Hotel Ullensvang’s journey began with a vision – imagined by a young boy.
Hotel Ullensvang was established by 14-year old Hans Utne, when he rowed across the fjord from Utne. Young Hans was full of enthusiasm and soon managed to buy a small piece of land on the banks of the Fjord, where he built himself a boathouse.
These lodgings were referred to as a ‘Staging Inn’, and consisted of Hans Utne’s own straw bed in the loft over the shipping office. After just one year, Hans Utne expanded his facilities by 100%, and now providing two beds. With this, the foundation for Hotel Ullensvang was laid.
The year was 1846, and Hans was now 17 years old.
Across the Fjord, at Aga, lived the first farmer in Norway to become a member of parliament, Johannes Johannessen Aga. He had several daughters – the youngest, Brita, was sent across the Fjord, initially to work for Hans, but not long afterwards they married. Brita was then 17 years old and Hans was 37. Through the years, the hotel was extended and modernised several times.
In 1919, the building was in desperate need of refurbishment.
This was when the 2nd generation, Bjarne Utne and his wife, also named Brita, began running the hotel. The hotel was split from the business and established as a separate company. The hotel now had 50 beds and was for the first time kept open on a year-round basis. Since then, the hotel was open all year round.
During World War Two, the hotel was used as a retirement home for Bergen.
Ellen Harris Utne arrived in Lofthus in 1939, together with her husband Hans Utne. She was the first member of the family to have received formal training in hotel administration; a training she completed in 1950 while bringing up four small children at the same time.
In 1962, Hans and Ellen Utne, the 3rd generation of the Utne family, took over the managing of the hotel. By this time the hotel was thoroughly refurbished, but without destroying the old and traditional features of the building.
As you walk through the hotel today, you will note that the Utne family’s interest in traditions has been handed down through the generations.
In 1969, the 4th Generation Utne, Edmund Harris Utne and his wife, Ina Torill became involved in the hotel’s operation. In 1972 they started with their major expanding plans.
The 4th Generation made Hotel Ullensvang what it is today: a state of the art and first-class hotel.
The 1995 Whitsun weekend saw the introduction of a very special event, the ‘Hardanger Music Festival’. For many years, Stig Nilsson of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra had been looking for a suitable location for a festival of classical music. Hotel Ullensvang in Hardanger was the ideal location.
The Music Festival is fully booked each year and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2005 – officially opened by H.M. Queen Sonja. Also present was the Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik with his wife; and the Icelandic Prime Minister, Asgrimson with his wife.
The 5th generation Utne, Hans Edmund Utne and his Swiss wife Barbara Zanoni Utne, joined the hotel in 2005 and ran it until 2021.
They created the Ullensvang Bath in 2013 with, among other things, a 88 meter along swimming channel in the garden.
In March 2021, the Utne family passed ownership of the iconic hotel situated on the shores of the world-renowned Hardanger Fjord to new owners H.I.G. Capital and JV partner and manager, Hamilton Hotel Partners.
Hamilton is an experienced operating partner, that has been active in the European hotel industry since 2004 and brings a wealth of experience managing multi-faceted resorts. Hamilton has successfully led the transition of several family-owned and operated resorts in the past.
The portfolio of hotels that Hamilton manages, asset manages and/or co-invests in comprises 50 hotels.
Hamilton is part of Boston-based Pyramid Hotel Group. Hamilton is investing in partnership with funds advised by H.I.G. Capital, LLC (‘H.I.G.’), a leading alternative assets investment firm. Together, the partners have a long-standing relationship in the European hotel sector.