Iriarte Jauregia

Bidania, The Basque Country, Spain Book from Eur86

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Gorgeous countryside hotel with huge valley views, delicious food and deeply comfortable bedrooms
The landscapes of the Basque Country come as a surprise - you could almost be in an Alpine valley here. Big hills soar, lush fields sparkle, thick forests roam across the land. The terrace at this lovely hotel is the best seat in the small town of Bidania, a 3-mile sweep across the valley. Old boys make hay in the fields below, cows graze, tractors rumble and eagles soar in the sky. There is deep peace here for those who seek it.

As for the hotel, it’s a 300-year-old mansion, strategically positioned on the side of the hill so the original owner could watch his men at work in the valley below. A beautiful renovation has kept all the lovely old bits while adding contemporary flair. You climb the hill from town, nip across the greenest lawn, then step into a vast hall. To the left is a smart bar and an attractive sitting room; to the right is a superb restaurant with doors onto a dining terrace. Upstairs, 19 super-comfy rooms come with excellent beds, fancy bathrooms and a warm, uncluttered style. If you are looking for good food and stylish interiors in blissful country, you’ll find it here.

Highs

  • A perfect retreat for romance and R&R
  • Walking in the surrounding countryside, then doing very little in the hotel itself
  • Owner Iban and his staff, who go out of their way to look after you
  • Great food in the restaurant: perhaps Iberian pork loin or fried cod with spinach
  • San Sebastián - a great little city on the beach - is just 25km away

Lows

  • You’ll need a car to get here; this is a fairly remote location
  • There’s no swimming pool, but you can nip up to the beaches on the coast
  • The weather in the mountains is unpredictable - you may get a day of rain
  • The restaurant's opening hours are seasonal, but there's a "Quick and easy" menu available daily, and simple restaurants in town
  • No robes in the bathrooms, except in the Suite

Best time to go

Summers are lovely, though the roads get busy in July and August. You’re up in the hills so temperatures are cooler, a blessing in peak season. A fair bit of rain falls from November to March, but winters are mild.

The fiesta of San Bartolome takes place in the town on 26 August. If you don’t want to join the party, better to come another day.

There are various festivals throughout the year in Tolosa, San Sebastian and nearby villages, so you might want to coincide your visit with one of these. Best known are the Film Festival (September) and Jazz Festival (July) in San Sebastian.

Our top tips

The east-west motorway between San Sebastián and Santander never gets that busy, so you won’t have any trouble getting about. However, roads between the motorway and the coast aren’t as obliging and tend to slow you down, especially west of Deba, so leave a little extra time if you want to visit the beaches.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 19
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Jan 2016 - 25 Feb 2016...
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Rooms come over 3 floors with a lift to whiz you up and down, but the original staircase is rather smart, and you’ll probably use that once your luggage is stowed in your room.

The same crisp style runs throughout. You get white-washed walls, attractive rugs on dark wood floors, pressed white linen on fabulous kingsize beds. Up on the top floor, many of the rooms are built into the eaves with original beams on display. There are shuttered windows to keep you cool, and beautiful shower bathrooms with sparkling white tiles; some have a tub, too.

The biggest difference is size. Some Standard Rooms are quite small, others are quite big. The Superior Rooms are all big and tend to be on the first floor with high ceilings; we'd opt for one of these. The Suite is enormous, its sitting room stretching far enough to incorporate 3 sets of double doors that open onto Juliet balconies at the front of the house; the bedroom here was the master bedroom of the original mansion.

Some rooms have the view, others have four-posters; one has Chinese wallpaper and an ornamental fireplace. Bigger rooms have sofas, all have desks, and free WiFi runs throughout. Some at the top have skylights that flood the rooms with light, and west-facing bathrooms on the top floor have rather good views from the shower. All rooms have air conditioning and complimentary minibars with water, juices and soft drinks; Superior Rooms and the Suite also have tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Complimentary minibar
  • Cots Available
  • Desk
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Iron (on request)
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is a feast and you can eat on the terrace in good weather. You get freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants and baguettes, plates of meat and cheese, bowls of fruit and yoghurt. There are also scrambled eggs or omelettes (tortilla de patata) with bacon or txistorra (typical Basque sausage).

There's an informal snack bar for 'quick and easy' lunches and dinners like burgers, cheese and bread, and salads. Handy, because these meals are available daily, and can be taken as rooms service (available between 1pm and 3.30pm, and 7pm until 11pm).

The hotel’s Bailara Restaurant - led by head chef Enrique Fleischmann - arrived in 2013 with a menu offering a seasonal menu of traditional ingredients with a modern twist. We haven’t had the chance to dine here yet, but with dishes like grilled scallops with mash and fried artichoke, and oven-baked peach pie we can wait to pay a visit. The restaurant is generally open for lunch and dinner, although the schedule depends on the season. It’s open daily from July to September; from October to March it’s open Wednesday to Sunday, and between April and June it’s also open on Tuesday nights.

If you want to eat out, there are a couple of simple restaurants in town, and reception can advise. For something a little different, try a local cider house - a Basque speciality - with traditional menus. Alternatively, head to Frontón in Tolosa (10km away), where fantastic ingredients are cooked as simply as possible in search of intense flavours. It’s quite expensive, but worth the money.

If you fancy something really special, nip up to San Sebastián for the night. The city is firmly fixed on Europe’s culinary map and 3 of its restaurants have 3 Michelin stars (Akelarre, Arzak and Martín Berasategui). All are hideously expensive and you have to book well in advance, but you can always drop into the Old Town instead and try some pintxos: think tapas with attitude and much more flair.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • There’s good hiking in the valley. You can climb a hill then roll back down to town for lunch, where a couple of simple restaurants serve tasty home-cooked Basque food: a bowl of soup, a plate of vegetables, a piece of meat, all for a few Euros

  • Tolosa, 10km away, is not the most touristic town, but it's worth a peek nonetheless, especially on Saturdays, when its market draws a local crowd. It has a small Old Town and some Basque gothic architecture

  • Follow the valley up to Azpeitia and check out the Sanctuary at Loyola, a shrine to St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, who was born here. There’s a large parkland garden, a much-visited basilica and a museum of religious art

  • In Zumaia (near Getaria), you can visit the flysch route - a 60-million-year-old geological formation of rocks and fossils

  • The Basque Country is full of rock art, courtesy of our ancestor, Cro-Magnon Man. These days the art is off limits, but head north to Zestoa (21km away) and find Ekainberri, a cool little place where they have replicated the art and the cave. It’s well worth the trip

  • There are great mountain-biking routes, 20 minutes away

  • Have lunch on the coast at Getaria (34km away). This hugely popular seaside town is known for its grilled sardines and its roasted meat and fish. Stop at Elkano for some of the best Basque food you’ll find. It’s well priced, which makes it popular, so book in advance. There’s a lovely beach, too

  • Keep heading west to San Sebastián. La Concha, the enormous beach in the middle of this cool little city, is exceptionally pretty. There’s a statue of Christ overlooking town above the small port, so climb up for excellent views, then drop down to wander the narrow alleyways of the Old Town

  • Biarritz and Bilbao (the latter for the Guggenheim) are both within day-tripping distance

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Families are welcome and there are a couple of connecting rooms. Baby cots and extra beds can be added to most rooms.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

By request

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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