Weekend getaway: golf and spa in Saaremaa
The islands off Estonia's west coast are the most bucolic and restful places in a relaxed and verdant country. I defy anyone to spend some time there without their blood pressure dropping, their muscles relaxing and their countenance brightening. It's the fresh air, the lush landscapes and the sea whispering a simple mantra: all is well.
And when you are on these islands, you don't have to do anything but you can do things to make your trip more pleasurable. You can visit a spa for instance and take relaxation to the next level. If you are on Saaremaa, in the main town of Kuressaare, the very place is Arensburg Boutique Hotel and Spa.
Arensburg is the only hotel and spa located right in the center of Kuressaare which makes it the perfect base to explore this charming small town. The medieval castle, one of the finest in Estonia, is just a few minutes walk away and all of Kuressaare's best restaurants are just out the door.
The original name of Kuressaare from the German period of Estonian history is Arensburg and is apropos for the hotel as it is both old and new, with a modern wing and a venerable stone structure some 300 years old. Kuressaare has been known as a spa town since the nineteenth century and Arensburg reflects this heritage in the older part of the complex with its homey and rustic character. The historic building also houses the Arensburg Restaurant serving European cuisine including vegetarian dishes in a traditional setting. The other restaurant, Lounge Muusa, has a similar menu in a less formal atmosphere and also houses the bar in the new building. This is also where breakfast is served every morning which is an outstanding bill of fare including egg dishes, pancakes, sausages, bacon, cured meats, cheeses, breads, fishes, cereals, fruits, confits, muffins, pastries and hot and cold drinks. There is a terrace at Lounge Muusa which is perfect for relaxing in the evening with a drink. If you are lucky you can also catch one of the live music performances which is on throughout the summer.
The spa at Arensburg Hotel is a cozy affair. Small, dimly lit, with a pool and jacuzzi, the spa is the place to recover after a day exploring the natural beauty of Saaremaa. Numerous treatments are available including massage, body scrub and wrapping, facials, aromatic bath rituals and soothing hand and foot cures. Or you could just sit in the hot tub with a cold beer.
And what beer. Saaremaa is renowned for its unique centuries old tradition of "farm beers" made by the local people. Customarily, Saaremaa's farm beers were cloudy and highly alcoholic. But the modern version of the ancient practice has led to the breweries of Pöide and Pihtla on the island. Both make excellent beer that is served in the quality restaurants of Kuressaare, of which there quite a large number for a small town.
The only place to play golf on Estonia's islands is at Saare Golf club, just a 15 minute walk from the center of Kuressaare. What strikes the visitor first is the friendliness of staff and players. Finding a game is never a problem at Saare Golf. The other thing to notice is that this is a serious golf course, not just the only one available. Saare Golf is heavy on water hazards and difficult holes including long par 4s with tight fairways. If you are out of practice, you need a lot of balls to play here, literally and figuratively. But it's a beautiful track in a wonderful parkland setting. Saare Golf boasts Restaurant MO, with great views of the course from its elevated perch. Restaurant MO is considered one of the best eateries in Kuressaare, serving cuisine heavy on local ingredients. There's a sociable bar to soothe your golf bruises. If you need greater levels of relief the folks at Saare Golf can arrange spa and leisure activities to pair with your golf vacation. At Saare Golf, weekend events and tournaments are the norm and these are a great way to appreciate the golfing scene on the island. There is also a fine practice facility to brush up on your game. Saare Golf is an 18-hole, Par 72, 6310 meter course designed by famed Finnish course architect Lassi Pekka Tilander.
Restaurants Tallinn Arts sampled and enjoyed in Kuressaare:
Arensburg Lounge Muusa, Lossi 15, Kuressaare
Cafe Mosaiik, Tallinna 1,Kuressaare
Cafe Retro, Lossi 5, Kuressaare
Restaurant & Pizzeria Castello, Lossi 11, Kuressaare
Restaurant MO, Merikotka 35, Kuressaare