Fountainhead

Near Riogordo, Malaga & Cordoba, Spain Book from Book from £194 per night

A remarkable suite-retreat in the mountains close to Málaga, offering complete respite for body, mind and spirit
If utter peace, privacy and intimacy coupled with superb food and wine make up your vision of a holiday Shangri-la, this will be your kind of place. Helen Bartlett and Peter Jewkes took a leap of faith to create this unusual hideaway hotel on a remote hillside with no TVs, no communal pool or sitting room, and just 4 guest suites. But Fountainhead is about other things. You come here to unwind, to recharge your inner batteries and, above all, to rediscover the sheer pleasure of feeling so removed from the commonplace.

The mood is set by a raked Zen garden which leads guests through a moon gate to the 4 suites, via fishponds, sculptural cacti, palm, agave and papyrus. This is a place where you can arrive early and leave late: Helen's philosophy is 'privacy and personal service', so expect few rules. The flamboyant rooms are a decorative flight of fantasy and the restaurant is just as extraordinary, offering creative, gourmet cuisine and one of Andalucia's most informative wine lists.

Highs

  • The suites are totally private, and each has an intimate outdoor terrace and plunge pool
  • There are soaring views across the surrounding olive and almond groves to the distant mountains
  • Your hosts are unobtrusive yet constantly caring, and are always mindful of your space
  • You'll find colourful, flamboyant and theatrical decoration throughout
  • The food is in a league of its own, and Peter's wine list is a tour de force

Lows

  • You have to assemble your own breakfast, but all of the ingredients are in or delivered to your suite, and it allows you to be more private
  • Some might find the suites a bit too ornate
  • Rooms and food come with a hefty price tag but are still, we think, fairly priced
  • The track leading to the hotel is pretty steep and rough in parts; bring your sense of adventure

Best time to go

One of the main reasons for choosing this place would be to make the most of your terrace and pool, which means you'd ideally visit some time between May and late September. It would be nice at other times of year but taking the plunge would have less appeal.

Our top tips

Don't forget to take your walking boots if you want to explore the stunning countryside around Fountainhead. And with such scrummy food on offer you may be keen to burn off a few recently acquired calories.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 4
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Sultan Suite

Rooms

There are just 4 suites at Fountainhead. Each is clean cut and modern, with its own plunge pool and outdoor terrace with loungers, as well as table and chairs for alfresco dining. Inside, there are fully-equipped kitchenettes, sitting rooms with either a sofa or cushioned bench seating, wood stoves, Casablanca fans, air conditioning and radio/CD players.

Each room takes its cue from its name and they all have the feel of an Aladdin’s cave, with more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek fun. The designer has given her theatricality free rein in her choice of fabrics: silk, damask, embroidered satin, taffeta and voile have all been colour-matched, as have vases, lamps and cushions. Outside, however, we felt the patios' bold blue were slightly out of synch with the beautiful themes inside.

Sultan has a blue, turquoise and gold colour scheme - this suite is suitable for disabled guests. Outside, its plunge pool has been gated with kids in mind. An annexe has recently been added to one side of Sultan's courtyard. It has a writing desk, a sofabed and jazzy paintings, as well as a small shower room and separate loo (available with the main Sultan Suite for an additional charge). Sultan would be perfect for any author wanting to hide away and find inspiration in the tranquility and beauty of the area.

Oriental has a ritzy and seductive mood and is decorated in reds and blacks. Indian carries on the eastern theme but has a lighter, more dreamy feel and a beautiful carved wooden bench, while in Arizona the backdrop is white, with splashes of taupe and blue to create a sunny, more expansive mood. This suite has a larger plunge pool, a deck and a second small bedroom which can sleep 1 or, at a stretch, 2 children.

All suites have fair-sized bathrooms curtained off from the main bedroom, with Jacuzzi bathtubs and overhead showers.

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Kitchenette
  • Plunge pool

Eating

The restaurant, open to non-residents at weekends, was born a couple of years before the suites. This is where Helen, the designer, restaurateur and chef, reveals her artistic sensitivity in her cooking.

Presentation is picture perfect, seasonal veg is sacrosanct, local produce is sourced whenever possible and olive oil, the cornerstone of the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, is produced from Fountainhead's olive crop. A further treat comes in the form of Peter's amazing wine menu. It includes more than 60 Spanish wines from - amongst others - La Rioja, Rueda, Toro, Jumilla, Priorat, Jumilla and Rias Baixas, all with his own evaluation. Most bottles are reasonably priced whilst, if you're feeling flush and fancy, the best Billecart French champagne and finest Ribera del Duero are on the list, too.

Dinner kicks off with an aperitif in the bar along with olives flavoured with ginger, cumin and orange, a bowl of roasted almonds and some other amuse-bouches which changes from day to day. There's a choice of 5 starters, 5 mains and 5 desserts. We chose Lebanese meatballs with harissa and deep-fried fish cakes with fresh coriander, ginger and chilli sauce as starters, then for the main course we opted for the lamb - it came with a confit of aubergine, red onion, lentil, cumin and thyme, and a seared tuna served with olives, capers, lemon and tomato. Everything we ate was aromatic, eye-catching and delicious - and our desserts - an apple and almond strudel with nutmeg ice cream and an orange and prune custard tart - were fabulous, too.

Lunch can be arranged in the restaurant but there is also a traiteur (deli) menu on offer, with a selection of tapas or warm herb bread with chorizo, tomato and grilled fresh cheese, which will be delivered to your suite. There are also basic cooking utensils in each kitchenette should you prefer to whip up a sandwich or salad.

Breakfasts are another example of the quirkiness of Fountainhead. You'll find most of the ingredients for this in your kitchenette's fridge - milk, local butter and eggs, fresh yoghurt, cold meats, cheese, homemade marmalade and chutney, fresh orange juice - and a basketful of hot croissants, pastries and home-baked bread will be delivered to your suite door at your chosen time.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Restaurant & lounge bar
Activity: Terrace view

Activities

  • Hike straight out into the surrounding mountains and explore. Keep your eyes peeled for hoopoes, bee eaters, eagles and woodpeckers, and for unusual wild flowers: orchids, field gladioli, wild sweet peas and barbary nuts
  • Head down to the hotel's Bath House, where you can float in a deep relaxation bath of salt and essential oils in the dark then have spa treatments or a massage. Afterwards, practise your yoga in the pavillion. One-to-one lessons can be arranged by reception
  • Head for the beach. You can reach the sea in less than an hour and there are, believe it or not, still a couple of good beaches to the east of Málaga
  • Spend a few hours in Málaga visiting Gibralfaro Castle, the Picasso museum and its waterfront bars and restaurants
  • Take a day trip to Granada, less than 2 hours' drive from Fountainhead, and stroll round the awesome Alhambra, a maze of palaces and gardens built between the 13th and 15th centuries by the Nasrid sultans

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome. Cots can be provided at no extra charge in any suite and baby-sitting can be arranged on request. Bear in mind that the atmosphere is a one of tranquility and retreat, so it's not ideal for boisterous teenagers.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Arizona suite has a small extra bedroom (for 1 child or 2 small children), a large deck and a plunge pool. The Sultan has a gated pool and, when booked with the new annexe, can accommodate a third bed.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 7 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

We thoroughly enjoyed a one night stay at the Fountainhead for my wife's birthday treat and had the whole place to ourselves. The accommodation was superb and the food cooked by Helen in the evening was delicious and well presented. The breakfast in the room is a great idea with the warm bread and rolls being delivered to our door at a time of our choice. We highly recommend Fountainhead as a wonderful peaceful retreat and we will definitely be back again! Thanks Peter and Helen.

10/10, , January 2017

I particularly liked that the hotel is small, only 4 suites. Having a private terrace with such a fabulous view and waking up to that every day was just lovely. It is a family business and everyone is involved in running it. Service was warm, friendly and helpful. Peter was great fun! Having breakfast at our own pace and enjoying a fabulous 2 or 3 course meal every night was great. Wine is very good and well-priced. Loved the bath house! We were in the Indian suite and although it is beautifully and thoughtfully decorated, and you have everything you need, some of the items got in the way of using the space. Particularly in the bedroom - A small low table and 2 low chairs you would not use, and the door to the bathroom was awkward to open and close. There's a lovely part in the garden (on the hill) where there is a room you can use to do yoga, stretch or mediate and a hammock nearby. We only discovered this on our last full day and if I had known about it, I would have used it. This room is free to use whereas you rent the gym by the hour if you wish to use that. <br> <br>The hotel provides good info on what to see and do in the area - local drives and walks. Recommend doing these as you get to see the area of Axarquia. Go to Comares for a stroll around the town to see the views. The town is built on the very top of a mountain and you have to take this long and winding road to get there. Had lunch at Bar Molina in Riogordo. It was good. Straightforward tapas like food. A racion portion is large and could easily be shared among 3-4 people. If you go to Granada and drive, take the A roads back to Fountainhead via Alhama de Granada and Venta de Zafarraya. After the latter, you go through this mountain pass and the views are amazing.

10/10, , September 2016

Fountainhead is a relaxing, restorative retreat for overworked urbanites. The beauty of the surrounding countryside and gardens are stunning; the view from our terrace (the Sultan Suite) was breathtaking. Our hosts were both convivial and respectful of our privacy; a special mention goes to Angus, who made our time feel both special and relaxed. The food is astoundingly good: some of the best we have ever eaten. We did a couple of walks in the surrounding hills (be warned - it's steep) and we stopped to bird-watch and look over the views of the lush valley, laden with fruit trees. The nearby town, Riogordo, is pretty and friendly without a ‘full English breakfast’ sign in sight. Our room's kitchenette is perfectly equipped and we enjoyed preparing our own breakfasts, once the warm breads had been delivered. There is a roomy, cool bathroom with, lovely home-made toiletries and a large Jacuzzi with a view. Thank you i-escape – Fountainhead was exactly what we needed plus much more – simply magical.

10/10, , June 2016

The concept, facilities, service and especially the food went way beyond our expectations. Initially we were a little put off by the intimidating access road but came to realise that since we never wanted to leave anyway, this was a positive, rather than a negative! Can't wait to go back. Thank you so much for an unforgettable stay!

10/10, , July 2015

Our week at Fountainhead was just what we were looking for - a relaxing break in the sun with great food and peaceful surroundings. <br>We loved the Arizona room and the private terrace with the views down the valley. Peter and Angus looked after us very well indeed, really helpful easy going fellas. The food was outstanding, 7 days = 42 courses with no complaints. Really great choice of wine too. We enjoyed a couple of lunches in Restaurante El Puerto in Casabermeja too, however the tapas at lunchtime at Fountainhead is amazing. <br>A couple of issues; the bed was a bit hard for us and the shower didn't drain, but there were 2 showers and choked drains seem to be quite common in Spain. Peter was arranging to have it fixed. Neither of these things detract from a five star rating. We might even do the same again next year.

10/10, , October 2014

An idyllic location and lovely room with privacy and amazing attention to detail. The value was excellent for us as we had the 3 course dinner deal included otherwise maybe a little on pricey side but worth it for a special romantic break. Only slight criticism was though the food was excellently prepared/cooked, the menu was perhaps more aimed at serving modern european/continental food for ex pats living out there missing a taste of home? and there was a lack for us of spanish influence on the menu - would have loved to see a paella etc. or more spanish influenced dishes. The wine list was fantastic though and the food that did come was very tasty.

9/10, , September 2014

We really enjoyed our stay at Fountainhead with our two boys (age 7 and 3). The location is superb with stunning views of the mountains, good food, personal service and the suite we stayed in was absolutely fantastic (Arizona). We are definitely dropping by another time!

10/10, , July 2014

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Rates for Fountainhead