Allez, allez. The 2020 Giro d’Italia is on: started today in Palermo (3 August) and ends in Rome on 25 October, Covid permitting. Dave, pictured above on an Alpine climb, is glued. I’m not. So, this seems a good time to revisit and update an oldish round-up of places to stay that will suit both cyclists and their non-cycling partners. From the Welsh mountains to terrains in Spain, here we go…

This post is an amended and updated version of an article that appeared in The Guardian in July 2016

SPAIN, Sierra Nevada: La Almunia del Valle

Only five miles from the centre of Granada, this classy little hotel sits alone in tumbling gardens tucked into a vertiginous hillside with dreamy views across the Monachil valley and the slopes of the Sierra Nevada National Park. While Dave explores the local hairpin bends (including a punishing 11-mile climb to the ski station at the top of the Sierra Nevada), I lounge by the pool, under a fig tree on the lawn or in a deck chair on the terrace outside our glass-cube room. Later, we wander down to Monachil (the steep walk back is almost as challenging as cycling up a mountain) before watching the sunset over a Andalusian dinner on the hotel terrace. Doubles with breakfast from €129. 

SPAIN: Costa Blanca: Cuatre Finque, Xalo

Set among almond and olive trees in the Xalo Valley, half an hour inland from the Costa Blanca, this chilled casa rural is home to Nicky Scott (she is, indeed, Scottish) and her Valenciano partner Pep. A keen cyclist, Pep is happy to escort Dave up the Coll de Rates, one of the many passes which zig-zag up the Marina Alta mountains on local routes familiar to Vuelta a Espania pros. I gaze at the mountains from a squidgy sofa by the pool, visit the chickens in the kitchen garden or explore Xalo’s market square. Aside from six boutique rooms, the hotel also offers spa treatments in a garden gazebo and live-music tapas nights on the terrace. B&B from €142 (£110).

FRANCE, Midi Pyrenees: Airstream Europe, Mirepoix

You can see the Pyrenean peaks from this eccentric campsite-trailer park – a collection of vintage American caravans parked in a field with a solar-powered shower-block, a wrecked red Routemaster bus, Lucy’s Diner and the Apollo bar (an Airstream under a silver tent).  With the bike in the back of the hire car, Dave sets off for the said mountains for a spin up the foothills and beyond. I lie supine in an original 1960s sun lounger, or stare at sheep, or relax in our 1968 Streamadelic Overlander and admire the fairy lights and the groovy night-club décor. Medieval Carcassonne is close by. Lovely Mirepoix is even closer. The Tour de France has been known to whizz through town.   NOTE: Airstream Europe is currently closed, but we live in hope. 

FRANCE, Haute Alps: Le Pigeonnier, Embrun

It’s hard to think of a prettier house or a more charming host (Maria-Christine offered us the warmest of welcomes when we arrived in the dead of night). There are four gorgeous rooms (with lavish bathrooms and views of the Alps), a large sunny garden to hang out in, and a great location on the edge of old Embrun – close to the Alpine routes used by the Tour de France and the Haute Route Alps sportif (Embrun to Nice is another classic ride). Aside from cycling, the town is a gateway to the mountainous Ecrins National Park (the largest in France) and the Serre Poncon Lake (an artificial lake with boats, beaches and viewpoints). Wake up to bird-song, baking and home-made jam. B&B from €130 from April to October.

FRANCE, Mont Ventoux: Hotel la Garance, Bedoin

The rooms are ordinary, but this farmhouse hotel has lush, flowery gardens, a small but decent pool and superb views of Mont Ventoux – the ‘Giant of Provence’  is one of the most celebrated among classic Tour de France climbs. I cycled, too. Ventoux is the only mountain for miles so there’s some easy-to-moderate pedalling routes  – around vineyard villages, cherry orchards and fields of lavender. The foot of Ventoux is a 10-mile ride away; the town of Bedoin is a 2-mile walk, and there’s a couple of excellent restaurants just across the road from La Garance. On fine days you can breakfast in the garden – with all the other cyclists. B&B from €99. 

ITALY, Tuscany: Palazzo Brandano, Petroio

In tiny Petroio, the hotel is named after Il Brandano (a Tuscan saint) and has 11 charming rooms (all named after Renaissance artists) with hilly views and faux medieval decor (wrought iron, damasks and hand-painted frescoes). Siena is half an hour away; Petroio is a gem (the former capital of terracotta it has a pottery museum and one bar); and the hotel’s restaurant is sublime (home-made pigeon ravioli served outdoors on the vine-clad terrace with a bottle of Montepulciano’s finest). Cookery classes and wine tours are on offer. For the cyclist, the roads around Petroio might not pass muster with the Giro d’Italia crowd, but they are empty, occasionally challenging and en route to Monte Amiata, a 27km climb above Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia. B&B from €70.

ENGLAND, Exmoor: Crosslane House, Allerford.

Our base is a mini country house hotel of medieval origin (ancient timbers, latched doors, flagstones, wonky walls distempered in various shades of Farrow & Ball) with a fancy restaurant, rose-scented gardens, a cobbled courtyard and converted stable which offers fair-weather dining and an outhouse with space for wet bikes and muddy boots. In the room, a complimentary mini bar and views of wooded hills across the A39 between Minehead and Porlock. Open the gate and there is Allerford’s ancient pack horse bridge and a footpath that follows the River Aller to the Somerset coast. We are less that 2 miles from the foot of Porlock Hill, three miles from the Porlock Weir toll road – two tortuously steep Exmoor climbs which attract cyclists training for the Alps (average gradient 5.5 per cent for 4.1 miles, I am told). B&B from £150 per night. 

WALES, Brecon Beacons: Ty Croeso, Crickhowell

The new Cycle Across the Brecons route (between Llandeilo to Abergavenny) runs right past this rural boutique B&B, the former infirmary to the Crickhowell Union Workhouse. The devilish Bwlch-y-Groes (or Hellfire Pass, one of the highest mountain roads in Wales) is also close by, along with the Beacons, the Black Mountains and the Georgian joys of Crickhowell (castle, shops, the Dragon Inn, the Bear hotel). Nice rooms, too (wallpapers, soft colours, a roll top bath in the attic suite); plus a lounge with a 1950s cocktail bar (help yourself to drinks), views of the Usk Valley and the Mon and Brec canal at the foot of the garden.  B&B from £85.

Dave does a Stony Mountain forest loop. I learn to drive a steam train.

ISLE OF MAN: Hill House, Port Erin

The majority of Man’s hard-core cycling routes are to the north of the island (home ground for Tour de France sprinter, Mark Cavendish), but in the spirit of compromise we settle for seaside Port Erin at its southern tip. Dave does a Stony Mountain forest loop. I learn to drive a steam train. At the time, we stayed in a luxe Manx guest house (circular lounge, neon lights, Astro-turfed decks – a wee bit Austin Powers), but it seems to be closed now. Instead, we suggest Hill House B&B – bit too much splodgy wallpaper and patterned carpet for my liking but clean and cheap. Port Erin is an hour’s walk along the Raad ny Foillan (the island’s coast path) to the Sound of Calf, and a 30-minute walk to Port St Mary (for the Isle of Man Steam Railway to Douglas). B&B doubles from £60.

SCOTLAND, Isle of Skye: Glenview, Culnacnoc.

Weather permitting (not for nothing do they call this ‘the misty isle’), Skye is cycling heaven, not just in the Cuillin mountains but pretty much everywhere. A favourite is the Trotternish Peninsula, a north-west loop of high, undulating roads which meander up the coast from Portree to Uig, via the Old Man of Storr, Lealt waterfall and the rocky cliffs and pinnacles of the Quiraing. Within hiking distance of unspoilt Trotternish beaches, Glenview has three cosy, king-size rooms with a mountain backdrop and interesting décor (knitting, vintage, white-wash, dangling tea-cup art). While Dave conquers Skye’s rocky summits, I shop – and stretch. Glenview also offers Earth and Skye Yoga and Shilasdair Yarns (selling hand dyed British yarns using locally foraged plants). Doubles from £85 B&B,

This post is an amended and updated version of an article that appeared in The Guardian in July 2016

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *