Almohalla 51, Spain: B&B and Beyond
Two derelict houses in the quiet town of Archidona have been transformed in cool, pale shades. Alice Jones checks in
Almohalla 51 was recently voted the Best B&B in Spain by TripAdvisor users. What makes it an award-winner? Its plum location helps, in the white hilltop town of Archidona, less than an hour from both the beaches of Malaga and Granada's Alhambra. Malaga airport is closer still, making it an easy option for a weekend break or a good base for a tour of Andalucia.
It is a gorgeous property too, more boutique guesthouse than B&B – two derelict houses converted into a comfy warren of whitewashed walls, solid beams and stone floors. Throughout there are loving nods to the history of the house and the area. A roof terrace with a small pool and a few loungers is a suntrap during the day. In the evening, its tiny bar with low-slung chairs, cushions and a fridge full of Cruzcampo beer, is a peaceful place to watch the sunset.
There are five rooms – a mixture of doubles, twins and one duplex (Room 3, which has the best sunset views). The conversion means that each is quirkily shaped – a sloping roof here, a cubbyhole or a tiny window there. The design is deliberately simple: antique brass bedsteads and dark wooden furniture set alongside white walls and modern bathrooms. In two rooms the en suites are open plan, half-hidden behind curved "vanity walls". There is no air-conditioning but shutters, thick stone walls and a standing fan help to combat the summer heat. Each room has an iPod dock and there is free Wi-Fi.
Beam me up: a sloping roof in one of the rooms Guests are given front door keys to come and go as they please. Honesty bars for tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and snacks in the dining room and on the roof terrace, and shelves stuffed with books and DVDs in the snug, add to the homely ambience.
It is the attention to detail, surely, that won Almohalla 51 its recent plaudit and breakfast is a shining example. Served on a shady terrace or in the dining room, it is a multi-stage operation. First, fresh juice and pots of bracing coffee, then the fruit salad of the day (watermelon and mint, say, or pineapple and dates), followed by eggs any style, with salty local cheese and ham, toast with butter and fig jam. Delicious.
Londoners David Matthews and Myles Rainsford, opened Almohalla 51 two years ago. It is their first guesthouse but not their first property conversion. Both have backgrounds in travel and marketing and Myles spent his childhood nearby. Their local knowledge deserves a prize in itself. They offer advice on everything from the best tapas bars in Granada to the most convenient car parks in Malaga, as well as arranging horse-riding tours, walks and airport transfers.
They are also evangelical about the sleepy pleasures of Archidona. Having helped the neighbourhood restaurants translate their menus into English, they are well placed to give tips on the best places and times to eat, even on which dishes to order.
Archidona is a small, quiet working Spanish town, as yet untouched by tourism. Its historic and social heart, the Plaza Ochavada, an unusual octagonal focal point bordered by bars and restaurants, is five minutes' walk down the hill from Almohalla 51.
For a day trip, the historic town of Antequera, with its Baroque architecture, 30-plus churches and dolmens (ancient burial sites) is half an hour by car. A further 20-minute wind up into the hills leads to the otherworldly "pancake" rock formations of El Torcal (torcaldeantequera.com) from which the mountain views are dizzying.
Meanwhile, the dazzling cities of Granada and Cordoba are an hour's drive away, Seville an hour and a half.
Archidona has a handful of tapas restaurants. The oldest and best is Bar Central (00 34 952 717 469), about four minutes' walk from Almohalla 51. The chargrilled asparagus with jamón and fried aubergines drizzled in cane honey are highlights. For more Ferran Adrià-inspired food, the cave-like Arxiduna (00 34 667 916 148) offers fusion tapas featuring duck and venison. Sit outside for the full Plaza Ochevada experience.
Calle Almohalla 51, Archidona, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain (00 34 952 716 370; almohalla51.com). Double rooms start at €85 (£68), including breakfast. Stay for four nights or more during July and August and receive €40 (£32) off the bill, a bottle of cava on arrival and an introduction to local tapas.
Alice Jones flew with easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com), which offers flights to Malaga from 10 UK airports, with prices starting from £23.99 per person one-way. She hired a car with carrentals.co.uk which offers hire from £8 per day from Malaga airport.
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