Where to find the soul of Spain's Moorish hinterland

In a national park near the Moorish city of Lorca, Laura Latham discovers the kind of Spanish landscape she thought had been lost for ever
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The Independent Online

The coast of Murcia, in southern Spain, is having a bit of a boom. Swamped with new-build resorts and golf courses, the area is experiencing unprecedented development. But head away from the coast and you'll find a different Murcia, one that has, so far, retained its authenticity.

The small cathedral city of Lorca is only around 20 minutes inland and offers a beautiful historic centre, a mix of winding Moorish alleyways and Baroque architecture. It is also in a picturesque location, surrounded by the fabulous scenery of the Sierra Espuna national park and large open networks of fields. In this countryside you won't find vast, soulless urban developments but individual villas or farmhouses, while in Lorca's narrow streets and lively bars life goes on much as it always has.

Mike Hamilton of the Casas de Lorca agency calls the city, "one of the secrets of the Murcia region", and says that it remains somewhere people that people migrate to in order to immerse themselves in Spanish culture. "It's one of the only remaining areas which is close to the coast in the south of Spain yet is still very Spanish," he says.

Property in the region ranges from small, village, houses costing between £20,000 and £100,000, depending on size, location and condition, to new-build villas on large plots in the countryside, with views of the mountains. Hamilton says that this is what the majority of his buyers are looking for. "Most people visiting the area are buying inland of Lorca. This is due to the beautiful scenery and incredible value for money," he explains. "A three-bedroomed luxury villa on five acres of land is under £170,000."

Hamilton warns that much of the older resale property in the town and countryside is in need of some form of restoration and this can cancel out any saving made on the purchase. But if a cheap little Spanish pied-à-terre is what you're after, Hamilton has several in need of work, some costing as little as £12,000, and he'll help you get an architect's report so you know what you're getting yourself into.

New apartments on the edge of town are also available for those who want a low-maintenance property. These tend to cost around £70,000, but won't necessarily have the character you may be looking for. For a something in Lorca's historic centre, prices are more likely to be £120,000 for a good, two-bedroomed apartment.

However, the days of quiet growth for Lorca may soon be over. A university is scheduled to open next year and the city is too well situated to be ignored. Not only is it less than half an hour to the nearest beaches, soon to be linked by a new coastal highway, but the planned Corvera airport will be just 30 minutes away and will open up this corner of Spain. Hopefully, even in the face of these changes, Lorca will still mange to hold onto something of its historic, special, Spanish charm.

Casas de Lorca: +34 968 477 501; www.casasdelorca.net