Early in October I was lucky enough to visit some fantastic small hotels, try some wonderful food and discover some beautiful landscapes in a part of Spain I had never visited before.
We all know about the beautiful historic cities of Seville, Granada and Cordoba, all fabulous destinations for a cultural weekend break, but this was a chance to go beyond the major cities and find some new spots for Scott Dunn guests to discover.
I did start, however, in Seville. This is the largest city in Andalucia, and arguably the most important city for many of the activities we associate with Spain and Southern Spain in particular. It’s home to one of Spain’s most important bullrings, one of its most ornate historic royal residences – the Alcazar – and, of course, a huge number of excellent tapas restaurants, not to mention the Flamenco venues! I was lucky enough to stay at the Corral del Rey, a tiny boutique hotel just a short walk away from the magnificent cathedral of Seville. The Corral del Rey has recently expanded into a second characteristic building in Seville’s old city, but is still a small and intimate hotel, offering attentive but discreet service and a selection of beautifully decorated rooms and suites. It’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the choice of furniture and antique nick-knacks in each room. For a real treat I recommend a stay in the Corral’s Penthouse – it has a rooftop plunge pool and awe-inspiring view over the famous Giralda bell tower from the terrace!
The sister hotel of the Corral is the Hacienda de San Rafael, a rural retreat located just 45 minutes outside Seville. Here too, the atmosphere is one of informal, relaxed luxury. 11 duplex rooms face into a bougainvillea-filled courtyard and three larger ‘Casitas’ or little houses are set a short distance away. The gardens offer a myriad of quiet spots for reading and relaxing, and not one but three swimming pools. Delicious local food is prepared in the Hacienda’s kitchens and a delicious set dinner is served in changing alfresco locations around the property. The Hacienda is located midway between Seville and historic Jerez, and its owners, who over the 20-odd years they’ve been running the property as a hotel, have built up a huge catalogue of excellent local contacts; know all the best places to visit; all the best guides; and, not least, all the best places to eat in the surrounding cities and famous ‘white villages’ which dot the landscape.
After an all too short stay, I headed south again, deeper still into the Andalucian countryside. After a tapas lunch and a quick nose around the scenic town of Arcos de la Frontera, my final stop was at a charming countryside retreat called Casa La Siesta. A lovingly restored rustic retreat, this charming mini-hotel consists of eight high-ceilinged, wooden beamed rooms in a cosy country style. As the hotel’s name suggests, it’s an excellent place to relax. Surrounded by gardens, the Casa has a large swimming pool and even small stables, where the team care for some docile rescue horses that guests can take out for rides and help care for. The service here is laid back and friendly, and here too the team have a wealth of suggestions for things to see and do nearby. The closest town of Vejer de la Frontera is charming, and offers some great restaurants. The fascinating city of Cadiz is a 45 minute drive away. However the real highlight for me is that in a 10 or 15 minutes’ drive you can find the surf beaches of Andalucia’s Atlantic Coast – unlike the Med, here you can expected to find unspoiled and deserted stretches of golden sand. Like the Hacienda, Casa La Siesta is small enough that it’s possible to take over the whole property for a party or event if you want to bring all your friends!
If you need any further incentive to visit this part of Spain – check the weather forecast! This part of Spain boasts daytime temperatures nearing 30 degrees all the way through October and beyond – so although you might want to avoid the heat of high summer, it’s perfect for a sunny escape when the weather’s turning nasty at home.
To find out more call our European Consultants on 020 8682 5080 or visit our website at scottdunn.com