Ireland

Many hotels were not born as hotels. Some first served as prisons, or hat factories, or even lemon distilleries. And some had, shall we say, loftier first lives — as the residences (often, the second, third, or fourth homes) of royalty. That’s right. We’ve stayed at hotels — from the Amalfi Coast to the Irish countryside – that were once the official residences of royals, but have since shed their former titles to serve the lowlier, “ill-bred” set like us. But fortunately, we’ve still been given the royal treatment at each. Check out these eight gorgeous hotels that kings, queens, and counts once called home.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Amalfi Coast

palazzo murat

Unlike most hotels in the cliffside town of Positano that require a steep walk to reach the beach and town center, the Palazzo Murat is located smack in the town center’s pedestrian zone. It dates back to the 17th century, and for a while it was the extravagant summer home of Napoleon’s brother-in-law and King of Naples, Gioacchino Murat. Its historic opulence is evidenced by intricately cut stone doors and window frames, refurbished tile mosaics, and wooden furniture. With a pristine pool and some nice freebies, Palazzo Murat is ideal for travelers who want to stay in historic lodgings in the heart of the action — but it lacks the gorgeous ocean views of nearby cliffside hotels.

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There’s something so cozy about watching a movie, both solo and with a crew. If you don’t want to hole up in your room with pay-per-view while on vacation, there are many hotels where you can still catch a flick without leaving the property. Some hotels offer movie nights for their guests – whether it’s curled up on a comfy couch indoors or outside lounging by the pool — giving vacationers a chance to unwind in front of a big screen. Many are geared toward little ones so that parents can enjoy some alone time, while others are a chance for travelers to meet and participate in activities together. No matter if you’re away on business or having a family vacation, grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and watch the show. We definitely give the following 10 hotels two thumbs up!

Bitter End Yacht Club, British Virgin Islands

Bitter End Yacht Club

The Bitter End Yacht Club, snuggled into a steep hill on the scenic North Sound, is a relaxed, family-friendly resort. The tech-free rooms (no TVs or Wi-Fi here) feature stunning views from the balconies, and the sliding doors allows breezes to sweep through; some rooms do not have air-conditioning but most guests find they don’t miss it. While some rooms could use renovations, guests are here for the white-sand beaches that offer plenty of water sports and relatively calm waters. Although popular among couples, the hotel also caters toward families; each night two movies are screened at The Sand Palace, next to the lobby. The movies are all rated G, PG, or PG-13 and popcorn is provided. Adults may want to send their kids to watch the movie while they enjoy a meal at the Clubhouse Grille next door.

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Hay! How about a visit to the ‘ole barnyard for your next getaway? Hotels on working farms allow you to leave the fast-paced city life behind — at least for the weekend — and hit the country to hone your farming chops. But don’t worry; the farmtastic resorts that make our list offer all the amenities of a swanky hotel. It’s more like they just happen to encourage guests to rise with the roosters as well. With so many animals roaming about and so much open land to explore, you may just want to pull in the reins on your texting habit and take a digital break during your stay, too. (Again, not to worry — you don’t have to.) Just be sure to pack the overalls, buckaroo – your hands may get dirty!

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort; Solvang, CA

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Set on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is the kind of place that breeds cowboys. It’s a step back in time to the Old West, but with all the amenities. Expect charming, western-style rooms, and plenty of ranch activities. At the Barn Yard, guests can help bottle-feed goats, calves, miniature horses, and sheep. Animal lovers can also gather eggs, and groom and exercise the animals in the corral. Cart rides with miniature horses are a favorite among younger guests, while grownups can ride into the sunset on one of the property’s beautiful thoroughbreds.

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Whether you’re a total pro or a complete amateur, there’s nothing quite like the rush of surfing. And for us here at Oyster, there’s nothing quite like the rush of finding the perfect hotel either. So we’ve combined these two awesome feelings to come up with nine amazing surf destinations…and some pretty great hotels to go with ‘em.

Honolulu

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World famous Waikiki Beach is the perfect place to catch a wave. You won’t be alone, however, as this sandy stretch receives more than four millions visitors every year. Waikiki abounds with surf shops and instructors, making it easy for pros to brush up on their skills and first timers to learn the tricks of the trade.

Where to Stay: Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

When it opened its doors in 1901, the Moana Surfrider was Waikiki’s first hotel. Now that it shares the spotlight with a multitude of others, guests will appreciate Moana’s old-world ambiance. Though the hotel is often packed with people, it sits on one of the nicest stretches of Waikiki Beach, perfect for surfers and non-surfers alike.

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Many hotels that we visit are housed in brand-spanking-new buildings, erected in recent years for the sole purpose of being the site of that “just opened” Marriott or Four Seasons. But some properties, recently opened ones and historic ones alike, instead reinvent old spaces to create the hotels that visitors call home during their vacations. And some of these old buildings have quite the story to tell! From prisons to plantations, the 10 hotels on this list were once the sites of quite different operations, and all have storied – whether eerie or interesting or just downright weird – pasts.

 Liberty Hotel, Boston

Liberty Hotel

For nearly 150 years, this tall granite building was known as the Charles Street Jail and housed some of Boston’s most heinous criminals. In 2007, after a painstaking restoration that preserved elements of the prison design, it reopened as the Liberty Hotel. The result is stunning, with nearly 300 rooms, a 90-foot-tall atrium, winding catwalks, and high, circular windows that flood the lobby with light. The hotel’s popular restaurants and bars play on the jailhouse theme with names like Alibi, Clink, and The Yard.

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It may be particularly fun during the summer months, but thanks to a variety of species and waters around the world, fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed year-round. Peak seasons vary from fish to fish, but as long as you’re on a river, by a lake, or bobbing atop the ocean, you’ll likely get a bite. And no matter if you’re an experienced angler or a novice on all things baiting and hooking, fishing can be a great activity for your vacation itinerary – particularly for families since the little ones can participate as well. We’ve picked 10 hotels that are perfect properties for grabbing a rod and heading out to the water. Now go reel ‘em in!

Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Florida Keys

Cheeca Lodge

The 114-room Cheeca Lodge was one of the original luxury properties on Islamorada, dating to 1946 and earning plenty of celebrity cachet over the years (high-profile guests have included George W. Bush). The property was rebuilt after a fire gutted its main building in 2009, and it now has bright, spacious rooms with tropical-luxe decor and massive bathrooms. The lush grounds are especially pretty at night, with Tiki-torch-lit paths. But the hotel’s beach is manmade — there’s even a rock ledge on the water’s edge. There’s a private fishing pier on the property and guests can rent fishing rods for free. You’re bound to have a fun time since Islamorada advertises itself as the “sport fishing capital of the world.”

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Is all the talk of summer and beaches…bumming you out? Does the entire concept of humidity make you want to cry? If you see one more Instagram photo of “hot-dog legs” are you going to lose it? Good news! You’re not crazy or a heartless, sun-hating scrooge — and you’re not alone. The dogs days of summer are truly upon us, and sometimes it’s all too easy to dream of snowbanks and icicles (which will be a nightmare once we’re in the thick of winter — but then, of course, we’ll dream of sizzling sidewalks and sun galore). So if you’re already missing winter, here’s where you can travel right now where it’s 50 degrees or cooler. And, of course, we’ve found the coziest hotels nearby where you can properly embrace sweater weather by curling up in front of a fireplace that will chase the (all-too-welcome) chill away.

1. Melbourne, Australia 

melbourne

The Southern Hemisphere is where winter’s at, and one of our favorite destinations down under is none other than Melbourne, Australia. Known as Australia’s culture capital, this city situated on Port Phillip Bay is packed with Victorian buildings, museums, galleries, large parks, and gardens. The tree-lined streets and green spaces create a clean, eco-friendly vibe, which is probably part of the reason Melbourne has consistently been dubbed as one of the world’s most livable cities. During the winter months, locals enjoy ice skating, curling, and banishing the chill at the nearby Peninsula Hot Springs.

Stay: Hotel Lindrum

This modern boutique is located just a short walk from sights such as Federation Square and Melbourne Park. It lacks a fitness center and spa, but the features it does have are done well: The restaurant serves a nice breakfast buffet, and the cozy bar features a fireplace and a billiards table. Rooms feature sleek lines, dark wood accents, high-style light fixtures, and contemporary artwork, which combine to create a chic vibe. Read More »

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Just getting to a destination can be part of the thrill of a vacation. And even if winding roads, long boat rides, and flights on tiny planes aren’t necessarily your idea of fun, the rewards of all that travel — i.e., tranquil, relaxing locales, far removed from the crowds — are often more than worth it. Throughout our travels, we’ve been to a handful of super-remote resorts and hotels — and we’ve made it back to share them with you! Although to be honest, we really didn’t want to leave any of the ones that made our list. Venture into the wild, and over hill-and-dale, at these ten super remote hotels around the world.

1. andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, Botswana

andBeyond

This luxe camp is located on an island that is part of a massive, 62,000-acre wildlife preserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Arriving to the hotel requires a flight in a small plane, a short ride in a safari vehicle, and then a boat trip to the lodge’s dock (during which guests will first get to experience the delta’s natural beauty). But the hotel is more an experience,  where everything — including the excellent food and the guided excursions (game drives, bush walks, river cruises) — is included in the price of the stay.

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Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

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Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

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The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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