Mas de la Serra

Matarrana, Aragon, Spain Book from Eur120

A remote, romantic and rocky retreat in the stunning Matarrana mountains: think lovers' den, hiking hideaway, or secluded house party for 10-20
Matarrana? Sure, I hadn't heard of the region either. Drive halfway from Barcelona to Valencia, cut inland through the mountains and you'll be getting close. It's easy to see why this corner of Teruel is being dubbed 'Spain's Tuscany'. This is a land of medieval villages, terraced vineyards, ancient bridleways and truffles growing beneath the oaks. Slow cooking is de rigueur whilst ancient groves of olives and almonds give the place an unmistakably Mediterranean hue.

Alasdair Grant - his family make the famous whisky - came here to film a documentary and left smitten. His rebirthing of a 17th-century masía - that's a stone-built farmhouse - left no stone unturned whilst his quest to marry comfort with authenticity was masterfully executed. Decoration weds South American and North African artefacts with family heirlooms from Scotland, whilst the Mediterranean cuisine is given an exotic twist by the Peruvian housekeepers, Luis and Jenny.

The building's cubist jumble is unforgettable when seen at night, and by day the vast views out to the forests and mountains take in no other building. Come for cosseted comfort, fine food and wines, outdoor pursuits, and for that delicious sense of being a voortrekker in a hauntingly beautiful swathe of eastern Spain.

Highs

  • The bedrooms couldn't be more comfortable, whether in the heat of the summer or the coldest months of winter
  • The labyrinthine interiors impart a cosy vibe, and there are countless terraces, sitting rooms and hidden corners so you'll always find a space for you alone
  • The walking trails of the Matarrana are wild and wonderful yet remain blissfully undiscovered
  • The great outdoors: hike through a stunning gorge, swim in a natural turquoise lake or under the El Salt waterfall, fish in mountain streams, kayak, horse ride and hunt for fossils
  • Operates as a hotel or whole house rental, so suits couples wanting a romantic retreat, friends going hiking, extended families, or a big group (sleeps 10-20; self cater or be cooked for)

Lows

  • Remote. No nightlife, buzzy villages, and ready-made entertainment on your doorstep - but that's half the point
  • Only snack-y lunches offered, though breakfast and dinner are substantial; nearest decent restaurants are a 30-minute drive
  • And you're 2 hours from the nearest airports (Tarragona and Reus; Barcelona is a 3-hour drive). The track to the house can become rutted in winter so you'll need a 4x4; at any other time you'll be fine in a normal hire car
  • A 7-night minimum stay for private rentals
  • You may not get to meet Mas de la Serra's genial owner, Alasdair Grant, who travels the world producing documentaries

Best time to go

Matarrana has a Mediterranean climate and is pleasant all year, but the best months to visit (in terms of warmest weather and least rain) are May-July.

Our top tips

This part of eastern Spain saw a lot of action during the Spanish Civil War, when the Nationalists and Republicans slogged it out along the Teruel front. Read all about it in George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, and get hold of a copy of Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom: much of the action was filmed just down the road.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Rural Retreat
  • 9
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Steam Room
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Radio
  • Wifi internet
  • Central heating
  • Fan
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Bathrobes
  • Toiletries
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Children meals
  • Chef on request
  • Food and wine
  • Coffee tea making
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Laze by the infinity-edged pool with your binos trained on the surrounding mountainsides: it won't be long before you spot ibex leaping between the rocks and eagles soaring above the limestone outcrops

  • Walk out from the house to the top of a jagged limestone peak for a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding sierra, or pit yourself against the stunning traverse of Els Ports

  • Hike and bike through a gorge, kayak in turquoise lakes, swim in the El Salt waterfall, fish in the mighty Ebro or in mountain streams, ride through the wilderness on horseback; this place is pure outdoor heaven, and all activities can be arranged for you

  • Return and unwind in the basement steam room

  • Head to a local bodega: we can vouch for the superb wines produced at the adjacent Venta d'Aubert

  • Wander the narrow backstreets of the beautiful hilltop town Morella

  • Discover Mas de la Serra's cellar bar where, as well as fine wines, you can taste the Grant family's full range of fine Scotch whiskies

  • Star gaze from one of the masía's high terraces: with no light pollution, night skies here need be seen to be believed

  • Hunker down in the cinema room, which features a state-of-the-art, high definition projector with wraparound sound, and a DVD library

  • Ensconce yourself on the top terrace at the end of the day for an unforgettable sundowner

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Kids activities nearby
  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Food and wine
  • Hiking
  • History religious
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting
  • Mountain biking
  • Star gazing
  • Whisky Tasting

Kids

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.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

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:

Babysitting by Jenny.

Baby equipment:


  • Cots

  • High chair

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

Children's meals:

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.

Kids Activities on site:


  • Heated outdoor pool (May-December)

  • Home cinema and DVD library

  • TV room

  • Concierge service to help plan activities

Kids Activities nearby:


  • Kayak or swim in the lake below the Mas

  • Hire a bike in the village and roam off on mountain trails or down the old railway line

  • Take a 4X4 trip into the mountains

  • Go ibex, eagle or wild boar spotting

  • Swim in El Salt waterfall

  • Go riding or hiking in the mountains

Families Should Know:

There are open fires in the winter. The pool isn't safety fenced.

Distances:

  • Airport: 2 hours (Reus or Tarragona), 3 hours (Barcelona)
  • Doctor: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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