Gardens of Irini

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Address: Beylerbeyi/Bellapais village, Kyrenia, Cyprus

Star rating:
1 star hotel

4.2

Bohemian Bellapais redolent with Durrellian associations

During the early 1950s, John and Vivian Guthrie were the first foreigners to buy property in abbey-graced Bellapais; both early-retired doctors, he was a composer while she painted. Their daughter Deirdre effectively grew up here; there’s a photo of her aged 13, taken by Lawrence Durrell who was a firm family friend. Both parents died young, and Deirdre came back from America in 1987 to sort things out – and stayed. The ancestral homestead, with modifications, has now become a unique B&B, with some of Vivian’s artwork still adorning the walls. Deirdre has led an even more interesting life – including a long sojourn as a flamenco dancer in 1960 Spain – and is an excellent raconteur.

Location
4.3
90%
Eating/drinking
4.5
90%
Leisure facilities
n/a
90%
Service
4.6
90%
Value for money
3.9
90%
Bedrooms
3.8
90%
Public areas
4.1
90%

Location

Near the top of the ravine bounding the village on the east, some 100m beyond the house which Lawrence Durrell made famous in his book Bitter Lemons.

Bedrooms

Just two: The Studio, originally Vivian’s workshop, and Lily Cottage. The Studio comprises a separate, fully equipped kitchen, and a bedsit room with en suite bath. Lily Cottage, once a villager’s dwelling, has a large bedsit area upstairs with kitchen and bathroom downstairs. Don’t expect contemporary touches – these are 1960s-to-1980s time capsules. Wall-mounted air con and heating are on the funky side – the latter provided by catalytic gas-can units – and there are no curtains; you close the shutters at night before falling asleep to the cries of owls.

Public areas

Two courtyards: one with outdoor seating, where paint trim and cushions match the colours of Deirdre’s flamenco dress – which has pride of place in the ex-gallery kitchen – the other beyond the studio cottage, more vegetated, where a small fountain trickles at the centre. It’s relatively cool during summer owing to the ravine-side setting, though can be dank in winter. You need to like animals – there may be up to 5 dogs and 24 cats in residence at any given time.

Eating and drinking

Breakfasts, at whatever (reasonable) hour you arrange, emerge from the ex-gallery, aka the Guthrie Bistro; they’re among the best I’ve had in Cyprus, with fresh fruit and choice of teapot or cafetière coffee. Light snacks and drinks are served all day from 10am to 6pm; bespoke suppers (by the gallery fireside in winter) are by appointment for parties of up to 12, at £22 per head.

Leisure facilities

None – not the point of the place.

Service

Excellent, at least for breakfast. Deirdre can also arrange local car hire and help with flights.

Who stays there

People who’ve found it through my guidebook, word-of-mouth referrals, or chance passers-by, who come for a drink or snack and then arrange to stay later.
 

Price advice

Weekly rates of £280 self catering per studio compare to nightly rates of £60, B&B. Longer stay-rates by arrangement.

Amenities

  • Pets Allowed
  • Restaurant

Recommended for

  • Couples
  • Culture vultures
  • Foodies
  • Seasoned travellers
  • Relaxation
  • Sightseeing
  • History
  • Design and architecture

Pros & Cons

  • Unique atmosphere
  • One-to-one service from hostess
  • No WiFi
  • Tricky street parking
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