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In less than one hour, life went from harried to heavenly. My family and I had dodged our way through the crowds of New York City’s Grand Central Station and into our seats on a commuter train heading north. A mere 40 minutes later, we found ourselves in charming Tarrytown, New York, a laid-back village in the Hudson Valley.
Our destination was Castle Hotel & Spa, an enticing property perched at one of the highest points in the area. With its towers and turrets, manicured gardens and views of the Hudson River, this regal retreat seemed to belie its proximity to the Big Apple.
I’m not surprised that Castle appeals to New York City residents who want a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. But as we found out, it’s equally ideal for travelers seeking a restful, sophisticated home base for exploring the quaint towns, historic sites, natural splendor and outdoor activities of the Hudson Valley.
As we settled into the 31-room hotel, we learned its fascinating history. At the turn of the 20th century, New York playwright and businessman Howard Carroll commissioned the construction of a massive stone estate in the manner of medieval European castles. Not only did the structure serve as his family home, it set a marvelous stage for Carroll’s parties, attended by high-profile guests from around the world. The property became a historic landmark in 1981 and a hotel in 1996.
A comparably high level of style felt lavish during our stay at Castle. The lobby was opulent with stained-glass windows and crystal chandeliers, and our guestroom featured throwbacks such as a wood-burning fireplace and a four-poster bed. Modern in-room amenities and services were in full force as well, thanks to perks such as an iPod docking station, a Bose sound system, a Keurig coffee machine and a flat-screen high-definition television.
On our first evening at the hotel, we mingled with fellow guests by the swimming pool, which had just opened for the summer. Sipping drinks from the poolside bar, we gazed across the grounds to the Hudson, imagining the days when Carroll and his guests watched river regattas from Castle’s terrace.
In keeping with its history as a superb host, the hotel serves exceptional cuisine in its Equus restaurant. Skilled chef Keith Suarino oversees the Mediterranean-inspired menus, with delectables such as charred calamari and bean salad, and Long Island duck breast with gingered grape sauce. Much like a century ago, luminaries sometimes dine at Equus, lured by its fine food and unique setting. On one of the nights we were there, actor Richard Gere stopped by for a meal. (Turns out he owns a bed-and-breakfast about 20 miles away.)
Another Castle asset is its Thann Sanctuary Spa, a prominent brand throughout Asia and the first of its kind in the U.S. Open since 2013, the 8,000-square-foot spa is located in an adjacent building tucked within woods and gardens. There, guests can indulge in treatments — many Thai-derived — and unwind in the steam room, whirlpool, relaxation lounges and private VIP room.
Castle provides the perfect starting point for Hudson Valley day tripping. Within an easy drive is the cottage where author Washington Irving lived and wrote, but also grand estates owned by millionaires in the late 19th century. Clients can visit Storm King Art Center, a creative marriage of sculptures and nature, and Bear Mountain State Park, with its network of hiking, biking and ski trails above the Hudson.
Following our day of sightseeing, we were happy to return to Castle’s gracious embrace. Its classic beauty and contemporary hospitality reminded us that it’s important to take a break now and then from the fast pace of everyday life.