Travel ideas to brighten months ahead
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In the deep of our midwinter, the cleverest people in travel will be feeding the dream with initiatives that put, and keep, their hotels at the top of clients’ minds. If these initiatives reiterate a place’s singular style, great; if they underline its commitment to a more thoughtful way of doing hospitality, even better.
Cases in point: The Fife Arms, the extravagant Highlands bolthole owned by art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth; and Heckfield Place, the peerlessly chic Hampshire estate. The former has just launched a comprehensive web shop on which can be found editions of, or things inspired by, the signature designs and products around the hotel. Almost all of them make excellent gifts, from the cashmere stoles printed with abstracts of works by Guillermo Kuitca (who was commissioned by the Wirths to paint the hotel’s dining-room murals) to Gathering: a Place Aware Guide to the Cairngorms, a multi-volume anthology of poetry, essays, maps and photographs produced exclusively by Scottish artist Alec Finlay. The house tartan and tweed, both designed by Araminta Campbell and available as blankets and scarves, are highly covetable. Should you prefer to design your own, there’s a gift for that too: the custom tartan or tweed gift box (£1,500).
Heckfield Place, meanwhile, has a long-held goal in its sights: to become the first hotel in the UK with a 100 per cent biodynamic farm. Super-chef Skye Gyngell, of London’s Spring, technically oversees the hotel’s two restaurants; but her passion extends across the property’s 400 acres to its organic produce, its flower beds and beehives, and the micro-dairy that generates butter, milk and yoghurt for the hotel and the local community. The achievement will be something of a full circle for Heckfield, whose concept was always to revive the sustainability and self-reliance that used to characterise England’s country estates. shop.thefifearms.com; rooms from £430. heckfieldplace.com; rooms from £350
Dream onsens in Kyoto
One of Kyoto’s grandest private houses has been reimagined as one of its finest hotels by the illustrious business dynasty that owns it. Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto opened on 3 November with 161 rooms and suites, two restaurants (one innovative French-Japanese, one Italian), and a 1,000sq m spa with a spring-fed onsen and treatment suites. The Mitsui family conscripted a roster of stars of design and architecture, including Hong Kong-based André Fu and Shunsaky Miyagi, the acclaimed landscape designer and partner of the landscape and urban design firm Placemedia. There’s a CV dense with superlatives here for when Japan is back on the travel dockets. hotelthemitsui.com; rooms from about £760
An Antarctic expedition ne plus ultra
In times that encourage escapism, here’s the best-in-class Quark Expeditions with the apotheosis of the adventure redoubt for 2021. Ultramarine, Quark’s newest polar expedition ship, launches next May, and it pulls out all the stops: two twin-engine helicopters; 20 quick-launch Zodiacs; a full-service spa with a fitness-yoga studio; and sleek, elegant suites for 199 passengers. With its debut comes a new portfolio of Antarctic itineraries, which variously include South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, Cape Horn and the Diego Ramirez archipelago. The activities range from polar swims to heli-hiking, with regular input from an on-board retinue of scientists, conservationists and other experts, there to put the extraordinary landscape and everything that lives in it into context. quarkexpeditions.com; Antarctic itineraries from $7,995 per person; inaugural voyage on 11 October 2021
A volcanic sanctuary in Ecuador
Cotopaxi – an active volcano and Ecuador’s second-highest summit at nearly 5,900m – is one of the country’s Andean highlights, popular with climbers (though choose your timing carefully; it has erupted about once every five years since 1738). Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge is the site’s appealing new digs – situated in a 3,000-hectare private hacienda on the slopes of Sincholagua, another volcano facing Cotopaxi that’s flush with wildlife (fox, deer, wild horses, a puma if you’re very lucky) and crisscrossed with hiking trails. The accommodation consists of four suites in a slick white main house, and a handful of space-age 50sq m domes with hot baths, sitting areas and big picture windows overlooking the Cordillera Central range. From picking mortiños (a local blueberry) and mountain biking, to arranging guided ascents of the surrounding summits, the operators promise to have the activities more than covered. cotopaxisanctuarylodge.com, from $600pp per night
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