Soaring pine trees loomed at us from lofty mountain peaks. All around us they’d created a dark green carpet that seemed to peel away from the road and our car as we swished through the countryside in Tirol Austria.
Cosy hamlets and chocolate box towns flaunted the wooden A-frames of alpine architecture, each flanked by window boxes of zealous summery flowers. Didn’t they know it was September, I wondered.
Just over an hour from Salzburg, we arrived in Going am Wilden Kaiser, seven kilometres or so from Kitzbühel, and to a building very much in keeping with its glorious Tirolean setting – the 175 room Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt.
Strolling into the lobby we were immediately struck by the warmth and quirks of the hotel. The Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt has a striking, but unusual, wood-carved interior.
Great use and ingenuity has been made of the abundant local wood. The Stanglwirt has been beautifully crafted and designed to create a warm and welcoming environment.
To our left was the reception desk with computer monitors in wood surrounds, and staff spoke into wooden telephones. In front a bar area was adorned with a giant wooden lantern overhead. While to our right huge windows looked onto an indoor riding arena.
But the horses exercising in there weren’t just any horses. The hotel has a stable full of world-famous Lipizzaners. This breed, renowned as the horses of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School, are owned by the Stanglwirt Hotel, and available for guests to ride.
We delighted in seeing these majestic white horses go through their paces, under the watchful eye of their attentive trainers.
Everything from the rustic dining rooms, to the lavish spa, well-equipped sports facilities to every corridor at Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt revealed style, quality and attention to detail.
We stayed in a luxury suite with an open plan living room and bedroom and cosy open fireplace to take the chill off the Tirolean winter nights.
The bathroom had a double sink, whirlpool bath, separate rain shower, and sauna. The walk-in wardrobe had plenty of room for a month’s stay, least of all a few days. But the luxurious nature of our room was matched by the unusual. It had all-wood accessories – our television was in a wooden frame, light switches and electricity sockets were made of wood. Wood was ubiquitous in the living, breathing warmth of our hotel.
As a bio-hotel the Stanglwirt uses a biomass energy plant to heat the building with waste bark from the local sawmill.
The Stanglwirt’s green building philosophy sees the use of wooden tiles and bricks bonded with lime mortar, and ceilings supported by wooden beams. Furniture is made from solid wood, carpets from pure wool and upholstery, towels and bedding, from pure cotton or the finest linen.
From our terrace we would have had lovely views of the Wilder Kaiser mountain, if the weather was playing ball during our stay in Tirol Austria.
But there’s only one thing to do on cloudy days – spend it in the spa.
When in Tirol Austria…
Wellness is such an intrinsic part of the luxury experience in Austria and after nine visits and countless stays in Austrian hotels – the Stanglwirt’s spa facilities are among the best we’ve seen.
The spa is a haven with a vast array of treatments. I enjoyed a Shanti peeling and relaxing massage – a blissful treatment. While Sarah had a butterfly facial with diamond micro-dermabrasion, which she insists left her skin looking and feeling better than ever.
Beyond the treatment rooms, the wellness area is extensive and well thought out with family and adult areas.
The family area had indoor and outdoor pools, a whirlpool built into rocks, and saunas and steam rooms in grottoes and caves. I was taken with the aquarium that faced onto a relaxation room. And spent some time resting there watching vibrant shoals of exotic fish darting around.
The adult area had a sports pool for serious swimmers. For those like me, who just wanted to relax, there was a large heated indoor-outdoor pool with whirlpools to soothe the cares of the world away.
The Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt also had another two saunas, a steam room and waterfall shower grotto in the adult only area. As this is Austria this spa area is mixed-sex and nudist, but it’s a very easy environment and comfortable way to enjoy the spa. Each afternoon the hotel has a Sauna Experience Tour that shows guests how to get the best from the sauna and steam room.
We joined the stream room experience led by Andrea. After stirring up the heat in the stream room by wafting a towel overhead, she gave us Stanglwirt’s mountain salt mixed with lemon juice to rub over our bodies – cleansing and smoothing the skin. Later she took us into the stream room again gave us shea butter to rub into our skins, leaving us feeling extremely soft and smooth.
But not everything at the Stanglwirt is about indulgence – the hotel also has not just a gym, but a fitness garden – workout machines emerging from greenery like a Secret Garden of Goodness. And this was fitting, as the likes of World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, trains here before each title fight.
In fact the Stanglwirt is ideal for sporty types – it has an on-site 27-hole golf course, a Peter Burwash International tennis school with six indoor and eight outdoor courts, indoor and outdoor riding lessons and in the winter – skiing lessons.
The hotel has also hosted many celebrities and famous figures including Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Dalai Lama, Prince Albert of Monaco and Muhammad Ali.
Heritage and quirks
But the 400-year-old Stanglwirt is an authentically Austrian hotel.
It has been owned by the Hausner family for over 100 years and family members still have a role in the hotel’s daily management.
Finding a bottle of schnapps & glass in a lift we enquired why it was there. “Because schnapps is always good,” we were told
Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt has so many interesting and quirky features. Finding a bottle of schnapps and glass in a lift we asked a receptionist why it was there, barely able to believe our eyes. “Because schnapps is always good,” she said. We had to agree.
The oldest part of the hotel, the Rustic Inn, dates back to 1609. Here gnarly wooden floors groan and wobbly-wonky ceiling beams whisper secrets from the past with every creak. It’s home to the hotel’s á la carte restaurant with another unique feature. The Cow Shed restaurant lets you view the Stanglwirt’s own dairy cows through large windows while you dine on local produce.
Dining is another delectable experience at Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt, with home-grown produce from its farm. Dinner was a six course extravaganza with cream of pumpkin seed soup, chanterelle mushrooms with dumplings, cheese and onion ravioli, pike perch with balsamic lentils, and Malibu tartlet with mango ragout complimented by a fine array of wines. But even water at the Stanglwirt was an event – it has Tirol’s first water sommelier and a water bar serving fresh mountain spring water.
Here is where quality, tradition, and a friendly welcome merge, to make you feel like you are at home. As we checked out we were handed a gift presented to all departing guests – a fresh loaf of bread from the bakery. It was unusual, but a warm, hearty gift, wholesome even. And for me, it epitomised our stay at this excellent hotel.
We visited the Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt with the Austrian National Tourist Office but as always all views are my own. Read about more of Austria’s Finest experience hotels.