SLH’s Senior Content Editor, Chloe Frost-Smith, shares her autumn moodboard of hotels to visit as the seasons change
Maybe it’s because I’m a September baby, but this transitional time of year has always been my favourite season to explore Europe. Beach breaks are balmier and less busy with bewitchingly golden sunsets and still swimmable seas, while the colour-changing countryside starts to feel invitingly cosy – think crisp mornings and crunchy leaves underfoot. Hot chocolate weather is almost here, and pumpkin spiced season is upon us, so these are the boutique hotels I am falling for this autumn. Expect cuddled-up Cotswolds cabins, roaring fireplaces in the fjords of Norway, and an auburn-tinged Umbrian hilltop castle…
Susafa, Sicily – Italy
Sicily, in autumn? Si, certo! The scorching summer temperatures have begun to drop off and are now more like a soothing 20-something degrees, so sunbathers can still bask in this rugged island’s glow for a little while longer without feeling frazzled. And if this image of Bruno, the handsome Weimaraner who pads around the grounds of family-run farmhouse Susafa, posing with some pumpkins and squashes doesn’t make you long for autumnal days around harvest season, I don’t know what will. Speaking of harvest, guests staying at this eco-conscious masseria during the month of September are invited to lend a hand with the estate’s farmer picking tomatoes, followed by a full day of tomato cooking lessons with a farm-to-table lunch, learning typical Sicilian tomato-based dishes.
The Fish Hotel, Cotswolds – England
Rolltop baths, wood burning stoves, and open fires for roasting s’mores…the hillside huts at The Fish Hotel spell cosy in every way possible. This is glamping at its most luxurious, for a ‘wake up in the woodlands’ retreat with all the creature comforts imaginable – including an intercom button on your private outdoor hot tub so you can order room service as you soak. These bespoke shepherds huts (which come in the form of ‘Hilly’, ‘Hideaway’, and ‘Boaty McBoatface’) even boast under-floor heating, so you can kick off your wellies in the boot room after exploring the 400-acre Farncombe Estate and make yourself at home, hot chocolate in hand.
Ett Hem, Stockholm – Sweden
The now ubiquitous phrase ‘Scandi-chic’ should really be reserved for the likes of Ett Hem – an Arts and Crafts townhouse in the embassy quarter of Stockholm which is all about lived-in luxury. The whole concept of this Scandinavian bolthole is perfectly summed up by the translation the hotel’s name – ‘a home’ – which welcomes you into its warm embrace of informal elegance. While away moodily-lit evenings beside the flickering fire in the eclectically styled lounge (that striped sofa is calling my name), or retreat to one of the Junior Suites complete with four-poster beds and their own period fireplaces. The low-key feel continues through to the Ett Hem Suite, which features a marble bath tub and tiled stove for maximum warmth and comfort.
The Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh – Scotland
I fall in love with Edinburgh a little more each time I visit, and our latest addition to the city has made it rather hard to leave. Two meticulously restored Victorian townhouses – just across the street from each other with complimentary parking (a seriously sought-after perk in the Scottish capital) – come together to create The Dunstane Houses, a homely haven of freestanding bath tubs and heritage tweeds, which blend the natural beauty of the Orkney Isles with the neoclassical design of Old Town Edinburgh. After browsing the many independent boutiques which line the cobblestone streets in nearby Stockbridge, picking up artisan cheese and fudge along the way, warm up with a whisky tasting in the hotel’s Orkney-inspired Ba’ Bar – the vintage whisky cabinet contains an impressive selection of over 80 fine Scottish single malts, ranging from superstars of the whisky world to unusual and hard-to-find bottlings. Slàinte!
The Hamnavoe Suite in Hampton House and The Dunstane Suite bathtub in Dunstane House photographed by Kira Turnbull.
Castello di Reschio, Umbria – Italy
Not a day goes by when I don’t gaze longingly at the undulating, horse speckled hills of the Reschio estate (making it my office screensaver hasn’t helped the obsession). I was lucky enough to visit Castello di Reschio last November when cypress trees cast long shadows across the red-tinged, mist-shrouded landscape, and I can’t think of a more perfect time to experience castle-dwelling life at its cosiest.
Guests who sleep within the 11th-century walls on bespoke canopied four-poster beds, warmed by baronial fireplaces, will feel as though they have stepped into a Renaissance painting – the only modern-day decision you will need to make is which lime green lounger you’d rather recline on beside the moat-like pool. Otherwise, days can be spent horse-riding through the wilderness, hunting for truffles alongside the snuffling sounds of boar in the undergrowth, or getting lost in a good book from the comfort of Reschio’s lakeside cabin.
Rothay Manor, Ambleside – England
The Lake District’s pretty village of Ambleside is well worth a visit at any time of year, but there’s something particularly soul-stirring about the fells as the leaves start to fall. Just a short, scenic ramble from Lake Windermere is Rothay Manor, a Grade-II listed country house which oozes rustic style. The newly-built Pavilion Suites cocoon guests in an autumnal palette of rust browns, deep reds, and forest greens, inspired by the local landscape of soaring peaks and twinkling tarns.
My hound Humphrey (pictured below on the gorgeous bed – for photoshoot reasons only!) can happily confirm that this boutique bolthole is exceptionally dog-friendly, as he was wrapped in a Ruff & Tumble dressing gown after a warm shower in the doggy washroom and plied with organic treats. It would be impossible to mention Rothay Manor without highlighting its fine dining menu – because the food is oh-so-good. Elevated yet unpretentious Lake-sourced seasonal produce, diners are in the magical hands of Great British Menu ‘Champion of Champions’ Chef Dan McGeorge, who blends Cumbrian classics with a Japanese-meets-Scandinavian influence. Don’t worry, you’ll walk it all off the next day with countless hiking trails on your doorstep.
Hôtel Crillon le Brave, Provence – France
Oh, Provence. Though the lavender might have faded from the fields, the artist-approved light this region is so known for still very much bathes honey-hued villages in a golden glow at this time of year. Overlooking the sun-soaked vineyards and sprawling farmland from its hilltop position, Hôtel Crillon le Brave commands some of the best views of Mont Ventoux – beaten only by those you’ll enjoy from the seat of a bicycle. You essentially have a French hamlet at your feet – rooms are scattered across nine Génoise-tiled houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, linked by narrow cobblestone courtyards and blue-shuttered alleyways, complete with its own bell tower which rings out across the vineyards on the hour, every hour.
Individually decorated rooms and suites are a carefully curated mix of natural materials, antique furniture, and muted colours – think aniseed green, saffron yellow, stormy grey, and limewashed white – while a smattering of locally made ceramics here, a sprinkling of dried lavender bouquets there creates an unmistakably Provençal ambience. If you can tear yourself away, the lovely little agricultural village of Bédoin is an easy downhill cycle from the hotel where you might stumble across a handful of local shepherds tending their flocks. The Monday morning market here is a must-visit if you’d like to pick up some of the region’s renowned soaps, olive oil, linens, and a sensory selection of seasonal produce from citrus fruits and cheeses to garlic cloves and honey.
Storfjord Hotel, Skodje – Norway
With an open fireplace at every turn, including the lounge, dining room, and suites, this secluded woodland retreat lives up to its log cabin look and Scandinavian folktale feel. The scent of timber hangs in the air at Storfjord, while a calming combination of traditional Norwegian features and über-modern design, with a soothing palette, snug corners, and carefully selected art and antiques awaits guests inside. For spellbinding views over the fjords, make yourself comfortable on the outdoor patio complete with a Viking-esque pan-fire before the snow starts to set in.
To really feel at one with the fjord-fringed elements, slip into a fluffy robe and follow the path until the hotel meets the forest, where you will find yourself in peaceful surroundings in Storfjord’s wellness area. Listen the soothing sounds of the trees from the heated waters of the outdoor Jacuzzi – a blissful way to soothe sore muscles after trekking in the Sunnmøre Alps. Don’t leave without trying Storfjordbrygg, a locally brewed ale which can only be tasted at Storfjord which will warm you all the way down to your hiking boots.
Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux – France
Nestled between vineyards for as far as the eye can see, and swathes of forest at the gates of Bordeaux, Les Sources de Caudalie is a back-to-nature retreat with neighbouring Château Smith Haut Lafitte wines on tap. Rooms and suites are spread across agricultural-style timber-frame buildings which have been crafted from recycled local materials, with ‘buco-chic’ interiors which reflect the Aquitaine region in colour, paintings and antiques.
The heart-stealing suite to book here is L’Île aux Oiseaux, a stand-alone cabin on stilts inspired by the beach lodges of Arcachon Bay, which gives guests a front-row seat to watching water-birds glide across the jade green lake. When you’re not luxuriating in the vinotherapy spa, you can tuck into seasonal dishes at Michelin-starred La Grand Vigne Restaurant, set in a former orangery modelled on an ornamental 18th century glasshouse.