HIT THE HAY

Guttenberg castle a hay hotel

Heuhotel

Travellers across Europe are seeking out accommodations similar to those of barnyard animals. Rebecca Willis describes the allure of hay hotels ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Summer 2008

There's green travel, and there's travel that's positively herbaceous. When you stay at a hay hotel, you sleep on piles of dried grass. They have sprung up in converted barns in Germany and elsewhere in the Lederhosen belt--Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein. By offering accommodation of medieval simplicity (but with better bathrooms), they tick a lot of eco-boxes: no new construction, not much laundry (you can hire sleeping bags or bring your own), rural employment, and low-impact tourism (they tend to attract hikers and cyclists). The hay hotel in a listed barn below the ramparts of Guttenberg castle (pictured), 45km from Heidelberg, sleeps up to 60 in shared rooms; valuables can be locked into wooden chests. For those who want more privacy--and hay-fever sufferers--there are 14 double rooms with conventional beds and a choice of feather or hay-filled pillows.

The concept is taking off for families cycling the bike trail through the Neckar valley, for corporate events (nothing like a dorm for helping your team bonding) and for weddings (at £19.50 a head including breakfast, the happy couple can afford to put up their friends after getting married in the castle chapel). The hay is from the second harvest rather than the first--it's softer--and it gets changed once or twice a year. Meanwhile there's strictly no smoking and there isn't a hospital corner in sight: making the bed means fluffing up the hay with a pitchfork. ~ REBECCA WILLIS