A serene hideaway in the Norwegian Fjords
The Solstrand Hotel is a privately owned property situated right beside Bjornefjord, south of Bergen, Norway. It is the definition of a ‘picture postcard’ landscape – pure air, mountains in the distance and water lapping nearby. The hotel has been in the Schau-Larsen family for four generations. The Solstrand Hotel and Bad (Bad means Spa!) has been welcoming guests since 1896, which is no mean feat. It is quite a large property with 135 bedrooms and absolutely stunning spa facilities. They cater for all categories of guests from corporate to family gatherings as well as individual leisure guests. As well as the spa which has an indoor pool, therapy pool, saunas, fitness room they also have an outdoor pool, sea kayaks and rowing boats, so there is no excuse for anybody leaving without feeling totally rejuvenated. All this is set in magnificent gardens which stretch right down to the Fjord.
The exterior of the historic building is very striking with its muted mustard yellow traditional timber panelling. There are lots of little porches over various doors from the dining room and spacious reception rooms leading into the garden, with steeply pitched roofs and decorated fascia and barge boards. These steep roofs ensure that the snow doesn’t become a heavy weight on the roof. The other aspect that strikes you is that regardless of what type of room (and they have everything from suites to standard rooms) you are staying in you will have a stunning view, whether it is of the gardens or the fjords or both. Most of the rooms have private balconies; the rooms that don’t have a full balcony won’t make you feel that you are ‘below the salt’ as these rooms, which are standard, have massive windows with cute little railings on the outside. What is also wonderful is the way the rooms are laid out with the bedroom area just inside the doors and then small private sitting areas beside the window.
The Dining room is a large airy picturesque room overlooking the gardens and fjords. The colour scheme throughout the entire hotel acts as a foil for the exterior and the owners exhibit a true flair for colour with their décor and furnishings and thankfully avoided the bland beige, much favoured by modern hotels. I just fell in love with the spaces everywhere; little sitting rooms; large receptions. Mine was a standard bedroom which would have put many superior rooms to shame in other hotels that I have stayed at. I took time out to enjoy just sitting in my small sitting area with its large window overlooking the gardens and the large rocks where waves gently lapped the shore. It was one of those magical views where I wouldn’t have minded if the weather was wet and windy as I could imagine how exhilarating the view would be in those conditions.
I was there with a group from the HHE (Historic Hotels of Europe) and we were brought on a boat trip around the islands where we met some locals, including a very eccentric fisherman who supplies most of the fish to the hotel. The food in the hotel was a big hit with all the delegates, with generous portions of fish and seafood being a house speciality. It was just impossible not to choose fresh lobster!
The hotel offers a courtesy car for guests wishing to visit Bergen and this is a great saving as taxis are very expensive in Norway. Bergen is an attractive compact city where the people are very friendly and hospitable. The colours of many of the timber houses are spectacularly vivid, probably contrasting with the darkness of the long winters. These colourful buildings are also reminiscent of villages Ireland, such as Sneem in Co. Kerry.
Visiting the Norwegian Fjords should be on everyone’s bucket list. They are majestic and visions of Vikings as they set off to conquer other lands springs to mind. That old adage that ‘the best things in life are free’ is is a good description for this part of the world. The air here is invigorating as well relaxing and will definitely cure any tendency one might have towards insomnia. Can’t wait for my next visit when I might be able to summon up the courage to do the exhilarating leap into the cold fjord! The Solstrand hotel makes the ideal base to sally forth and explore the myriads of nearby fjords, each unique as nature intended. The lovely Solstrand is not a bling hotel but oozes a quiet and restrained luxury.