When your true home is in the sky, it is difficult to imagine life without the vast horizon as your backdrop. With a steaming Nespresso in hand, I lean back on the deck of the Tuscan-inspired villa, my experience heightened by a pair of swallows swooping against a cloudless sky. This weekend is defined by solitude and my ‘home away from home’ is the Villa Eyrie Resort.
Situated atop the Malahat Range, Villa Eyrie is a leisurely thirty-minute drive from Victoria. This 40-room resort overlooks Finlayson Arm on the southern end of the Saanich Inlet with spectacular unobstructed views of the entire lower half of the island and the Olympic Mountains beyond. On this morning, my idyllic view changes occasionally as pleasure boats leave behind frothy trails of white foam.
ALL PATHS LEAD TO VILLA EYRIE
At an altitude of 1,156-feet, Villa Eyrie features a heart-achingly beautiful view which is visible from every aspect of the property where it sits, staggered along a sloping mountainside. The focal point is Villa Principale which houses the Alpina Restaurant, a languid mineral pool, and luxury suites. Minutes away by foot or driver, are three luxury villas (Cielo, Aquila, and Vista), the Tuscan Spa, a tented ampitheatre for special events, a helicopter pad, and convenient additional parking.
Guests will notice that the resort property is very natural in appearance. The take-away from my arrival ‘walk and talk,’ with Alexander Fischer-Jean, the property’s Hotel General Manager, is that the resort philosophy is to employ a gentler approach to groundskeeping. They eschew the traditional desire to tame and groom nature, and in its place, allow native flora to thrive with appropriate grooming as needed.
A peaceful early morning walk around the property is filled with only the sounds of nature. As I stroll along the curb-less paved roads, there are long plumes of wild grass on both sides. All around are an abundance of white and yellow wildflowers blanketing the rocky terrain, bunches of blooming prickly thistle, and broad-trunked Arbutus standing stoic amidst their cast-off bark. The scene is serene.
Moving away from the main buildings and onto hiking trails, the forest thickens with towering pine and spruce. The rocky ground is thick with shrubbery, from which small birds chirp. In the distance, a pair of deer graze calmly, and on a nearby rocky outcropping, a garter snake slows to glance my way before slinking off. It is the beginning of a brilliant day.
AERIE REBORN AS VILLA EYRIE
After a 9-year closure and $2M+ in renovations, the Aerie Resort became Villa Eyrie. The new name is a nod to the nesting grounds of the majestic eagles which soar overhead as they hunt between the water and the mountain summit.
Villa Eyrie Resort is the first hotel in British Columbia and Canada’s second, to be accepted into the elite Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection of independently operated hotels. The resort joins 520+ four-star and five-star properties which are held to the highest possible quality standards. According to Fischer-Jean, the resort is a perfect fit for the prestigious collection. “Our guests appreciate staying in a breathtaking setting in the heart of Lower Vancouver Island.”
On the patio of the award-winning Alpina Restaurant, Ryan Bissell (Araxi, Uli’s, Beast and Brine) joins me as I pop the top of a Ruby Rose Sea Cider from Mount Vernon. This semi-sweet cider is named for the merciless Rosa Rugosa—an invasive plant that threatens many coastal regions. Proceeds from the ‘Canadian Invasion’ cider line are used to combat this plant in sensitive ecological areas.
As the Director of Food & Beverage at Villa Eyrie, Bissell is responsible for making the decisions that have led the resort in creating a foundation in sustainability and the sourcing of locally produced ingredients. He proudly shares with me the ‘family’ relationship that the resort has with the farms and vineyards within the Cowichan Valley and throughout the island.
Mere steps from the kitchen, a herb garden flourishes with rows of edible blooms that inspire inventive dishes with the freshest of flavours and the most beautiful presentations.
The Alpina Restaurant is helmed by a trio of culinary leaders including the Michelin-trained Executive Chef Mario Gross, Pastry Chef Matthias Conradi, and Executive Sous Chef Andreas Wechselberger. These three share a Germanic heritage and given the spectacular mountaintop location, it was only natural for the menu to reflect this.
The ‘Alpine Cuisine’ reaps accolades, and online reviews are flush with diners voicing the excellence of their experiences.
Reflecting upon the alpine cuisine theme, Sommelier Sonja Todd has curated a 2,000-bottle cellar which was shaped over three months. Todd chose to develop the most extensive selection from British Columbia’s best wineries, with representation from every growing region.
Included are Unsworth and Averill Creek from the burgeoning Cowichan Valley, the Okanagan Valley (Summerhill, Cedar Creek, Mission Hill), and Similkameen Valley (Hester Creek, Burrowing Owl, Le Vieux Pin).
The wines were chosen, not only for taste but also for exclusivity. Two strict criteria ensured that each was to be among the best depiction of its respective winery and that no bottle was easily found in traditional retail outlets. The selection includes a limited assortment of wines from the sub-alpine regions of Austria, France, Italy, and Germany encourages guests to compare the local New World wines with those of the Old.
RELAX IN THE TREETOPS
Taking inspiration from a dream of living La Dolce Vita, the Lake Como styling of the villas merges Italian architecture with contemporary interiors. Whether staying at the Villa Principale or in the six-suite private penthouse at Villa Cielo higher up the mountain, guests can be assured of all the luxuries associated with an opulent resort stay.
With sustainability at the forefront of the luxury accommodation industry, Villa Eyrie is continuously working to reduce their carbon footprint. The recognition and eco-centric nature of the west coast, led the resort to launch with dramatically reduced waste generation (energy, water, food, plastics), including the recent conversion from miniature amenities bottles to a dispenser system with a scent-neutral vegan and cruelty-free product from LATHER.
The choice of this certified vegan and cruelty-free brand, along with the option of non-down bed linens, provides comfort to those seeking refuge at a resort that is inclusive in its offerings.
Private balconies, soaker tubs, fireplaces, and the plushest pillow-top mattresses, reward those who venture up the mountain to this gem of a resort.
With a check-in time of 4 pm, guests are encouraged to drop their bags with the concierge, explore the property, and if peckish, enjoy a light lunch at Alpina or hand-crafted cocktails alongside the mineral pool
Perhaps the most alluring way to pass the time is a visit to the Tuscan Spa. With three relaxation treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure lounge, and a 180-degree view of the Saanich Inlet, the spa provides a truly unique experience.
Using only the finest organic ingredients, combined with local herbs sourced from the island, spa treatments can be tailored to suit your particular desires.
While I visited Village Eyrie Resort with the goal of catching up on my writing and spending time unplugged, others enjoy the property as a home base for island exploration.
The Vancouver Island Motorcar Circuit gives guests the chance to test out high-performance vehicles on professional track only 30-minutes from the resort. The Circuit provides a portfolio of driving experience packages including the ‘Tour d’Italia’ (FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Maserati) and ‘A Taste of Germany’ (Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW) which offer guests a choice of fleet vehicles for an exhilarating island adventure.
In addition to Circuit access, guests can arrange a visit an otherwise private facility, Coachwerks Restoration, for an exclusive tour of the 30,000-square-foot facility featuring a vast collection of classic European sports cars. An elite group of some of the world’s finest technicians and restoration specialists with full access to the highest levels of training, equipment, and parts, restore and display marquee brands such as Packard, Jaguar, Ferrari, Bugatti, Avoins Voisin, and Alfa Romeo.
The Raptors is a conservation area for birds of prey that is 10-minutes outside of Duncan. The knowledgeable Raptors team provides a connection with these powerful albeit vulnerable birds and offers visitors up-close and personal experiences with a variety of eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and more.
Villa Eyrie is also within minutes of top activities: whale watching trips originating from the picturesque fishing village of Cowichan Bay, sea kayaking the quiet waters of Mill Bay, mountain biking and ziplining through the lush forests, and exploring the abundant lakes, waterfalls, and caves.
As the sun set on the last day of my visit, I stepped into one final bubble bath, slid deep into the soaker tub, and disappeared into a blanket of lavender-scented bubbles. A chilled glass of Fitzpatrick’s Gewurztraminer and a trio of house-made sorbet is within reach.
Over my left shoulder is an unbelievable 270-degree view of the majestic mountainside, and over my right is a big-screen television catching me up on the latest entertainment news.
It is my last night in paradise, and after three days of self-care at Villa Eyrie Resort, my computer has yet to be booted, but my spirit has been replenished.
Read more on Villa Eyrie Resort in Cocktails and Alpina Restaurant stories.
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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