A short drive (or train-ride) from Ronda is the sleepy village of Benaojan, perched on a herb-scented mountainside, surrounded by olive and almond groves. Its water-mill, beside a bubbling stream below the village, was converted into a hotel in 1987 by a young English couple, Andy Chapell and Pauline Elkin, who fled the rat-race in favour of this idyllic spot. We could see why as soon as we arrived, on a timeless Sunday morning when the guests were eating a leisurely buffet breakfast under the willow trees on the stone terrace. Dinner is also served out here in the summer (a delicious-sounding set menu as well as a la carte alternatives with plenty of choice and vegetarian options, using organic products whenever possible). To the amusement of the locals, guests also get a real English tea with home-made cakes.
Inside, the rooms are comfortable and home-like; the sitting-area still has some of its original trappings – such as the old grinding stones. The bedrooms vary in size and are simply furnished, with bright locally made rugs. Fifteen have small terraces overlooking a beautiful swimming pool. Andy and Pauline provide information for excursions to all the local sights. We’ve just heard from a couple who visited three times in three years and still ‘can’t praise it highly enough.’