Where's a savvy summer choice for a family with young children? Down on the farm in the cooler pastures of Asturias, says Chris Birkett

Casa Ana is in the hamlet of Cabriton, on a rolling plateau a few miles from the sea. It's surrounded by apple orchards and, in the local tradition, Alberto and Ana do a bit of home brewing.

That evening Alberto served the cider Asturian style, holding the bottle high above his head and tipping it with unerring accuracy into a glass held somewhere round his knees. It's served that way to give the flat, yeasty liquid a bit of fizz. You pour just a mouthful at a time and knock it back while the bubbles are fresh. Alberto handed me the bottle. My aim failed me and large quantities of cider poured on to the grass. My children, Pepa and Freddy, were intrigued: when Daddy spills his drink everyone laughs.

We were staying in one of two self-catering cottages attached to the main building, and right at the heart of farm life. In the past Ana's guests had been mainly Madrileños seeking refuge from the heat. This was the first season looking after the British and she'd equipped herself with a dictionary supplemented by sign language.

We were given the run of the farm: Pepa and Freddy were soon feeding hens as well as admiring chicks. They were more suspicious of the cows. Ana's breakfast was an optional treat. She crept into our cottage before the cockerel crowed and laid it out - a flask of coffee, fresh bread with homemade jam and bizcocho. The bizcocho was Ana's speciality - a light sponge cakemade with eggs laid by the same chickens the children had been chasing earlier. Later Pepa spent a flour-covered morning learning Ana's bizcocho secrets.

The nearest supermarket was a 15-minute drive away so we stocked up from the local food van. Bread, chorizo, leeks and bananas made the ingredients for a quick picnic in the farmyard. Wine cost 40p from the village shop. Not that we needed to eat in. The nearby market town of Villaviciosa had several cheap options. Typical was the Bar Sidreria Cervantes on the Plaza Generalissimo, which offered a three-course menu, including wine, for less than a fiver. Fabada Asturiana was the staple main course - a stew of white beans, black pudding, chorizo and great hunks of cured pork belly. At least the kids ate the beans and chorizo.

The farm was our base for exploring the dozens of beaches within striking distance. Some, like our nearest, Playa Meron, were virtually deserted. Others were in the low-key resorts that dot this coastline. Two of the best were Playa Rodiles just east of Villaviciosa and Playa Santa Marina in Ribadesella. Neither was crowded; both had loos, bars and places to buy ice-cream.

Our favourite resort was Llanes, a working fishing port with medieval alleyways and a perfect town beach: a crescent of gold sitting below a small cliff.

We travelled in June. Temperatures didn't reach the extremes of the south and most days had a bit of cloud. And every evening it was back to a familiar scene at our farm cottage: Ana's daughter Alba back from college, doing the farm chores, grandma Isabel hanging out the washing, Ana in the kitchen and Alberto, back from the fields, clutching a bottle of cider.

Chris Birkett stayed at Casa Ana, which costs from £440 per week. He booked through Blue Green Spain (020 7870 5648; www.bluegreen spain.com) which specialises in rental properties in Asturias

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