Many contemporary travellers to the north of Spain wish to follow in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims yet find restful recuperation in stylish hotels, writes Andrew Forbes (The Luxury Editor).
Rural Hotel Quinta San Francisco, in the village of Castrojeriz, is one of these new boutique boltholes. The property is set in a magnificent garden, that offers abundant tranquillity, while the sophisticated accommodation is amongst the most comfortable to be found on the Way of St James, that passes through this historic region of Burgos, renowned for his regional capital, magnificent cathedral and distinct local gastronomy.
Hotel Rural Quinta San Francisco pays tribute to the simplicity of classic ‘albergue’ inns that offer refuge to travellers and pilgrims, with its modern-day minimalism but adds a wealth of contemporary design and upscale attention to detail, all brought to life by the welcoming team, including manager Leandro Aguirreche and his colleague Cristian.
This family-owned former hunting lodge on the edge of the village has been converted into a wonderful hotel, blending contemporary refinement and good taste with the property’s rich history including the ruins of the 14th century convent that remain on the estate.
There is a fascinating collection of sketches and etchings that are evocative of the Camino and the local area. Guests can enjoy a guide book of the artworks, creating a self-guided tour through the hotel.
Rooms have a restful minimalism, with super comfortable beds, with fine linens. Bathrooms have plush towels and super showers. The personal touch is everywhere, from the small vase of wildflower stems to an eclectic collection of books resting on a bookcase that forms part of the headboard.
It’s fair to say that the rooms are compact, but many have a terrace or balcony overlooking the gardens and countryside. If you’re feeling like pushing the boat out, then choose the ground-floor suite that has extra space and plenty of windows that face out to the garden.
After a day’s walking along the Camino or exploring the nearby iconic cities of Leon or Burgos by car, it’s a luxury to come back to fabulous home-cooked food prepared with love by Josefa and her team. The kitchen garden offers abundant vegetables and herbs, the orchards a wealth of fruit and the local markets supply delicious examples of the region’s acclaimed sausages and meat.
The restaurant, La Bodega, is a light-filled contemporary space with large tables, perfect for sharing with fellow guests an evening of homespun cuisine and storytelling of the day’s adventures.
The wall of glass floor-to-ceiling windows fold open, letting the dining space spill out onto a dining terrace. It’s a fabulous setting for both dinner and a hearty breakfast.
In addition, La Bodega restaurant, Quinta San Francisco hotel has an excellent gourmet store selling delicious treats, chilled wines, beers and pretty much everything you need to create the perfect picnic or early evening snacks on the terrace.
There is also a charming salon library that opens to a spacious terrace and the garden beyond.
Before indulging in homemade croquettes, peppers stuffed with cod fish, garden vegetables, tender meat dishes and specialities like black pudding, guests can ease aching muscles and find calm in the hotel’s wellness space. This new spa-like area features a sauna, heated relaxing beds, and massage chair – and all with captivating views of the countryside and gardens.
Camino de Santiago or Way of St James
The apostle Santiago, or St James, is the patron saint of Spain. It’s a richly complex tale, but to shorten it to a line of two, it’s said that the relics of the disciple made it to Galicia where a shrine was built. This evolved into the city of Santiago de Compostela which has become a destination for the devoted over the centuries. For hundreds of years, pilgrimage routes were forged across the Iberian peninsula, like the Ruta de la Plata and Camino Mozárabe from Andalucia, the Portuguese routes, and caminos across the north of Spain. The best known is the Camino Frances that begins in Jean Pied de Port and crosses Spain, through the village of Castrojeriz, steps from Hotel Quinta San Francisco.
Many modern visitors are not motivated by pilgrimage, but instead take the route to devote time to themselves, to be immersed in nature, to find peace. Guests can get a flavour of this by exploring as I did, using one of the complimentary bikes. It’s a joy to explore the village, a tranquil enclave of shaded plazas, cobbled streets and ancient honey-coloured sandstone churches.
Fellow guests I met during my stay were exploring the area for different reasons. Some are on a road trip, others use it as a base to visit the cathedral cities of Leon and Burgos. Others were enjoying the Camino De Santiago or Way of St James.
Sometimes people walk different sections of the way over many visits, eventually completing the 800-kilometre route. We met a friendly group from Ireland who met up to walk a section for a week’s holiday each year. This time they were passing through Burgos and Castile Leon and were overjoyed at discovering the rural hotel of Quinta San Francisco.
Flicking through the guest book left on the huge oak table in the salon, it would seem they are not alone. Guests from across the world have been seduced by this wonderful hotel – by its friendly team, beautiful setting, lovely rooms, and band charming team. Guests describe this magical place as a ‘balm for the body and soul’ and a ‘peaceful oasis’ with ‘fantastic service’ and a ‘wonderful staff’. Sentiments that I wholeheartedly agreed with!
Address: Carretera Hontanas, 24-28, 09110 Castrojeriz (Burgos), Spain