Nestled in the Montecito foothills of Southern California not too far from Santa Barbara is San Ysidro Ranch. The romantic location, beautiful gardens and the classic luxury it offers have been a draw for discriminating travelers for over a century. John and Jackie Kennedy honeymoon here! We took a peek at this beautiful ranch, had lunch and wandered the gardens at San Ysidro Ranch during one of our California road trips.
The History behind the Ranch
The ranch was originally part of land titled in 1769 by the King of Spain and served as a way station for the Franciscan monks in the late 1700s. It was a working citrus ranch in the 1800s, and hosted its first guests in 1893. Back in the 1930s, Hollywood actor Ronald Colman and hotelier and former Senator Alvin Carl Weingand acquired the Ranch and transformed it into what it is today. Over the years range many celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx to Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham and Sinclair Lewis have stayed here. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married at the Ranch. Entrepreneur Ty Warner acquired the San Ysidro Ranch in 2000 and it is now part of the exclusive collection of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, LLC and part of the Leading Hotels of the World.
The origin of the Ranch’s name is embodied in the legend surrounding its namesake, Saint Isidore. San Ysidro (Spanish for Saint Isidore) was born into poverty in Madrid in 1070. He worked as a farm laborer in the fields of a wealthy nobleman. According to legend, because Isidore spent much of his time tending to the sick and needy, the Lord sent an angel to help him plow the fields. Hence, San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, is always shown surrounded by a plow, oxen, and an angel – San Ysidro Ranch.
San Ysidro Ranch California
Sandwiched between Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, San Ysidro Ranch sits amid 500 rolling acres. Guests enjoy an unspoiled coastal landscape and 360 views all the way to the Channel Islands beyond Santa Barbara. We stayed at a beachfront property nearby and came to walk among the rose gardens, canopies of Eucalyptus, fragrant Magnolia, lemons and lavender blossoms. Located in the countryside with its gentle hills and canyons, basking in that California golden glow, the resort is a slice of paradise.
We had just come from a visiting the eclectic Lotusland but I guess I hadn’t had my fill of California gardens. We wandered through the tree line pathway that leads up to private cottages built into the hillsides. All accommodations at the ranch are built in classic bungalow style, each is individually decorated, with fireplaces or stoves and decks with sweeping views and outdoor hot tubs. There is a hillside pool inside the property with views of the gardens and miles of hiking in the trails nearby. It feels like the kinda place you would go to quieten the mind and listen to your soul, let nature do its thing.
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
THE EARTH SMILES IN FLOWERSRalph Waldo Emerson
…it feels like she smiles more in California!
The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch
At some point in it glorious history, San Ysidro Ranch was a working citrus ranch. The San Ysidro Citrus Ranch as it was called, harvested an average of 300,000 oranges and 100,000 lemons annually. It would later become the Johnston Fruit Company. The large sandstone citrus packing house is where the romantic Stonehouse restaurant is now.
San Ysidro Ranch provides a couple of premier dining options, The Plow Angel and The Stonehouse. Each featuring a menu that uses herbs and vegetables grown right here in their organic gardens. The Plow and Angle is perfect for a cozy dinner you can enjoy surrounded original artwork, gorgeous stained-glass windows and the ranch’s namesake, Saint Isadore, hanging above a fireplace. Guests can arrange for intimate dining at the wine cellar in the original 1825 Old Adobe Cottage.
We sat for a bit at the relaxing lounge where once the Kennedy’s might have sat while we waited for our table to be ready. There is a separate indoor dining room with a crackling fireplace and creekside views but I had asked for a table outside.
We enjoyed our lovely lunch at the patio with views of the gardens. The deck had a wood-burning fireplace and even heated stone flooring. We could see why The Stonehouse is celebrated as one of the romantic restaurants in Santa Barbara. If you are visiting Santa Barbara, Bouchon is another great restaurant we loved.
San Ysidro Ranch is located at 900 San Ysidro Ln, Montecito, CA 93108. Make a reservation for the Stonehouse here.