Where to stay: Royal Hideaway La Bobadilla, Andalusia
Images courtesy of Royal Hideaway La Bobadilla
Arriving at Royal Hideaway La Bobadilla after a particularly unpleasant journey involving a National Express coach crash en route to Luton airport, followed by a delayed EasyJet flight, is like entering a parallel universe. Even before we reach the reception desk, I’m handed a glass of chilled lemonade, which I enjoy in the cool, calming environs of the spacious lobby, whose tall columns and vaulted ceiling are inspired by Moorish design. From this Alhambra-esque space I’m ushered down to my enormous suite, which comes with a super-king-size bed, a bathtub big enough to swim in and a private garden with a lovely shaded area for reading or dining. On the table in the lounge area is a flacon of the local honey liqueur and a bottle of olive oil made on the estate, a welcome gift from the hotel. The horrors of Luton airport are instantly behind me and I’m ready to start exploring.
Built in 1985 and refurbished in 2005 when it was bought by the Barceló Group, this 67-room hotel is a sanctuary in the heart of the Andalusian countryside that lies within easy driving distance of Málaga, Granada and Seville – all ideal sightseeing destinations if you’re staying for long enough to get itchy feet. Our group of London-weary travellers, however, are more than happy to stay on the finca for the weekend, soaking up the Spanish sunshine, roaming through the olive groves (regular visitors are invited to plant their own olive-tree, returning over the years to watch it mature) and borrowing bicycles for an early-morning ride. The views from every corner of the 1,000-acre grounds are spectacular, with lush green planting stretching out as far as the eye can see against the dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
There’s a fully equipped gym and spa with steam-room and sauna inside the hotel, but in summer the real draw is the luxurious 1,000-square-metre outdoor pool, lagoon-like in its expanse. We take up residence on the sunbeds and are almost immediately brought towels and iced water (impressively, the hotel aims to employ a higher number of staff than guests at any one time, which explains the impeccable service). There’s a poolside cocktail bar for anyone craving a frozen margarita and, in high season, a dining area where guests can enjoy Mediterranean-style salads and light lunches. Indeed, gastronomy is one of La Bobadilla’s stand-out features: its two main restaurants, La Finca and El Cortijo, serve creative cuisine using authentic regional produce. The former, recognised as one of the finest in Granada, offers a tasting menu in which each course is inspired by a different continent: during our visit, we sample tangy, refreshing gazpachos, creamy truffle-based concoctions, white asparagus served with pistachio loaf and an indulgent dessert aptly named ‘the best of chocolate’. El Cortijo’s à la carte menu offers heartier portions while still celebrating local flavours, from baked goat’s cheese and freshly caught fish to leche frita, a Spanish speciality of fried custard dusted lightly with cinnamon sugar.
One of the loveliest things about this hotel is that it can be all things to all people. Our fellow guests include everyone from families whose children are happy to frolick about in the pool all day to young couples delighted to make the most of the tranquil rooms (one of which even comes with its own hot tub) before dining alfresco on the terrace. There’s the option to make your trip bespoke by arranging a class or workshop to suit your interests, whether you want to try your hand at cooking paella with the chef and his team, practise yoga beneath the shade of a palm-tree, learn the art of wine-tasting or simply enjoy a relaxing massage.
Beyond all that, there’s an indefinable magic that comes to the fore on our final night at La Bobadilla, which happens to fall on the eve of San Juan’s Day, when Spanish tradition dictates that we scribble a secret wish on a scrap of paper and throw it on a freshly lit bonfire. As we watch the flames consume our ritualistic offerings beneath the starlit sky, we all share in a fleeting sense of awe and mystery, and London feels very far away indeed...
Royal Hideaway La Bobadilla, from 160 euros a night for a Deluxe Superior Room on a B&B basis. Packages including flights are available through the luxury tour-operator Exsus Travel.
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