Schloss Pichlarn review
Superb ayurveda spa hotel
The Quick Read: Schloss Pichlarn is grand without being grandiose. It’s a large rambling hotel that somehow manages to feel warm and welcoming – probably on account of the uber-friendly staff. Based around an old castle, with views of the surrounding mountains, it’s great for solo spa-goers but also hits the spot for those who want a spa break with a partner or family in tow. The hotel has a good golf course attached and runs a shuttle to the slopes for skiing; not to mention being surrounded by miles of superb hiking. But its major draw is the superb ayurveda, under the supervision of German doctor Hans Schaffler, MD. If you want to experience good ayurveda in a cool, calm, decidedly Western way, this place could hit the spot. Find out all about Ayurveda.
More on the wellbeing activities: Schloss Pichlarn really does cater for all tastes – read a word from the queen on her stay. The light airy gym is well-equipped and there are several supervised sessions a day – the personal trainers are friendly and welcoming; very keen to help you achieve any objectives – or simply to introduce you to unfamiliar bits of kit. The hotel offers a full programme of complimentary classes every day – from supervised gym sessions through relaxation and stretching classes; from yoga and Pilates to toning and strengthening sessions. Most days they also lead Nordic walking treks into the surrounding countryside. Surprisingly, given the ayurvedic slant of the hotel, there is not much emphasis on yoga and meditation – it’s an area which needs improvement.
More on the ayurveda: Dr Schaffer’s consulting rooms are on the ground floor – but the fifth floor is where the main action happens. The ayurveda centre offers a wide menu of therapeutic treatments from the sublime four-handed massages where two therapists work in tandem. Abhyanga (soothing and balancing), vishesh (stimulating and toning) and udvartana (a metabolism-boosting scrub massage) were all superb). It’s impossible to single out one therapist or treatment – they were all excellent. We were slightly surprised to find a partnership of one male and one female but it worked well (it was impossible to tell which hands belonged to whom – always a good sign with ayurvedic treatments). A chill-out room on this floor would be a good addition.
More on the inside: The hotel is very traditional in design, a mix of traditional Austrian (think antlers and wood paneling) with modern corporate. But it has the occasional quirk – for example, a chair in the foyer is upholstered to look like a suit. You could easily spend a day just looking at the paintings – everything from old prints, landscapes and portraits to modern abstracts. There are three dining areas plus a self-service spa restaurant and a cosy old-fashioned bar. Given its size, it’s surprising that the hotel lacks chillout areas; aside from the spa there’s nowhere public in which to curl up with a book.
The spa (age 14+) is spotlessly clean and there’s a good choice of saunas and steams. There are two main relaxation areas – the quietest is hidden away up a small flight of steps (water beds and recliners placed under a pyramid roof). We were surprised and slightly disappointed not to find nice spa nibbles and drinks.
There is also a regular beauty spa on ground level offering mainstream treatments, facials and the usual beauty services (not tested on our visit).
More on the bedrooms: There’s a wide variety of bedrooms – all presently in the process of being updated. Our junior suite was a pretty standard hotel room – comfortable but not luxurious, with a wide balcony.
Money no object, choose a tower suite with views of Grimming mountain and a dining area in the turret. They’re being redecorated in dramatic modern style with vast pseudo-antler chandeliers and large open fireplaces. There are also family suites with interconnecting rooms, and even dog suites on the ground floor.
More on the outside: Landscaping is generally bland, dominated by the golf course. There aren’t really any nooks or crannies in which to hide away. But the hotel is surrounded by open countryside and you are up into the woods within minutes. An hour’s walk will bring you to a beautiful lake. The outdoor pool can be accessed from inside (ideal when it’s chilly) though you have to nip out to get into the outdoor whirlpool (but there are two more inside).
Food and drink: Although the hotel offers a general menu (strong on robust local Syrian specialities – pumpkin oil is a major ingredient), go with the dedicated ayurveda choice. Breakfast is all about herbal smoothies, spiced porridge and softly stewed fruit. Lunch (the largest meal of the day) is self-service in the spa bar –with lassi, poppadoms and chutneys to start, then soup, followed by a simple main (such as aubergine fritters) and three pudding choices.
Supper takes place in the more formal main restaurant which isn’t ideal – you end up watching people tuck into schnitzel or glug back the red wine. But the ayurveda menu is far from meagre. Although it is purposefully light (digestion is slower in the evening) it’s still warming comfort food such as creamy kohlrabi soup followed by marinated tofu with braised vegetables or vegetable masala with ginger rice. No alcohol on the ayurveda programme (you’re encouraged to drink herbal tea) – but there’s an ayurveda cocktail on the bar menu.
Fellow guests: Clientele varies depending on the time of year. Families tend to come for winter skiing and in the summer holidays for mountain yomping. The golf course is a major draw and the hotel also hosts vintage car rallies. When we visited there were a fair few couples enjoying the spa, several groups of men golfing and solo women on the ayurveda programme (all German or Austrian but the spa also attracts visitors from Russia and the Middle East). Famous fans include Rowan Atkinson. David Beckham and other European footballers can sometimes be spotted (the hotel is building a football pitch). One word of warning: the hotel also hosts weddings and conferences (worth checking when you book if you’d rather avoid).
What’s queenly: The ayurvedic treatments are heavenly – you float off into a world of total sensory delight. Morning swimming in the outdoor pool with mist rising off the water is a must. The staff are delightful and, for a grand traditional hotel, it’s not remotely stuffy.
What’s lowly: Sharing a restaurant with people on normal diets isn’t ideal if you’re detoxing. More yoga, pranayama and meditation are needed to compliment the ayurveda.
Costs: A deluxe room for one at Schloss Pichlarn costs from €110 (approx £94) per night. More expensive options include the traditional suite which costs from €260 (approx £222) per night and the castle suite (in one of the towers) from €360 (approx £307) per night.
Ayurvedic treatments start from €105 (approx £90) and their Ayurveda Introduction programme, which includes four nights at the hotel and one ayurvedic treatment worth €240 (approx £204) costs from €460 (approx £391) for a person staying alone in a deluxe room.
Getting there: Schloss Pichlarn is about an hour’s drive from Saltzburg airport. The hotel can arrange transfers by car. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service from Stainach train station.
Reviewed by Jane Alexander
© Queen of Retreats
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