Review: Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee

It was a misty October afternoon in the Tyrolean Alps of western Austria.

Light rain was falling as we moved along the motorway that had carried us from Italy, headed for Hamburg in northern Germany.

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Daylight had started to fade as we passed the city of Innsbruck and our good friend and trusty driver, Gert, was looking for somewhere to pull in for the night.

“Ah ha”, he said as we rounded a curve, crossed an arched bridge over a lake and stopped beneath a sight that could only have been described as extraordinary.

Peering at us through the mist and low cloud was a stunning castle that dominated the hillside like something from a fairytale.

“Our hotel” said Gert with a smile, as we gazed in amazement at the scene before us.

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Fernstein Castle has guarded the road to Bavaria since at least 1288.

At the foot of the Fernpass, the castle rises from alpine forest overlooking two clear-water lakes only a few kilometers from the glaciers of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain.

The location is simply incredible – on a trade route that has been important since Roman times; ringed by knife-edged Alps; and leading to the Mieming Plateau, an area beloved by hikers.

We discovered later that Fernstein Castle is actually alongside the Claudia Augusta Road, an historic Roman route that was built in 15 BC and is still visible today.

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Originally a military installation, many of the oldest parts of the castle are in ruins, but the site is now the Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee – a grand step back in time with a combination of opulence, history, majesty and modern conveniences.

The hotel is the centre of a 280,000 square metre nature reserve, with modern alpine-style units scattered among the forest, running streams and emerald-green Fernsteinsee.

Our two-bedroom unit was in the Villa Lorea annex building and was bright, roomy and modern, with free wifi; a kitchenette; en-suite bathroom; minibar; and flat-screen TV.

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Everything was accessible; we were able to drive right to the front door, there were minimal stairs; an easy-to-use door lock and level floors.

Breakfast was included in the room rate, giving us the opportunity of sampling one of the most stunning dining areas imaginable – with superb antique furnishings, lighting, fittings and awesome artworks on the walls.

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The food was tasty and ranged from international delicacies to products from the castle’s own farm.

There were also plenty of homemade Austrian pastries and ice cream.

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Photo courtesy Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee

Although we didn’t use the facilities, the Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee is apparently well known for its Wellness centre, that includes a Finnish sauna and massage service.

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Steady rain prevented us from exploring much of the nature reserve, but we took a quick look at the Fernsteinsee and the stables which, at one stage, were apparently able to hold between 30 and 70 horses.

Age-Friendly rating

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8/10: From our experience, the Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee is suitable for guests of all ages. There was a short walk between the dining area and our annex. However, it was possible to drive almost to the door.

The hotel itself is located only metres from the motorway.

The Fernsteinsee is quite close to the hotel, but visibility appeared good along much of the shoreline.

The balcony in our unit was solid, with level flooring, high wooden rails and a secure lock on the door.

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Austria has quite a few superb castles and we’ve been fortunate to see some awesome ones, including Schloss Schonbrunn; the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Hohensalzburg.

However, as impressive as each of those are, none have the striking forest and mountain location of the Fernstein Castle.

Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee and its castle are at Nassereith in western Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps about 53 kilometres from Innsbruck.

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It offers a truly remarkable experience

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Review: Hotel Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt, Puch, Austria

‘High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo’

If you want to explore the Salzberg district of Austria, why not also add a village experience where lush meadows meet stunning snow-capped Alps.

We spent a few days in the quaint village of Puch bei Hallein, using both train and bus to easily travel the 10 kilometres to and from Salzberg city.

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And, as part of the village experience, we stayed at the traditional Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt, a beautiful hotel complete with balconies and eye-catching flowerboxes.

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Here’s our ‘Age-Friendly’ rating of the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt:

Q: Does The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt have street appeal?

A: Does it ever! The hotel is centrally located in the small village – and it’s impossible to miss, with a traditional Bavarian look and a blur of colourful flowers on each balcony. The position is perfect for coach-travellers, as buses to and from Salzberg pass the building and the train station is only a short walk.

Q: How did check-in go?

A: Without a hitch. Reception staff at the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt were friendly, spoke perfect English and were professional in appearance and manner. We were made to feel welcome.

Q: How about accessibility?

A: We arrived by train and were easily able to wheel our bags the short distance to the hotel entrance. There were no steps to the entrance and, once inside, there was a lift operating between all floors. The lifts had adequate space, the corridors were wide enough and the room keys were easy to use. There were free parking spaces at the front of the hotel. The hotel also offers an airport shuttle for an additional charge.

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Q: How was the room?

A: We had a room with a stunning mountain view and a nice balcony. It was lightly snowing on the mountains and the changing view was fascinating. The room was spacious, with a bed, ensuite bathroom, lounge, desk and ample wardrobe space. Everything was spotlessly clean and was serviced each morning.

There was also complimentary high speed wifi that worked well from our room.

Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: The bed was the two-mattresses-on-one-frame style expected in much of Europe, but the village is relatively peaceful and the hotel is soundproof, so we slept soundly.

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Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: Although we didn’t use it, there was a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer.

The hotel also boasts a wellness centre, including a spa, steamroom, hot
tub, solarium and sauna.

Q: Did the room have adequate charging points?

A: The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt room boasted plenty of charging points, capable of handling our seven electronic devices.

Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: There was a good-sized en-suite bathroom with a modern shower, fluffy towels daily and luxury toiletries.

Q: Did you get breakfast?

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A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. The breakfast room was easy to find and the range of tasty food included a standard buffet selection of cereals, fresh fruits, yoghurt, bacon and sausage meat, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, bread and tea/coffee.

Q: Were there any problems with the hotel?

A: No. The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt provides comfortable accommodation at an attractive price with an endearing old world charm. The location – in a quiet village with awe-inspiring mountain views – makes this hotel an ideal base for visiting Salzberg and the many attractions of the area.

Age-Friendliness Rating

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9/10. From our experience, the Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt is accessible for people of all ages. The hotel is simple to find with both bus and train access. There are level, secure and free car parking areas.

In review, it’s a simple matter to use use the reception, rooms and facilities. The staff are particularly welcoming, friendly and go out of their way to be as helpful as possible.There are lifts to all floors and hotel corridors are large; the room door locks simple to use; our room was spacious; and the bathroom was accessible to all. The breakfast room was clearly marked and the floor was level throughout.

The Gasthof zum Kirchenwirt also boasts a quality restaurant and, while enjoying a tasty dinner, we were seranaded by a pianoaccordion player – a nice touch indeed.

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