View of the construction under way. | Humphrey Carter

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Next summer, Sir Richard Branson’s new luxury Son Bunyola retreat in Banyalbufar will be open and flourishing after nearly 20 years of planning. Sir Richard’s love affair with the island stretches back some 60 years. After having sold Son Bunyola and his world famous hotel La Residencia in Deia in 2002 after a conflict of interests with the local authorities over his plans for Son Bunyola, he was able to buy back the estate in Son Bunyola in 2015.

Project on course for completion and the opening of the hotel next year

In February last year, the mayor of Banyalbufar, Mateu Ferrà, granted Sir Richard permission to develop the 15th-century manor house on the 680 acre-plus Son Bunyola estate into a small luxury hotel with 28 bedrooms. For Sir Richard, this is a dream come true and work on restoring the manor house to its former glory has been gathering momentum ever since. Bookings for the new hotel will be available later this year in anticipation for a summer 2023 opening, adding to the estate’s three individual villas: Sa Punta de S’Aguila, Sa Terra Rotja and Son Balagueret.

The hotel consists of the restoration of a historic finca and surrounding landscape on the beautiful Son Bunyola estate, part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. The development of the finca will form an integral part of a spectacular estate, positioned on a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which already includes the collection’s three stand-alone luxury private villas.

Dating back to the 15th century and surrounded by vines, citrus fruit trees, almond and olive trees, the finca is an historical monument, central to the private estate and fundamental to the history of the local area. The hotel will retain and honour all the original features of the finca, bringing it back to life as a stunning new hotel in one of the most prestigious and protected areas of the Tramuntana region.
Son Bunyola also welcomes new General Manager, Vincent Padioleau, to the team. He was most recently the General Manager at award-winning Kasbah Tamadot, where he employed 100% of his staff from the local Berber community and led ongoing community projects in the local villages that surrounded the hotel.

Fluent in Spanish and deeply passionate about the island, Vincent joins Son Bunyola with a strong drive to bring local employment to the new hotel, source local produce and products wherever possible, support and invest in the local community, and really showcase the island’s natural and authentic charm at every turn.

Padioleau has played an integral role in the development of the hotel and has been based on the island to oversee the work being carried out. He already has a clear idea of how the hotel will not only look but operate when it is completed. When he and Jon Brown, the Managing Director of Virgin Limited Edition, gave the Bulletin an exclusive tour of the finca last month, Padioleau’s passion and excitement about the property and its idyllic location was clear to see. In fact, everyone involved in the project cannot wait to start welcoming guests to what Sir Richard has always claimed will be one of the most exclusive and beautiful hotels in the Mediterranean.

Sir Richard told the Bulletin: “The finca is an absolutely stunning historic building dating back to the 1800s that is central to the estate, and it is just waiting to be brought back to life. The fact that we can now do this and still retain 100% of the finca is something I am really excited about.

“The question of most luxurious hotel in the Mediterranean will always be one for debate, but to me it will always be Son Bunyola. What’s more important here than defining luxury is that we can showcase the incredible history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site through a beautiful small luxury hotel, which will be at the heart of the Son Bunyola estate. Of course, the real luxury then comes in spending time with family and friends in comfort, which I hope many of our guests will enjoy.

“It has always been incredibly important to us that, where possible, we maintain the heritage of the finca and the estate. So, whilst it may have taken slightly longer than we originally hoped and planned, it’s important to get it right, and we have welcomed the feedback and alterations from the local government. I’m not somebody who likes to give up. When we purchased Son Bunyola, it was always our hope to develop the finca. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to re-purchase it again in 2015.”

Despite construction work on the finca still being carried out by a small army of professionals, it is easy to envisage how the hotel will feel once it’s completed. All of the rooms and suites have spectacular views and the numerous outside dining areas and terraces, including a tapas bar in the old Tafona olive press, which has been lovingly restored along with the rest of the property, are set against the backdrop of the mountains and look out across the estate to the sea.

The old chapel remains and many of the old beams dating back centuries have been restored and replaced. The hotel will serve as a museum to the history of the Tramuntana and pay tribute to the local environment and community. The hotel also includes two showcase Tower Suites – one of which was originally a mediaeval defence tower built in the 15th century - and an impressive brand-new swimming pool with incredible views of the surrounding countryside and Mallorca’s famous Foradada.
Sustainability is rooted at the heart of this conservation project, much like all Virgin Limited Edition properties, with a number of key initiatives being fundamental to the early stages of design.

The new General Manager Vincent Padioleau with Jon Brown.

Jon Brown commented: “The northwest coast of Mallorca has always been a very special place for Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Limited Edition, and we are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to restore this beautiful finca, honour its rich history and drive more tourism to this beautiful island.

“Celebrating and preserving the heritage of this important Mallorcan landmark has been at the very forefront of our restoration plans throughout. Thanks to the fantastic work of Gras Architects, the finca has very much been designed to enhance the incredible natural surroundings it is blessed with. This is of course combined with our commitment to sustainability, something which is ingrained in everything we do – from energy saving to rainwater harvesting and environmental protection – and is one of the fundamental values of the Virgin Limited Edition brand.

“Very much in keeping with our collection’s home from home style, we are also delighted to be working with Mallorcan based interior designer, Rialto Living. Known widely for their stunning residential designs, they were a natural fit for us, and are working to ensure the design of the hotel provides our guests with the same exceptional standards that Virgin Limited Edition is renowned for, alongside a welcome injection of beautiful Mallorcan charm.

“As someone who has spent vast amounts of time in Mallorca for many years now, including my time as General Manager at La Residencia, this is a particularly special project for me and a wonderful opportunity to invest in the island further.

“I not only look forward to welcoming another small luxury hotel to our portfolio, but to inviting guests across the globe to discover this unspoilt corner of the world and experience everything Mallorca has to offer.”