- 10-minute drive to the nearest beach
- No spa, fitness center, or room service
- Small pool is sparse and uninviting
- No elevators at the property
Though light on amenities, this resplendent turn-of-the-century hotel-mansion pours on the charm
Housed in a 19th-century manor house surrounded by overflowing gardens and Renaissance-style statues, this 32-room boutique hotel with colonial-style architecture and swanky decor is a hidden gem found along the tree-lined back roads of downtown Hamilton.
The moment you enter the Royal Palms’ mahogany reception area via the coral-hued wraparound porch, you are consumed by the rich elegance of a bygone era. Rather than a lobby, the entry of the hotel feels more like a well-preserved mansion with an ornate crystal chandelier, grand staircase, and plush geometric carpeting. Old photographs of historical Bermuda line the yellow walls, leading straight ahead to a ritzy parlor and upstairs to a sitting room and the guest rooms -- all appearing much as you’d imagine they did 100 years ago.
However, calling to mind a motel instead of a mansion is the small, rather unadorned pool, which is surrounded by fewer than a dozen lounge chairs and sits starkly within the confines of a white fence. Though well maintained, there is little that lures guests, and as a result, it remains empty most days.
Saving the hotel from having too few amenities is its stellar restaurant. Acclaimed throughout Hamilton, Ascots Restaurant is filled with modern art and adorned with a mural ceiling for a rather highbrow appeal. A wine cellar that has received top accolades from "Wine Spectator" and "Wine Enthusiast" magazines, and a romantic garden, give good reason for the restaurant’s success. After dinner, which might consist of succulent Veal Ossobuco followed by a black cherry torte topped with Rum raisin ice cream, enjoy a Dark and Stormy or puff on a Cuban cigar at the adjoining bar. Come morning, a free breakfast of fruits, meats, waffles, and pastries is served.
Within walking distance of Hamilton and the ferries -- but lacks a beachfront
Just a few minutes’ walk from Pitts Bay Road, which runs through downtown Hamilton, Royal Palms is a quick jaunt from the similarly priced and equally swanky Rosedon Hotel. All of Hamilton’s greatest attractions -- restaurants, bars, cultural monuments, and high-end shops -- are within walking distance, as is the ferry terminal that takes passengers to still more destinations like the Royal Naval Dockyard and Little Sound for access to Southampton’s beaches. A moped rental shop is also just a few minutes’ walk away. Unlike the Rosedon though, there is no free hotel shuttle to take guests to the nearest beach, so those who are keen to spend most of their time in the sand should look elsewhere.
In an effort to permit as few vehicles as possible on the island, car rentals are strictly forbidden. Even locals are allowed only a single car per household -- something you’ll likely appreciate when you see the lush, winding roads that unobtrusively snake through the island. Taxis are reliable and metered according to state law, so there is no need to negotiate fares; however, rates are exceptionally high.
Those looking to save on cab fare might consider renting a moped, the islanders’ preferred mode of transportation. While safety may be an issue for some, a local speed limit of just 35 km (about 21 mph) will likely assuage most fears. Consider the less expensive ferries and local pink-and-blue buses to cover longer distances between “the hook” (Bermuda’s westernmost island), the main city of Hamilton, and the beaches along the southern side of Warwick and Southampton.
Unique and elegant rooms, though some details feel more Motel 6 than mansion
Each of the 32 rooms, spread across the main building and two adjacent buildings, is unique -- though they all feature opulently decorated interiors that carefully respect the building's history. Rich colors and mahogany furniture add an elegant flair (not to mention large bay windows with window seats in some units); but when compared with the nearby and comparably priced Rosedon, the quality of the rooms just doesn’t measure up.
Amenities are scarce save for a small pool, a lovely restaurant, and a few nice bonuses
An acclaimed restaurant and wine cellar, plus a well-stocked breakfast
Ascots Restaurant attached to the Royal Palms is an attraction all of its own, and anybody looking for a romantic dinner spot should make it a high priority. The bar exudes the same Gilded-Age swank as the rest of the hotel -- from plush wingback chairs and a dark wood bar to barkeeps in traditional attire and a whisky-swilling clientele -- the restaurant itself has a modern, and even artistic edge to it. Cubist paintings and an evocative ceiling mural lend a modern quality, as does a Philippe Stark ghost lamp on the bar. In the award-winning cellar, you’ll find one of the island’s most impressive wine collections, as well as a private dining room, and a beautifully lit garden with an Italianate fountain and statue.
The menu, which thoughtfully starts with desserts, is filled with intriguing flavor combinations like the chilled banana soup with Bermuda black rum, and the grilled salmon with citrus onion caper marmalade. No matter what the catch of the day is, it’s likely your best bet -- always fresh, rich, and cooked to perfection.
Breakfast is bright and cheerful, with salmon-colored walls, a colorful geometric tiled floor. There are no waiters – breakfast is strictly DIY -- but a hardboiled egg station and waffle maker add substance to the usual yogurt, pastry, and fruit fare.
Just 24 is the more casual dining option, and even offers adjusted portions for kids. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
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