“A remote, romantic and rocky retreat in the stunning Matarrana mountains: think lovers' den, hiking hideaway, or secluded house party for 10-20”
Alastair wanted his guest rooms to be functional and comfortable, with no hint of anything corporate. So the building's base elements of beams, wooden floors, terracotta tiles and stone are pepped up by richly-coloured fabrics, oil paintings, maps and prints, as well as funky ethno-objets collected during travels in South America and Africa. Magazines, books and family photos along with treasured heirlooms lend heaps of intimacy: it all feels much more homely than hotel-y.
The room layouts follow the twists and turns of the original farmhouse, adapting to an organic floor plan that evolved over several centuries. All are named after a local town or village: there are 3 twins and 5 doubles. The flagship suites are Morella and Valderrobres. The former has an enormous 2m bed and a claw-footed tub hoisted up on a mezzanine whilst the latter has a cosy sitting room with a huge open hearth and a big bathroom with both tub and shower, plus an outdoor balcony.
Alternatively, Fuentespalda is a smaller mezzanine-style room, with a sofa above and bed below. The remaining rooms have showers rather than tubs: Peñarroya sports a four-poster bed, Horta grabs a stunning view to the southwest whilst La Fresneda and Beceite are of smaller dimensions though both still have vast beds. Pretty Rafales is tucked away in an annex: this room is fully adapted for disabled guests.
All bedrooms are centrally heated with a fast WiFi connection: 3 have flatscreen TVs and DVD players. Bath and shower rooms feature eye-catching tadlakt - polished marble walls and sink surrounds - which were created by a master craftsman flown in from Fes. Keiji toiletries are provided (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion), as are bathrobes to pad about in.
Eating arrangements are flexible depending on whether you take the house as a group or are staying as independent travellers. Breakfast is included; dinners are by request and groups can self-cater if they wish.
Guests begin their day with a buffet-style breakfast laid up in one of the masía's 2 dining rooms, or out on the terrace when the weather's right. Freshly squeezed OJ and freshly ground coffee are accompanied by oven-warm bread and a choice of homemade jam, marmalade and honey: there's also olive oil should you fancy a more local-style start to the day. Luis then takes orders for the cooked breakfast of your choice.
Housekeeper Jenny can spirit up light lunches and snacks (though this must be requested in advance), and groups have free run of the fully equipped kitchen when taking the whole house. You can stock up on groceries in Fuentespalda, 10 minutes' drive.
Dinners are a big part of the Mas de la Serra experience, with many dishes striking a distinctly Peruvian note. Menus are set, but dietary requirements are taken into consideration. To kick off, tapas is served on the terrace or in front of a big log fire: expect local ham, cheeses, olives and scrummy toasted almonds picked from the farm's trees. Our meal began with a salad of local goat's cheese and tomato followed by roast lamb served with a white bean purée. A wicked crema volteada (a Peruvian take on crème caramèl) followed for dessert. You choose your wine from masía's own cellar: Alastair's inside knowledge of the trade ensures that all are superb.
For a change of scene, there's a great choice of eateries 30 minutes away by car. In Valdrrobres, duck into Fonda La Plaza for a cheap-and-cheerful Spanish feast whilst at Casa Sebastian groups can have a lavish banquet magicked up by an eccentric hairdresser from Barcelona. Down the road in La Fresneda, the Matarrana restaurant is Michelin recommended - game's the speciality - whilst El Convento also offers excellent regional cooking. There are closer restaurants, but they are not as good.
Mas de la Serra is a resolutely child-friendly zone and would be a great place for a family holiday providing your bambinos don't need everything laid on. Younger kids would love the twists and turns of the house, and its pool and lawns; older kids will love all the outdoor activities nearby - wild swimming, eagle spotting, mountain treks.
The hotel operates like a boutique hotel or you can book the whole place, sleeping 10-20, for a special family or group event. Children are charged from age 2 and there are reduced prices for kids meals.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Families with older children can either book twin rooms for the kids or book a split-level suite/room (Morella or Fuentespalda) where the kids can sleep on the sofabed in the living room (you can add an extra bed too if needed). Those with tots can add a cot or extra bed to any Standard Room, or book the single level suite Valderrobres, with a separate sitting room to use as a baby/toddler bedroom.
Babysitting by Jenny.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
You can self-cater if you want/need and there's a supermarket 10 minutes away. The nearest restaurants for eating out are 30 minutes away. The food here is great - discuss your children's needs with the chef and they'll create something spectacular.
There are open fires in the winter. The pool isn't safety fenced.