Location – You’ll find the Arriadh Hotel on a hillside overlooking the white village of Arriate, which is approx. 6km from the city of Ronda in southern Spain.Â We travelled to the hotel from Algeciras on the train as we’d been told that this was one of the great railway journeys of the world. It was certainly very nice; the trip took just under 2 hours and the views were like this…
There was the option of stopping at Arriate train station which is just a 15 minute walk from the hotel but we didn’t know this so we had arranged to meet Wilbert, who runs the hotel alongside his partner John, at Ronda station which is a couple of minutes ride down the track (note that Arriate station is only a request stop for people already on the train. If you’re looking to travel from Arriate onwards to either Ronda or Algeciras then there’s only one guaranteed departureÂ per day).
If either Wilbert or John do arrange to meet you at the station, here’s a photo of them so you can recognize them easily.
If by chance Wilbert or John are busy on the day you arrive and you don’t have a car then it’s easy enough to get to the hotel by public transport. The Setenil-bound bus goes from Ronda bus station every couple of hours and will leave you in central Arriate; the fare is just Euro 1.20 and the hotel is a 15 minute uphill walk from the bus stop. You can find the bus timetable HereÂ (the Arriate bus timetable is on the right of the page, third box down).
Before we arrived we thought we could just as well see the area without a hire car. The bus schedule indicated thatÂ we could make it into central Ronda and out to the nearby â€˜white villageâ€™ of Setenil easily. And we did just that. The week we had at the hotel was great but if we went again weâ€™d hire a car so we could also visit the many other attractions nearby as there’s so much to see, such as the white villages of Grazalema, El Bosque, Zahara de la Sierra and Ubrique as well as the Roman theatre at Acinipo, the caves at Pileta, del Gato and del Hundidero and the many mountain viewpoints and remote wild swimming spots, all of which are marked on the excellent activities map called â€˜Serrania de Rondaâ€™, which you can get from the Ronda tourist office.
If you have a car Wilbert will supply you with good directions to reach the hotel from anywhere in Spain (you’ll probably be coming from Malaga airport or the Costa del Sol, about 90 minutes away). The hotel has a good dirt road leading up to it from the main Arriate-Ronda road and there is plenty of private parking. Here is a photo of the hotel from the dirt road less than a minute after you’ve left the main road.
And if you are walking, you take another dirt track that forks off of the one you’d drive up. It’s slightly shorter and it looks like this; we walked up and down it every time we visited Arriate village or had to go to the bus stop for a ride into Ronda.
When we left the hotel to fly out of Malaga airport we caught the bus from Ronda to Malaga, which took just under 2 hours, and then another local bus out to the airport. It was very easy and cheap (about Euro 15 each in total) and the scenery is, like the train ride, really lovely.
Here’s how the hotel entrance looks.
Here’sÂ a short film we made whilst staying at the Arriadh Hotel. It’s not meant to be aÂ professional, glossy promo film, just an honest lookÂ at what you might experience yourself if you stayed at the hotel. Wilbert and JohnÂ had just finished reconstruction and refurbishment at the time I shot this so that is why some places are still a mess (couches outside, etc). By the time you get there it’ll all be cleaned up and we’re told the interior will beÂ getting some new, nicer furniture.
The Room – For the first 5 days of our stay we had aÂ room on the first floor.Â Our bed faced patio doors which meant we could lie on it and watch the sun go down over the mountains or doze in the mornings and watch the valley below slowly come to life.
Our little balcony had a table and chairs and it was a perfect place to eat our home made tapas and toast the sunset from.Â The sun sank below the mountains around 9:15pm in July and after that it stayed light for an hour or so more. There was very littleÂ noise except for the distant village church bells, a peacock that lived on a nearby farm, skylarks singing over the fields, the clip clop of people exercising their horses on the dirt track and on one occasion a Flamenco concert that was going on in Arriate which we enjoyed laying in bed and listening to until around midnight.
Here is a view looking down into the valleyÂ from the balcony.
Here’s how Arriate looked at night when we zoomed the camera in a little.
And here is a view looking back into the room from the balcony.
As you can see the room (and indeed the whole hotel) is very modern in design. Acres of white walls and clean lines complemented by dark stained wood furniture and doors and tiled floors.
The bathroom was split into two with a toilet in one cubicle and a shower in the other.
Both had frosted glass doors. We didn’t keep the shower door closed though because we could see straight through the room to the mountains beyond when we were in there and how often do you get to have a shower whilst looking at such amazing scenery! Here is a photo of the shower cubicle, and the amazing view we got whilst in it.
Water pressure was always good, the hot water constant and the toiletries (soap and shampoo) came in cute little glass containers.
A note about the toiletries; Lamia has extremely sensitive skin and sheâ€™s been testing a number of organic creams, shampoos and soaps during our travels with very little success (except for the SOS Botanics Rescue Cream). They all seem to annoy her eczema rather than soothe it. But she used the toiletries that are supplied at the ArriadhÂ and found that they didn’tÂ irritate her skin and she didn’t need to use moisturizer afterwards either. Itâ€™s the first time that she can say that about complimentary toiletries in 3 months of travel (and as you can see from our guide to Morocco that we stayed in some pretty fancy places there).
There was a stone hand basin outside the shower (we popped the fizzy in there most evenings to chill in time for sundowners).
The room had no fridge, fan or aircon but we didn’t miss the fridge and asÂ long as we kept the large patio doors closed whilst we were out the thick outer walls retained the cool of the previous night so the room wasÂ a pleasant temperatureÂ when we returned from sightseeing in the evening.
For the final 2 days of our stay we moved to a downstairs roomÂ which was different from the upper room for several reasons. Firstly, it was laid out in a more traditional way with the bed side-on to the doors rather than facing them.
There was also a bath in addition to a shower.
And instead of a balcony the patio doors led out onto the large downstairs patio.
The doors were covered with long white linen drapes/curtains so even though there seemed to be less privacy due to the fact that people on the patio could potentially see in this wasnâ€™t really the case. We could have the large patio doors open to let air in but keep the curtains closed (of course if you want to walk around naked when you get out of the shower and enjoy the view without getting dressed, which I like doing, and you want to do that in privacy, then perhaps request an upstairs room).
The public patio outside the room got the sun from about 10am until sunset.
Above the first floor there is a public roof terrace which gave even more extensive views. Here are a few examples.
The windows of the hotel turret gave crazy reflections when viewed from the roof terrace.
Here are a few more images of the downstairs public areas of the hotel. At times it seemed like we were walking through a Tarkovsky Polaroid Picture, such was the play of light through large windows.
At the bottom of the stairwell is a small indoor garden where chilli and kumquat grow, as well as purifying lilies.
Breakfast – We ate breakfast in the shade of the house; there wasn’t a fixed time, it was up to us. It was a mixture of warm French bread, sweet muffins which we covered with dollops of strawberry or plum jam, butter, tomato jam and a special olive oil that is used for dipping bread in (John explained that bread, oil and tomato jamÂ is what local people often have for breakfast), slices of cheese and Serrano ham, fresh tomato, cucumber, orange juice and tea or coffee. There was alsoÂ a certain kind of apple that grows near the hotel that is the oldest variety farmed in Andalusia.
You could tell the fruit was organic because of its irregular shape and size. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the breakfast experience.
The local apples were very different to the apples that we are used to, denser and lessÂ juicy, so we didn’t eat them after a first try (the locally grown plums were so ripe and tasty we gorged on those instead) and on the 3rd morning they didn’t make an appearance, which was a sign that our tastes were being taken notice of. We appreciated that. Both Wilbert and John are very well travelled and it shows in the way they operate; they understand how important little touches are, both the touches you can see and the touches that come in the smiles, words and actions of a hotel host.
They also understand that consistency is the key to a good hotel experience. The breakfast was of a similar quality and quantity each day and the general atmosphere was stable. You may think all hotels offer this but believe me, we’ve been staying in hotels every night for the last 3 months and a decent breakfast, and consistency, isn’t something that you experience all the time.
Towards the end of our stay we remembered that we’d not printed off our boarding passes and since the hotel printer was out of action Wilbert was kind enough to phone up a friend of his in Arriate and ask him to do it for us. Then he drove down and picked them up for us. This is just one example of why Wilbert and John make such fabulous, caring hosts.
They plan to add a pool and sauna (for use in the winter) and to work on the gardens. At the moment there’s several fruit and olive trees and they hope to add to those next year.
Nearby – Arriate itself is a very friendly white washed village. It has some nice houses, churches and Tapas Bars but it’s biggest attraction for us was that there were absolutely no other tourists around.
The town has several small supermarkets andÂ also a couple of fantastic walks (1 of 3 hours round trip from the hotel which is very well marked, 1 of 6 hours for which you’ll need a map, or our route description which is coming soon) where even in the heat of July you can find cool, shady, clean streams and swimming spots.
When it comes to eating out we visitedÂ the Muelle del Arriate restaurant and the excellent Juntera Tapas Bar (both within walking distance of the hotel, reviews coming soon) as well as a couple of places in Ronda itself. By far our most enjoyable eating experiences though were had whilst sittingÂ onÂ our own balcony watching the lovely sunsets that the areaÂ is known for whilst snacking on Tapas we’d made with provisions brought from the local supermarket.
We loved staying at the Arriadh. The rooms were spacious and tranquil, the views amazing and Wilbert and John are caring, attentive and capableÂ hosts. If you’d like to discover more about the Arriadh Hotel yourself, please visit Â http://arriadhhotel.com/