On the outskirts of Mutianyu village, the hotel nestles in the shadow of Beijing's second most visited stretch of touristy Great Wall an hour’s drive from the city. Growing numbers of valley-side villas and holiday homes attest to the area’s wealth, as does the occasional Porsche parked under floral trellises. Back in the day, this district was home to several factories forging glazed tiles for Beijing’s temples.
16 mid-sized guest rooms fan out in three rows, all with private gardens and Great Wall views. Ask for a room at the front for unimpeded vistas. Exposed brick, slate flooring, crisp white linen and seductive, low-wattage spot lighting complement an idiosyncratic layout that features a semi open-plan toilet and rainforest shower, best suited to couples. A floor-to-ceiling frontage of insulated glass means you’ll wake, early ... to a glorious panorama of mountains crested with watchtowers. Light sleepers can use the eye shades provided. Queen-sized beds are the sole sleeping arrangement; the hotel doesn’t permit extra singles - even for infants - so parents will have to fork out for another room. In line with the green credentials the hotel strives for, toiletries and toothbrushes must be requested from reception.
Manicured grounds are planted with peach, apricot and persimmon trees – you’re sure to find a cosy corner to read a book in the afternoon sun. The row of once smoke-belching kilns has been converted to quirky, rustic meeting rooms, a cigar room for Chinese high-rollers, and the hotel reception. Breakfast can be taken al fresco on the large patio or in the breakfast room (previously the kiln office) with its striking roof of turquoise and peppermint tiles emblazoned with yellow dragons. A reading room sports comfy armchairs, a log fire and a modestly stocked bookshelf.
Eating and drinking
The hotel only cooks breakfast (included in room price), but it’s quite a feast. Freshly-baked bread and pastries with locally made apricot jam (yum) plus eggs, bacon and sausages all sourced from the surrounding villages.The nearby Schoolhouse (same owner) has a pricy, hit-and-miss dinner menu of western-style fine dining employing both local ingredients and staff. The area is full of touristy, road-side restaurants good for a family-style Chinese featuring seasonal, home-grown veggies.
The Great Wall of course, for which you’ll need half a day (less if you use the cable car or toboggan run). The surrounding area has plenty of potential for orchard walks, trout fishing and other countryside pursuits. A swimming pool, spa and yoga yard, showing off more of those beautiful tile shards, opened from March 2011.
The hotel manager, hailing from France, made us feel very welcome - the only wobble occured when he forgot to send a toothbrush to the room before closing reception for the night. Other staff are mostly drawn from local villages – no hotel finishing schools for them – so expect service to be polite if occasionally unpolished.
Who stays there
Weekending ex-pats, Foreign and Chinese honeymooners.
The hotel can arrange city transfers (from 600 RMB for four people), but it's cheaper, albeit more troublesome, to find your own way on a combination of public bus (916 from Dongzhimen bus station) and taxi.
- High-Speed Internet
- Swimming Pool
- Mature travellers
- Escaping the crowds
- Great views / scenery
- Nature / wildlife
Pros & Cons
- Delicious breakfast
- Great Wall views
- Beautiful gardens and environment
- Open-plan toilet design lacks privacy
- Queen-sized bed the only option