15 FISCAVAIG, ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND
Set snugly into the landscape overlooking Loch Bracadale on the west coast of Skye, 15 Fiskavaig – known as The Hen House – is the perfect place to quite literally have your stresses blown away. Ecologically low-impact, the building is heated by a single log burner and cleverly insulated so that it stays warm, no matter how hard the wind outside is blowing. There’s an open-plan kitchen/dining/sitting area, with a double-height window filling one entire wall to make the most of the morning sun and the spectacular views. There are impressive coastal walks straight from your door, or you can hike for four hours or so across the hills to Fairy Pools for a refreshing wild swim. There are also enough boat trip options to keep you busy for weeks. Visit the neighbouring isles of Rona and Raasay, or the World Heritage Site of St Kilda and spot seals, dolphins, whales, basking sharks and sea eagles along the way. Eat freshly shucked oysters with a view at The Oyster Shed, an hour-and-a-half’s walk away (or a 15-minute drive if you’re really hungry) in Carbost. You can always stop at the Talisker distillery just down the hill for a tour and a warming dram to help power you home again afterwards.
TREEHOTEL, HARADS, SWEDEN
If you like your retreat with a few extra luxuries – someone else doing the cooking and a two-storey sauna, maybe – then the pine forests of northern Sweden are just for you. The Treehotel has been a fixture on travel and design magazine hot lists for years, and with good reason. Each of its rooms is a towering treehouse (names such as The Bird’s Nest, The UFO and The Mirrorcube). The latest, The 7th Room, is a spectacular suite suspended 20ft above the ground, complete with a netted “terrace” where the truly hardy can sleep out under the northern lights. Indoors, there’s a log burner to thaw your toes and beds for four, all of which have uninterrupted forest views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. With a short walk to the sauna and Pensionat, the central area of the hotel where hearty home-cooked food (think moose stew and foraged berries) is dished up and activities planned. For the middle of nowhere, there’s no shortage of ways to clear your cluttered mind. Choose from dog-sledging, fat biking (the bikes come fitted with wide tyres to make cycling over snow easy), moose safaris, kayaking, hiking, fishing, white-water rafting, even speedy skijoring (horse-pulled skiing).
STADL ALTENBACH, SOUTH STYRIA, AUSTRIA
This incredible conversion of an old kellerstöckl, a traditional Austrian vineyard workers’ cottage with a large cellar dug into the hillside for making and storing wine, is hidden on a working vineyard in southern Austria, close to the Slovenian border. One half of the house is a straightforward conversion of the original building, while the other is a striking modern extension in wood and glass, with spectacular views over the surrounding hills. The house comes with its own sauna (with a view), a small swimming pool and a pond with a plunge pool, and inside the blend of traditional and modern gives it a stylish but comfortable feel. To unwind, take a tour of the surrounding vineyard, walk in the hills, or visit one of the many local taverns. The vineyard has its own restaurant, which serves restorative comfort food – lots of smoked and roasted meats, sauerkraut, pickles, apple strudel – and plenty of local wines. As an added bonus, a basket is delivered to your door each morning, filled with wonderful fresh breakfast ingredients, including eggs, cheese and bread rolls, so all you need to worry about is whether to eat it inside by the fire or out on the terrace in the crisp morning air.