A surprising sense of grandeur

Buying a Spanish property doesn't have to mean settling for a new-build villa, says Katy Pownall
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The Independent Online

You could be forgiven for associating Spain with new-build apartments and Mediterranean-style villas. This is, after all, the land where "mature gardens" tends to mean a few trees and an established lawn.

Certainly, on the bustling Costas del Sol and Blanca - the chief prowling grounds of the Brit in Spain - nothing really existed prior to 1950. Much of these coasts were simple fishing villages before the onslaught of tourism and high-rise. Whereas we all know France is teeming with chateaux and belles demeures, our expectation of Spain is more along the lines of off-plan frontline golf apartments within driving distance of a decent beach.

Perhaps, therefore, you might be surprised to find a sandstone castle dating back to 1065, just outside Gerona, on the market.

"The British might not expect to find historical property in Spain, but there is a lot of it about, particularly in Catalonia," explains Artur Stabinski, of Fincas Exclusivas, who are selling the castle. "In terms of early medieval castles, Spain probably has more than France, whose chateaux were mainly built in the 17th and 18th centuries."

Castillo de Peratallada is a prime example of an early medieval castle, and occupies an elevated central position in the historic, sandstone, town of Peratallada, in Girona Province.

Surrounded by a vast defensive moat and incorporating diverse architectural styles from Roman to Renaissance, the castle has evolved and grown over the centuries, and now houses a luxury hotel incorporating eight elegantly appointed suites, all of which feature period furnishings.

The accommodation centres around an 11th century patio de armas (a central terrace-cum-courtyard) which is currently a highly rated restaurant. The castle underwent a massive restoration in 1964 and is now on the market for a €10m (£6.9m) though offers will be considered.

This is a little beyond the average budget, admittedly, but then the average holiday-homer doesn't require an entire medieval castle to sate his or her craving for a refined residence. Savills offer a great compromise with a unique three-bedroom property that occupies one of the towers in the exterior walls of Castellar de la Frontera.

The house has a private walled garden and a roof-terrace as well as a kitchen, living/dining room, family bathroom, shower room and cloakroom. It is one of 30 dwellings housed within the castle and is on the market for just £248,400. Castellar de la Frontera itself is a formidable building: part Roman, part 11th century Moorish, which sits 20 minutes from Sotogrande on the Costa del Sol, and offers views over cork forests towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

Somewhat more modern is the magnificent stately home offered by Montiboli Estates, Finca Marbeuf. Though the property itself dates only from the early 18th century, the estate has existed since Moorish times and has an impressive pedigree. It even boasts its own royal connections as it was given to the Marbeuf family by King Felipe V, Spain's first Bourbon king (1683 - 1746).

The 2,000-square-metre house incorporates 20 bedrooms, 18 bathrooms, and a swimming pool while the 12,000-square-metre grounds contain landscaped gardens, parkland and a chapel. Finca Marbeuf is on the outskirts of the village of Muchamiel near Alicante. It is on the market for €5.25m (£3.6m) and the agents suggest it would be the perfect setting for a boutique hotel or parador.

Stabinski concurs that this is the main purpose for such large and impressive buildings. "A few years ago, many of our clients were wealthy Americans who wanted to own a castle or manor house just because they liked having a little piece of history," he explains. "Since the dollar weakened this market has really slowed down. Now buyers are mainly investors or business people who want to run luxury hotels.

"In a beautifully decorated castle you could probably charge as much as €350 to €400 per night. Of course you would need keen business skills to make any form of profit margin on such a massive outlay, and your marketing skills will have to be honed to ensure good occupancy rates, but it can be done."

And another swift glance over Fincas Exclusivas' portfolio reveals a promising option for such a venture. Palacete D'Orsa offers an excellent location in the Vallvidrera district of Barcelona, 10 minutes from the city centre and 20 minutes from the airport. Built in 1900, what this "small palace" lacks in history it makes up for in elegance and its wonderful views over the city and sea.

Currently divided into six suites with three living rooms, there is plenty of scope for extension into the unused upper floor. Palacete D'Orsa sits on a 2,000-square-metre plot containing a garden, terraces and swimming pool. The guide price is €7m(£4.8m).

It's not just the mainland that offers sumptuous historical property. Engel and Völkers have a 300-year-old finca complete with a tower in a secluded rural area in the north of Ibiza.

Enclosed by almost 50,000 square metres of landscaped gardens, the property incorporates original features such as terracotta floors and dark-wood beams. The accommodation includes a generous living space, a kitchen, a sitting room with fireplace, four bedrooms (three of which are en-suite).

The master suite is situated within the stone tower itself and comprises a spacious bedroom, a luxury bathroom and a dressing room, all of which offer views over the surrounding countryside. The property also has a fitness and spa area with several saunas, Turkish baths and a squash court. It is on the market for €3.5m (£2.4m).

Fincas Exclusivas

Tel: +34 902 190 167

Website: www.fincas-exclusivas.com

Engel & Völkers

Tel: 020 7351 6767

Website: www.engelvoelkers.com

Montiboli Estates

Tel: + 34 966 810 439

Website: www.montiboliestates.com


Tel: 0207 016 3740

Website: www.savills.com

History in the making

* Finca de la Belette offers many exquisite features of a grand historic property and only lacks age, with its pedigree established by appearances in high-profile advertising campaigns rather than centuries of illustrious inhabitants.

* Located on a 2.6-hectare estate in the hills above Marbella, the house and it's adjacent guest-house offer an unusual combination of classical and avant-garde design.

* Architectural features incorporated into the design include 17th-century supporting columns, medieval fireplaces, amd 18th-century doors - all mixed with modern glass-plate walls and neon lights.

* Finca de la Belette comes complete with a home-cinema, tennis courts, antique fountains, a small lake, and two swimming pools, one of which is built into the mountainside. The asking price for this piece of history-in-the-making is €3.43m (£2.36m), from Engel and Völkers.