Late September is the ideal time to escape to the countryside. The summer crowds have dispersed. The air is no longer thick with humidity. Yet there are still plenty of daylight hours to go fishing, horseback riding, and canoeing. This autumn escape could easily be in Connecticut, Vancouver, or the Cotswolds. But that would be too predictable. So this time, you’re off to Estonia.
Muhu Island is off the west coast of Estonia. It takes a two-hour drive from Tallinn, plus a ferry ride from Virtsu, to reach the country’s third-largest island. Muhu is known for the Üügu cliffs and caves, juniper forests, ostrich farms, and Estonia’s only still-working windmills. St. Catherine’s Church, the oldest church on island, was built in the 13th century. Koguva, an old fishing village, is now an open-air museum. And Pädaste Manor is the only remaining manor house on the island.
It’s also your home for the next few days. The manor was built in the 14th century, bestowed to a wealthy family by the Danish Crown in the 16th century, became a baron’s summer home in the 19th century, and was largely neglected during the Soviet period. Then it was revived and turned into a hotel in the late 1990s. Today, it’s one of Estonia’s nicest hotels and most acclaimed restaurants.
The hotel’s grounds are gorgeous. The manor house and the five 19th-century ironstone buildings are arranged in a horseshoe shape facing the Baltic Sea. Perfectly manicured lawns are ringed by ironstone walls overgrown with moss. Wildflower-filled meadows, juniper forests, and Pädaste Bay are in the distance. Cranes and ducks swim in the bay. Eagles and woodpeckers nest in the trees. While wild boars, deer, and an occasional moose roam the forest. It’s quiet and peaceful, just as you’d hoped.
You check into your manor house room, which is the perfect blend of modern and traditional. Wood floors and a wood-burning fireplace give it rustic charm, while a large soaking tub, a separate rainfall shower, and an iPad keep it stylish. Your first stop is the spa, where you alternate between a wood-fired sauna with salt and Muhu honey, a Siberian cold tub, and a seawater hot tub. Then you relax on the sun deck by the bay.
You’re tempted to have a casual lunch outside at the Sea House Terrace or a cranberry daiquiri at the bar, but you resist the temptation with a nine-course Islands’ Degustation tasting menu ahead of you at Alexander, the Nordic restaurant. You eat estate-grown greens, Rautsi Farm beef tartare, Baltic needlefish, and European roe venison. You pause and enjoy the garden view, before finishing with Koplimäe Farm cheese and a decadent strawberry dessert.
Dinner has exhausted you, though you need to go to sleep early anyway. You’ll be up before dawn to go fishing in the fog from Kallaste Port. You’ll go horseback riding along the shoreline, biking through the meadows, and boating out to the Island of Love for a picnic. You’ll return to the spa to try to submerge yourself in the Siberian cold tub this time. And you’ll keep an eye out for moose. They love this time of year, too.