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Let's Spend The Night Together: Parador De Santa Catalina, Jaen

Andalucia's least known provincial capital boasts one of the finest paradors in Spain, overlooking vast plantations of olive groves from a rocky outcrop more than 2,000 feet above sea level. From a distance, the parador looks as old as the mighty medieval castle next door, reflected in its high-vaulted ceilings and baronial furnishings. In fact, it dates back no further than 1965. One of the parador's most appealing features is its lovely outdoor swimming pool, peaceful and private amid the gardens.

LOCATION

Castillo de Santa Catalina, Jaen, Andalucia (00 34 953 230 000; www.parador.es). Jaen's best address is 4km north-west of the town centre. The fortress itself started life as a Moorish construction in the eighth century, but has been much remodelled.

Time from international airport: Seville is four hours away by bus (€24.26/£17) and just under three hours by train (€14.40/£10), but the latter runs only once a day, whereas there are four daily bus services. A taxi from the town centre costs about €10 (£7).

COMFORTABLE?

The parador's 45 rooms each have a minibar, safe and sizeable balcony, with spectacular views of the olive groves and mountains. The tiled floors, rugs and furniture have a strongly Arabic flavour, but - as is common in Andalucia - only six of the rooms have double beds.

Freebies: Bathroom toiletries are standard parador fare, but generally not exotic.

Keeping in touch: All rooms have satellite TV. A single terminal in the lobby provides free broadband access to the internet.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at a very reasonable €125 (£89), rising to €157 (£112) if you want to be properly baronial by spending the night in a four-poster bed. Buffet breakfast is an extra €11 (£7.80) per person.

I'm not paying that: Husa Europa at Plaza de Belen, 1 (00 34 953 222 700; www.husa.es) is both quiet and within walking distance of the city centre. Double rooms start from €55 (£39).

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