A girl’s idea of heaven is staying in the 1786-vintage Walig (farmer’s) Hut high above Gstaad, one of Switzerland’s many unique experiences. One would, of course, need an escort. First, you take a 20 minutes’ hair-raising drive up from Gstaad, and rise above the treeline. Once there, you are in, well, something of a once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere.
There is no electricity, but the one bedroom is cosy and warm (and you wake to the sound of cowbells). Definitely stay overnight, if you can. The king size bed (photo) is covered in fur skins and not surprisingly, I am told, most of the away-nighters telephone down (yes, mobiles work) to stay a little longer. The Walig Hut can be self-catering, or you can pre-order a personal chef and butler, who comes in edelweiss-embroidered shirts.
Hosts at dinner that night were Andrea and Laura Scherz, who own and run the sensational Gstaad Palace, one of those iconic world hotels that – unlike so many others – truly deserves that accolade. And of course it is much easier to stay at the Gstaad Palace, and arrange your entire trip to the Hut, which they lease from local farmers, through the hotel’s concierges, www.palace.ch.
Right, so we arrived up at The Hut, in time for ultra-experiential sunset views down to the Palace as we sampled local cheeses and air-dried beef and a glass of white wine before going on to the seemingly-endless Ticino red. Then we moved inside, where the bedroom and adjacent sitting-dining rooms were near-roasting thanks to wood-burning stoves.
Our table was set with hand-embroidered linens. The set dinner started with bowls formed of cooked pastry, each holding a melange of local wild mushrooms and tiny pasta bits. Next came plated wood oven-cooked loin of baby veal and vegetables. Desserts, served family style, included tuile rolls and baby meringues, raspberries and strawberries, a curd cheese cake, a bowl of amazing fresh cream, and icecream made from meringues and whey.
Andrea Scherz philosophized, over dinner, how, to him, luxury can be rural chic but it must be genuine. It must also combine old and new: down at the hotel, corridors might have cuckoo clock-type wood chests and the bar-lounge seating looks decades old, but new rooms, largely designed by the oh-so-stylish Laura Scherz, are full of taupe, her favourite color and one that appeals to both sexes, all ages.
They told me that when the seven-floor turreted castle first opened as a hotel – in 1913, as a result of new rail links with major Swiss cities – all its 100 bedrooms came with porcelain chamber pots in cabinets by bedsides, but washrooms and bathrooms were communal.
Today the ensuite bathrooms have heated rails for drying towels and sportsgear, and Molton Brown and optional Cleopatra’s Duft-Oase luxury-tub oils, and non-fluffy bath linens that really dry, and designer toothbrushes rather than the cheapest chainstore type. I adored room 609, which had a bathroom tucked into one of the corner turrets so that you sit in your jacuzzi tub, looking down through 270° views to the valley (for ultra sensation, I toasted life with a glass of Krug).