Alberta: The Fairmont Banff Springs
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With its winter wonderland castle-style setting and majestic interior, The Fairmont Banff Springs, says Tim Barber, is a hotel to treasure
Fairmont Banff Springs, Canada
Whichever way you choose to make your journey to The Fairmont, Banff Springs, in the heart of Canada's Rocky National Park, by the time you arrive you will have already seen some incredible alpine scenery. Banff itself is quaint and has all the picture-perfect charm you'd expect from a town that is surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountain parkland and wilderness in the world. Signs to Fairmont's Banff Springs hotel lead you through the town and into the grounds of a grand Scottish-style castle — in the middle of Canada... As we make our way up the elevated driveway and towards the grand entrance, we are welcomed by very friendly (and brave — it's cold most of the year) staff in kilts.
We are given a thorough tour of the huge property, and encouraged to walk around during our stay, while being told about the history of the building. Opened in 1888, the architect Bruce Price chose an amazing location for the hotel with some unrivalled views over the town and down the valleys. The hotel is also situated beside Bow falls on the banks of Bow River.
The grand hallway and ballrooms are traditional in decor and have a majestic air. Nothing is crowded here. The rooms aren't quite on the size scale of the rest of the building, but you feel the quality of the furnishings, and all rooms are packed with all the features you require and are suitably cosy. The suite that we stayed in has fantastic views over the golf course and the river, as well as the town in the horizon. The bathroom was rather small, but again was fitted and finished perfectly and with a good touch of luxury. The gardens in the hotel are beautiful, and we even managed to stumble upon a complimentary serving of real hot chocolate with marshmallows around an outdoor fireplace in the grounds. Very inviting on a cold evening.
As well as offering a fantastic spa, with indoor and outdoor pools, the hotel has a famous golf course. Built in the 1930s, it's a stunning course set between a forest and a river stream and is often frequented by local wildlife... Bears and deer included.
The hotel is just a 15-minute walk into town and a shuttle bus is also provided for guests. The Fairmont provides a number of restaurant choices, including the Waldhaus for Swiss and German influenced dishes and Samurai for freshly flown-in sushi. Breakfast can be ordered for your room of course, but the buffet at the famous Bow Valley Grill is a must and a feature experience of this hotel. It includes a cooked-to-order omelette bar as well as pretty much every imaginable breakfast food choice available. People from miles around come to enjoy the weekend brunch here and feast on all the Bow Valley Grill has to offer.
If you want luxury and winter wonderland magic all rolled into one, the Rocky National Park's pride and joy, Banff Springs Fairmont is a must.
The Fairmont Banff Springs, 405 Spray Avenue, Banff, Alberta, Canada, T1L1J4 (+ (1) 403 762 2211; fairmont.com/banffsprings). Room rates start from £350 per night per room.