Nestled above the forests of the Eisch Valley in Luxembourg, the 12th-century Castle Ansembourg appears like a fairytale vision out of the mist that hangs like a veil on the wooded slopes. It’s home to the exclusively luxurious Temps d’Or, a boutique hotel owned and managed by the current Count of Ansembourg, whose family has owned the castle for over 350 years. We sat down with the Count to learn more about his family’s long history and the fascinating story behind why he chose to welcome guests to his ducal seat.
‘We moved to Luxembourg in the 1400s, so we are a very old family,’ the Count tells us. In the 1600s, a declining noble family sold their estates to the Count’s ancestors, establishing them as the predominant power in the region. ‘They sold us four or five castles, and the lands that came with them,’ the Count explains. ‘That was how we first became Barons, then Counts, then Counts of the Holy Roman Empire.’ This fascinating story is part of the unique charm of Temps d’Or, and when looking into the valley from the castle’s crenelated defences one truly feels the weight of history. The Count’s family, and the castle itself, are intrinsically linked to the story of Luxembourg; one of the country’s most important medieval manuscripts was discovered in the castle’s ancient library in 2008.
The Count never intended to become a hotelier, he tells us, until a family tragedy brought him home. ‘When my father passed away I decided to come back after living for five years in America, five years in Holland,’ the Count explains. It was this experience of living abroad that he believes has shaped his approach to Temps d’Or. ‘I’ve lived a bit everywhere, so I have opened my mind to different things,’ he says. His father had spent his entire life trying to restore the castle to its former glories. ‘The family hadn’t lived here for years,’ he tells us, ‘They lived in other castles, so it was quite run-down and abandoned. My grandfather passed away when my father was 19, and after that my father focused all of his energy into rebuilding the castle.’ The Count found that there was a lot of restoration work to be done, however. ‘The only rebuilding that had been done before my father was by the Germans, who used it as a hospital during the war.’ His father passed away before the work could be completed, so it was up to the Count and his wife to finish the rebuilding. It became their home, but the Count knew that the unique property would attract others.
‘We decided to reopen, but exclusively,’ the Count tells us. ‘Not for everybody, we don’t want people just showing up. You have to have a reservation.’ This exclusivity is one of the biggest draws of Temps d’Or, which has become very popular with media and political figures from across the world. ‘We had Emma Watson here for one month as a guest,’ the Count tells us, ‘and we’ve had many people involved in the political scene.’ Guests come partly for the castle’s excellent security, but mainly because they are looking for something different. ‘Many of these people have seen the Hilton and the other big hotels, but here they can see something a bit different,’ the Count explains. ‘They come here and they feel at home, it’s not at all like a hotel for them.’ The Count and his team ensure that their guests’ every need is catered for. Although Temps d’Or has no formal restaurant, the hotel can arrange a private chef, something that has proved particularly popular with previous guests. ‘We had a personal chef for Emma Watson and she loved his cooking so much that she brought him with her to England!’ the Count tells us, laughing. There’s also sauna, where guests can pamper themselves with massages and beauty treatments, and excursions can be organised in the surrounding valley, the most enchanting of all is the caleche ride through the Valley of the Seven Castles, a true fairytale experience.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect to Temps d’Or is its stylish, contemporary design, the result of the Count and his wife’s creative vision. ‘We travelled around for inspiration,’ he tells us. ‘Every country in a way is represented here.’ The furniture was designed and made by a company in Holland, while the bespoke key-rings are the result of a Dutch-Italian design firm and the signs around the hotel are hand-made in Italy. The comfortable chairs on the terrace, the perfect place to drink in the hotel’s spectacular views, were designed and made specially in Sri Lanka. The hotel received so many compliments for its stylish furnishings that the Count saw an opportunity, ‘We decided to be a distributor of all our furniture,’ he tells us. ‘So anybody who wants to can buy it for themselves.’ Throughout the design process, the Count was careful to source only the most luxurious fittings. ‘We have the Hypnos beds, which are used by the Queen herself because they’re so comfy,’ he says. ‘It took me two years to track them down!’
Despite its grand surroundings and furnishings fit for royalty, Temps d’Or retains the welcoming charm of a family home. As the Count himself says, ‘My family has lived here since 1650. It is very much a family property.’