy House and the ger-tented camp sit, is considered one of the rare identifiable beyul.
Nothing could be more spectacularly Scottish. Motoring a majestic landscape of crystal-clear waters, heather moorland, peatland, forestry and wild mountains, you arrive at this former coaching inn, deep in the Cairngorms National Park in Aberdeenshire, to be greeted in the lobby by a roaring fire and a three-meter high, 19th century mahogany and stained-pine chimney place, carved with scenes from the works of Robert Burns. To be awed and comforted at the same time, such is the magic of the Highlands. Thanks to its exquisite décor, abundant arts and crafts and easy hospitality, this newly restored hotel in Braemar, a town best known for hosting Scotland’s premier Highland Games, casts a similar spell. The 46 bedrooms, ranging in style from plush Victorian to homely croft, are consistently charming.