The hotel is as blue as its name, Casona Azul, suggests, and can be recognized from quite a distance, especially if you are making the descen from Lake Ebro towards Santander. It's a town house on a main road in the valley, which carries much of the commercial traffic travelling to and from the port at Santander. That said, it is a handsome place, built at the end of the 19thC by a returned Indiano, one of the many Cantabrians who returned home after making a fortune in the West Indies and built themselves large, often ostentatious houses. This one is not in the least flashy, and is tucked into a corner of the property. There's a large garden, edged with apple, pear and walnut trees, with plenty of room for children to undo the kinks of a long car journey.
  The building needed extensive restoration before opening as a hotel, and the architect, Luis Castillo, stayed fairly faithful to the house's original form, both in use of materials and of colours. The small sitting room is dotted with items from the appropriate era, and the breakfast room has the traditional black-and-white, diagonally tiled floor. The wood-floored bedrooms are light and comfortable, with well-equipped bathrooms, and those that look over the garden also have a view of the surrounding hills. One particularly welcome rarity is a lockable garage, available to guests. Spanish only spoken here as we went to press.