10 Best: Spanish surprises
From manor lodges in Mallorca to arty attics in Andalucia, Alastair Sawday selects his favourite hideaways in Spain.
Finca de Palmer, Gaucín, Málaga
At the end of a long and sometimes steep track lies a swanky finca beneath the Ronda mountains with views to the distant Med.
Blissfully private, with bags of space, its sprawling, low-lying buildings rise up the hillside in gentle steps. You get a lot of house for your money.
Inside, ceilings are lofty and beamed, floors gleam beneath fine rugs and vast sofas. Modern art dots the walls.
Bedrooms have a smart rustic style with cool tiles and shuttered windows.
Pick fruit from the orchard, purchase homemade breads and jams or cool off in one of the pools (inside or out).
Details: €312 pp per week based on eight sharing. Tel: 0034 951 168 007; luxuryfincagaucin.com.
Casa la Cortina, Cabrales, Asturias
Wood predominates throughout this solid-beamed mountain farmhouse, which was virtually derelict before good-natured Carlos got to work on it.
An accomplished carpenter, he reclaimed train carriage floorboards and more for his cosy, no-frills, timber-framed, wood-encased rooms.
There are big bay windows and raised platforms from which to appreciate the astonishing mountain views. Oozing simple charm and character, the dark-wood cabin effect is offset by brightly tiled bathrooms, colourful quilts and cobalt-blue painted stonework.
Enjoy breakfast accompanied by Asturian panoramas you can actually walk into; the Camino Real trail passes nearby. Coast and little towns are a half-hour drive.
Details: From €55 a night for doubles. Tel: 0034 985 845 496; casacortina.es.
Finca Raims, Algaida, Mallorca
This 1750s manor house in the heart of Mallorquin winemaking country has been immaculately restored. Finca Raims might feel like a museum, were it not so warmly inviting.
Step through a large arched doorway into another world; an old, cobbled courtyard (with six massive casks in the well-stocked cellar below) leads to a lovely garden -- all cool corners and shady spaces. Ancient trees -- palms, pines, cedars -- reach for the sky, there's a little arbour for breakfasts and a sun terrace with pool and leafy pergola for evening drinks.
In the old stables, light, airy apartments are kitted out with smart white linen, seagrass matting and elegant heirlooms. Charming hosts Thomas and Jutta organise gourmet walking tours where you can sample the delights of the local countryside and cuisine.
Details: Doubles from €135. Tel: 0034 971 665 157; finca-raims.com.
La Casa del Pozo Santo, Seville
This 18th-century Sevillano house features 10 self-contained apartments.
Our favourite is the Ático, whose lofty terrace has sweeping views over the city's jumbled rooftops. All the apartments are immaculate, unfussy and equipped with mod cons in the kitchen and living room.
Pretty crushed-velvet fabrics and wooden shutters make bedrooms cosy and cool.
Some apartments can be linked for large families or groups, but it's also a great base for couples and small families, and helpful staff are ever to hand.
Outside the old iron-studded door lies one of the best food markets in Seville, the Museo de Bellas Artes and the fascinating Casa de Pilatos. The cathedral and endless tapas bars are a 10-minute walk away.
Details: From €90 per night for a family of four. Tel: 0034 954 216 912; casadelpozosanto.com.
Cortijo de la Jarilla, Alfornon, Granada, Andalucia
Three traditional newly built houses with red roofs, chestnut beams and terracotta floors nestle among a sea of almonds, olives and vines stretching out to the Med and over to Africa.
This farm in rural Alpujarra is run by a gregarious Scotsman keen to share this special spot.
The houses may be unusual -- filled with old books, paintings, and a smattering of antiques -- but outside is even better.
You get a large pool (ozone-filtered, no chlorine) vast panoramic views, a tennis court, barbecues, walking trails, a restaurant at the end of the track and beaches within a short drive.
A place to stretch and yawn perfect for family gatherings.
Details: From €525 per week. Tel: 0034 680 915 888; lajarilla.net.
Kaano Etxea, Arrarats, Navarra
The approach to KaaÃ±o Etxea is an adventure. The track zig-zags up through ancient forests, high above valleys shrouded in mist. Pull up at the most elevated house in the hamlet, 780m above sea level, pink-washed outside, earthy and homely within.
Bedrooms are spacious, comfortable, and charmingly rough and ready, the biggest and best with its own wood-burner. Stones are exposed and views sweep over forest and hills. You breakfast and dine at private tables in a darkly atmospheric room where the scent of woodsmoke hangs in the air.
The young owners are keen to please, and chef Alberta -- of Italian descent -- has mastered the art of the Basque 'bacalao': a proper treat after a day's forest-foraging, birdwatching or organic cheese sampling.
Details: Doubles from €65-€74. Tel: 0034 948 396 080; kaanoetxea.com.
Masia Novales, Jérica, Castellón
Close your eyes and inhale: fresh grass, grapevines, olives, almonds and, if it's dinner time, grilled local meats and organic vegetables wafting from the kitchen.
Then open them to see a chunky stone farmhouse, a saltwater pool, distant forests and a big sky. You can almost taste the tradition in this quintessential casa rural, but your hosts are a young, energetic family: Maria has a smile to break any ice and David, a TV cameraman, runs the farm.
Inside, pistachio and raspberry walls set off bare stone and beamed ceilings, shutters swing open to greenery and peace, and rocking chairs quiver before a fire in the rustic sitting room.
Borrow a bike and shoot down a Vía Verde trail to Sagunto port, hit the beach (30km) or hike Sierra de Espadán.
Details: Doubles from €700. Tel: 034 606 906 224; masianovales.com.
Can Lluís, Cistella, Gerona
High on a hill where goats roam and views stretch to the Pyrenees and the Med, an ancient olive farm has been brought back to life. Thanks to Dutch couple Carien and Rinus, stone buildings are scrubbed clean, the old jungle of land is now lawns, fig trees and a swimming pool, and olive trees produce their first oil for 40 years.
Guests can spread out in spacious apartments, each with en suite bedrooms, kitchen and sitting room cheered by log fires and handmade tiles.
Romantics may prefer the sweet wood gypsy caravan -- great fun. Children and dogs are welcome. Your hosts will point you to the best hiking and biking trails through quiet valleys and medieval villages. Figueras is 15 minutes; the beach at Roses half an hour.
Details: Apartments for four from €400 per week. Gypsy caravan for two from €250 per week. Tel: 0034 872 004 040; canlluis.es.
Cortijo Opazo, Pórtugos, Andalucia
Herbaceous borders, hidden corners, restful chairs, a tranquil pond and heart-lifting colours throughout the year.
Garden designer William and partner Robert have created a little paradise from a rocky hillside in the Alpujarras, on the edge of the national park.
Champions of sustainability, the couple converted a derelict farmhouse and developed two apartments, simple and open plan, using local stone, salvaged timber and traditional techniques.
There are chestnut beams and terracotta floors and wood-burning stoves. Walks start from the door -- the views are amazing and Granada's an easy drive.
If you tire of cheffing, treat yourself to one of your gentle hosts' dinners, a feast of garden produce.
Details: From €320 per week for four. Tel: 0034 958 064 018; cortijoopazo.com.
Pension La Pisa, Cabezon de Liebana, Cantabria
You can almost reach out and touch the steep wooded hillsides of the sunny Liébana valley which hug this tiny hamlet.
Opposite an old waterwheel where sheep's fleeces were once pounded into Cantabrian felt lies a robust Spanish farmhouse run by Welsh couple John and Gwynneth.
John cooks tasty dishes -- local lamb, black pudding, apricot crumble, home-churned ice cream -- served at bright tables in a fire-flickered dining room.
Before dinner, mingle with locals in the bar or take a drink out to the suntrap terrace, or the large lawn where children can play; all you hear is a gurgling stream and birdsong.
You're close to Fuente Dé cable car and the Picos town of Potes.
Details: Doubles from €45- €55. Tel: 0034 942 744 539; lapisa.co.uk.