There are the vacations you take to get away, to explore, or to experience something new, and then there are those that make you feel right at home even though you’re rather far from your front step. When John and I settled in for an (extra) long weekend at Hastings House Country House Hotel on Salt Spring Island it felt as though we were visiting our very our country house on the hill above Ganges Harbour.
In the morning, when fresh-baked muffins were delivered from the kitchen downstairs, we built a fire in our room overlooking the property’s meadow on one side, and the lush lawn that tumbled down toward the Salish Sea on the other. Opening the hinge on the wrought iron windows, I would poke my iPhone out of our second-floor suite in an attempt to capture the way the sunrise illuminated the tall and twisted Arbutus that clamped itself to the hillside.
The Manor House
This was our first time staying in the Manor House, having previously booked a luxury cabin and the farmhouse for stays over the years. Built in the 1940s, with renovations in the 1980s, the Manor House resembles an 11th century Sussex-style family home. There are two guest suites above its main floor, where you’ll find the kitchen, dining areas, and sitting room with inglenoook fireplace where afternoon tea is served.
Our suite had three rooms. The living room with fireplace on the harbour side of the manor; the bedroom that looked out onto the meadow and pathway toward the farmhouse, reception, and parking; and the bathroom stocked with Saltspring Soapworks amenities.
If you’re ever wondering where an ingredient in your meal comes from on Salt Spring Island, the answer is usually “right out back on our farm”.
We stayed in our room most of the time but I took a quick walk around the grounds to photograph the forest trails and my favourite Arbutus, and we walked down the hill to Ganges Village in the evenings for dinner.
During the winter months Hastings House provides a full breakfast (with delicious fresh apple juice and maple-soaked bacon) and afternoon tea but the kitchen is not open for supper, only special events or by request. No bother though, it gave me time to show John around the village and introduce him to some of the restaurants, mixologists, and chefs I had met during the Glowtini Competition earlier in December.
One morning we drove over to Ruckle Provincial Park for a quick hike, after hearing about it at breakfast from Kelly McAree, General Manager at Hastings House. It’s home to record-setting maple leaves, lush forest trails, rocky cliffs, and a steady stream of boat traffic off in the distance passing from island to island.
Wellspring Spa at Hastings House
On our last full day at Hastings House we enjoyed an in-room couples massage from the Wellspring Spa which is located on the property. While we enjoyed afternoon tea in the sitting room downstairs, two practitioners setup in the living room area of our upstairs suite in the Manor House. We climbed the staircase to see two massage tables, a dreamy sunset, and a crackling fire. The next hour melted away as we sunk into the warmth and comfort of the treatments.
While we do enjoy our hikes, bike rides (like the 20km island loop we did last time), and other adventures, we’re also very content sitting in front of a roaring fire with glasses of wine. Each night the window behind us on the couch would paint the room in various shades of pink and red as the sun dipped into the sea – as though competing with the fireplace in front of us to see who could burn the brightest.
We love escaping to Hastings House. No wake up calls, no one else running around in the hallway, no shared ice machine, and no elevators. Just complimentary WIFI, baked goods, English breakfast, tea and scones, iPhone chargers, televisions (if you can tear yourself away from the views), fireplaces, warmth, elegance, simplicity.
In the summer I can picture us renting a kayak, going to the beach and heading up to Mount Maxwell to scope out the Gulf Island vistas. In winter, there’s just as much to enjoy on Salt Spring Island (we made it to Saltspring Soapworks, several restaurants and pubs, Ruckle Park, and Saltspring Island Ales) but we didn’t feel guilty at all for staying in and enjoying the comforts of our room at Hastings House.
We usually fly Saltspring Air (our favourite option) from downtown Vancouver to Ganges Harbour but our flight was canceled due to weather. We did make it to the island in great time on the ferry instead, via Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, then around the u-turn loop and back over to Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. The flight is 40 minutes and the ferry work-around is about 2.5 hours.