They describe Cortijo del Marques as ‘Granada’s best kept secret’, and we’re inclined to agree. Situated 20km north of city, the Cortijo has been beautifully restored without losing the rustic edge of a gentleman’s farm. We approached the hotel along a small private road, winding through olive groves and negotiating pot holes caused by weeks of rain; the journey was one of nervous suspense. Juddering along the drive, it’s hard to believe you’re approaching a luxury bolthole. But, just as doubt started to creep in, a gleaming white country house and quaint chapel came into view – both looking out over gentle hills that roll all the way to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. With the engine switched off, it was instantly clear that this is a place people come to slow down, forget the modern world and retreat into the calm of the countryside.
The Cortijo has ten rooms that weave around a pretty central courtyard verdant with orange trees. Each room has its own unique style, while retaining original features that have been preserved throughout the whole house; dark woods, terracotta stone, high beamed ceilings and exposed bricks. The Mirador is located within in the Cortijo’s tower with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside, while The Granary is sunk into the ground with a huge bathtub in one corner and iron four-poster bed in the other. In harmony with the Andalusian seasons, the Cortijo was originally designed to stay cool in summer and cosy in winter, and performs its function perfectly to this day.
We stayed in one of the junior suites – La Iglesia – which once belonged to the Cortijo’s visiting priest, with the private chapel situated just next door. There’s a vast living room with a cosy, light-filled bedroom beyond and large bathroom, and as with all the rooms, there’s a feeling of serenity and peace. Besides tasteful antique furniture and features including a huge cast iron bed, velvet sofa and roll top bath tub, the room has minimal decor or distractions. While the lack of mod cons such as a TV, mini bar and kettle could be frustrating for some, it helps you get stuck into the rustic ethos of the property and appreciate the simpler pleasures.
That said, eating at the Cortijo del Marques was anything but rustic. The dining room is situated in one of the converted barns, divided equally into a bar area with elegant leather sofas and a restaurant filled with white-linen covered tables. With large French doors opening onto a vast patio it was easy to imagine dining under the stars on a summer evening. On our first night we were treated to a feast of liver paté on broad beans, spinach with roasted peppers and Serrano ham, ox cheeks and chunky chips and a strawberry infused chocolate mousse to finish. The restaurant’s three-course set menu changes daily, and while we loved the simplicity of not having to choose, pickier eaters might want to inform the Cortijo in advance about customising their meals.
Each course was wonderfully fresh, just as you would hope from a farmhouse kitchen in the heart of Spain, and made all the better for being washed down with an excellent house Rioja. Breakfast was tasty and wholesome with freshly made bread, hams, cheeses, homemade jams, cereals, fruits and freshly pressed orange juice. For those that want to simply switch off and relax, there are tapas and drinks on offer all day, and the Cortijo del Marques features several communal spaces and a small swimming pool. Or if you fancy a little more exertion, the surrounding country lanes are perfect for a quiet walk.
After 24 hours it was remarkably easy and satisfying to drift into the communal nature of sharing the space with like-minded guests and the Cortijo’s owners. Given much longer, I could happily have slowed down so much that I might have forgotten the outside world altogether.
IN THE AREA…
Cortijo del Marques is in an excellent spot for exploring some of the best that Andalusia has to offer. Sandwiched between the Sierra del Pozuelo and the Sierra Arana – and not far from the highest point in the region – there’s a wide variety of activity-packed day trips to take in the area. One of our favourite hikes was the Los Cahorros canyon walk on the edge of the Sierra Nevada, where after scrambling through caves and over swing-bridges you climb above a spectacular gorge with Granada in the distance and mountains looming overhead.
For something a little less strenuous, Granada is only a 15 minute drive from the Cortijo. Between the cobbled, white-washed streets of El Albaicín, ancient wonder of the Alhambra and some of the country’s finest tapas bars, this is one of Spain’s most atmospheric cities. And if you still have time to spare the beach is only an hour’s drive away and the Sierra Nevada hosts Spain’s highest ski resort.
Cortijo del Marques is open between March and January but the best time to visit is between May and October. Rooms start from €90 euros including breakfast while dinner costs €25 per person. Car hire is essential. There are two family suites available and children are welcome. For more information, see cortijodelmarques.com. British Airways operates flights to Granada from London City Airport with prices starting at £183 return. For more information, see ba.com.