Casa Olea

Near Priego de Cordoba, Malaga & Cordoba, Spain Book from Eur110

A congenial, intimate and good-value guesthouse in the unspoilt Sierra Subbética's vast olive belt, ideal for walkers and foodies
A quintessential vision of Andalucia: undulating olive groves, limestone outcrops topped by Arab watchtowers, eagles wheeling overhead and that glorious sense of space. It's easy to see why English owners Tim and Claire chose to build their Shangri La in this leafy valley in the unspoilt Subbética hills then named it after the olea europaea (olive tree). He worked as a tour guide in Latin America, she with a swish hotel group, and with their shared nous they have fashioned this former cortijo into a remote rural retreat where the beauty is in every detail.

First to greet you will be Ruby, a lolloping mutt who's the third member of the Olea triumvirate. Moving inside things feel big and airy, with a spectacular double-height stairwell leading up to the 6 simple, stylish and surprisingly cheap bedrooms. For a large part of the year life gravitates to a river-facing terrace where you're accompanied by birdsong during the day and the call of a Scops owl when darkness falls. It's a perfect base for escapism; Tim has mapped out walking routes and cycle rides straight from the house, and there are fascinating villages on your doorstep for day visits. And we applaud Olea's eco approach, in which recycling and sustainability play lead roles.

Highs

  • You're far from the madding crowd in beautiful walking country, yet Córdoba and Granada are within easy driving range
  • The house is infused with a relaxed vibe and Tim and Claire are friendly, caring hosts
  • Dinners, served 5-6 nights a week, are a celebration of local produce and highlight the best Andalucian culinary creations
  • There's a pool with a view, loungers and hammocks, plus a cosy sitting room with a log fire
  • Underfloor heating throughout the house is a big plus when temperatures drop in the cooler months

Lows

  • Expect to hear the occasional passing car if you book one of the rooms which face the road (Olivo and Nogal)
  • Alfresco meals on the terrace feel just a tad cramped when all guests are dining in-house
  • There are no restaurants within walking distance, so you'll need to drive for meals on the nights when dinner isn't served at the casa

Best time to go

Spring and autumn are best for walking, with sunny days and balmy temperatures. July and August are very hot (30C plus), but the house has air conditioning throughout. Winter (December to February) generally brings clear skies - you may spot snow on the highest peaks of the distant Sierra Nevada - but be prepared for the odd bout of cloud and rain. Temperatures can drop below zero at night, but a log fire in the lounge and underfloor heating throughout make Casa Olea wonderfully cosy.

Our top tips

Be sure to visit the nearest town, Priego de Córdoba, an all but unknown gem of southern Spain. Check out its delightful main square, its ancient Jewish quarter and the flamboyant Fuente del Rey: the first time I stumbled upon Priego's take on a Versailles-style fountain it left me open-mouthed... why all this over-the-top opulence in such a sleepy little town?

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 6
  • Breakfast (+ dinner 5-6 nights per week)
  • Over 7s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 6 bedrooms are on the first floor, reached via a lofty stairwell whose vast picture window frames the most sylvan of valley views. Doors, windows, tables, wardrobes and desks were fashioned by local craftsmen, as were the ceramic name plaques for each room: they take their names from the trees that grow on the farm. Decorative artefacts have been kept to a minimum in keeping with Tim's 'less is more' philosophy: a brightly-coloured Guatemalan huipil (embroidered shirt) as a wall hanging, a framed collage of photographs from Rajasthan, ceramic pots from Peru and Mexico, a plain green door hung picture-like above a bed. The overall vibe is slightly monastic and very relaxing.

All beds can be made up as twins or super-kingsize doubles. Expect Egyptian cotton bedding, air conditioning, and underfloor heating in both bedroom and bathroom. Towels are provided, along with ecological toiletries in refillable dispensers.

Olivo (Olive) faces southwest along the valley and is the only room with a private terrace. It has a rain shower but no bath. Nogal (Walnut) looks out to the tree of its name and has the biggest bathroom of all, with a separate tub and shower. Membrillo (Quince) is a light-infused room with 2 high French windows, twin balconies, and a bath topped by a high rain shower.

My favourite rooms were those facing the leafy course of the river. Of these, Granado (Pomegranate) and Higuera (Fig) have showers only, whilst big and airy Almendro, where I stayed, has a tub and an overhead shower. It has one balconied French window opening out towards the river and a second framing a hilltop Moorish tower, with antique washboards serving as a backdrop to the beds.

Three rooms - Membrillo, Nogal and Almendro - can accommodate an extra bed so are ideal for parents travelling with a child or 3 solo travellers.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • IPod dock (on request)
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The airy dining room and bar take centre stage at Casa Olea, and the culinary offering reflects the same TLC that has been lavished on the rest of the house.

A buffet breakfast is laid out between 8.30 and 10am; whenever the weather allows tables are set up on the terrace, among birdsong and dappled light. There are cold cuts, local cheeses, sliced tomatoes, cereals, yoghurts, masses of fruit, boxed juices, the best ground coffee and a selection of teas, as well as Claire's homemade jams, cakes and biscuits.

Simple picnics can be made up for lunch, and dinner is served 5-6 nights a week (days vary according to demand). Most evenings you choose between 2 starters and 2 mains - one of which is always a veggie option - followed by a surprise dessert prepared fresh on the day by Claire. You might get gazpacho, leak and bean salad, tomato with chorizo, or feta with roasted peppers. On one evening Claire prepares a huge paella, and on another there’s a more informal supper of tablas (platters) of meats and cheeses. Dinner really comes into its own when it's warm enough to eat outside, accompanied by flickering lanterns and the occasional hoot of an owl.

Tim will be on hand to help you choose your wine: a ceramic map in the dining room depicts the different wine regions of Spain and speaks of his interest in things oenological. Local bodegas take pride of place in his selection.

When dinner isn't available at the guesthouse, you'll find some great little restaurants within a 15-minute drive. In Priego de Córdoba, La Noria, in a pretty square next to the castle, is the top choice for traditional cuisine. In the picture-perfect village of Zagrilla La Fuente has oodles of local flavour and homecooked food of the slow variety.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Food and wine
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Walk straight out from the house in the company of Ruby, your new canine friend, or follow one of Tim's longer routes, which cover some of the best trails in the Subbética and take you past sleepy villages, wooded valleys and the crumbling Moorish watchtowers that dot the landscape

  • Grab one of Casa Olea’s 4 mountain bikes, ask for a picnic, and explore the surrounding hills and valleys on 2 wheels. A trail known as the Vía Verde, which follows the route of a former railway, makes for a particularly scenic cycle

  • Check out the Roman mosaics and murals in nearby Almedenilla

  • Drive a quarter of an hour to the pretty whitewashed hamlet of Zagrilla, where an enormous spring wells up and there's a friendly local restaurant for leisurely alfresco dining

  • Visit a bodega in Montilla to sample the local fino wine, or head to an olive mill during harvest season (December-February) to see the oil-making process first hand. Back at the casa, Tim arranges free olive oil tastings for all guests booking through i-escape

  • Take a day trip to the Alhambra in Granada or the mezquita in Córdoba, both around an hour away by car

  • Visit the Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, which lie just over an hour away near Jaén

  • Back at the casa, chill by the pool or scan the greenery for birdlife with your binoculars

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Food and wine
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting

Kids

No children under the age of 7 are allowed, except when the whole house is booked. Three of the 6 rooms (Membrillo, Nogal and Almendro) are large enough for an extra bed. Older children will enjoy exploring the hills by bike.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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