Hotel Cortijo Soto Real: Luxurious Tranquillity within Andalusian Nature

by Karen

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After thirty heavily patrolled highway minutes from Seville’s San Paolo’s Airport, we exited the highway and drove through our first village, Las Cabezas de San Juan. For the next 13 km, we drove through the Andalusia countryside of vast, undulating hills and valleys scattered with Olive Trees, Orange Groves and the odd estate: a picture-perfect scene of natural tranquillity.

After announcing ourselves at the Cortijo Soto Real’s clearly marked Gate, we drove along a dirt road with no hotel in site. Hills and valleys to the left and right, we continued down the drive. Passing stables and what appeared to be a Bull Ring, a small, tiled, arrowed sign ‘Reception’ reassured us we were close. Beautiful manicured gardens surrounded this cobble stone drive. Tall palm trees in the square ahead were flanked by an elegant Spanish Palace on the right (originally built by an Arabian prince), a Chapel in the centre and similarly styled buildings on the left. Greeted by a friendly Concierge, we didn’t need to guess which building was the Reception.

We were escorted back to the Bull Ring. A Villa has been built into the front and now opens onto a grass terrace, circular gardens around the perimeter, and a round swimming pool carved into the centre of these Ring. ‘The Plaza de Toros’ is the ultimate private suite. The bedroom room had 2 twin beds which we had re-sheeted to create a king. The spacious Bathroom had both a hydro-massage bath (which we enjoyed before dinner) and a large walk-in Marble Shower with 3 different shower heads (an invigorating way to start your day); 2 vanities separated by generous marble counter space easily accommodating the contents of 2 cosmetic kits; wonderful Loewe amenities and a bidet in addition to the toilet (very European) completed the bathroom. Closet and cupboard space generously accommodated our clothes, as one of us is not known for travelling light. We secured our valuables in the discreetly hidden safe. The large airy Living/Dining Room also had a Kitchenette area discretely tucked behind shuttered doors. Sliding glass doors cover 2 sides of the room and open directly out to the Bull Ring. Furnishings, simple and tastefully Spanish, included a Bull’s Head hanging over the sofa as a reminder that loosing here did have its penalties. Stepping into the Ring, an air of authenticity is maintained despite the pool, gardens and sheltered dining patio. The views are incredible. To facilitate our movements around this huge Andalusian paradise, they provided a motorized Golf Cart.

Later that day, we set off on the complimentary mountain bikes to explore the five thousand acres of hills and valleys. After biking along the well cared-for trails for an hour, we still had not run into a boundary to the estate. We off-roaded up the dirt hills and across its valleys – even these were impeccably ploughed. We stopping now and then to take in the surroundings, and quickly concluded that Cortijo Soto Real is truly an oasis of peace and tranquillity.

Having built a thirst biking, we returned to the Hotel. The Salon Chimenea had a warm and welcoming atmosphere; we discovered it was designed by the famous Spanish decorator Pascua Ortega. Its Honour Bar (with a Bartender on call if you prefer) had a wide variety of drinks to quench our thirst; and the wonderful Spanish almonds hit the slight hunger spot. The choice for us of where to unwind was relatively easy as it was November and a slight chill had crept into the air. Had it been May, the choice would have been more difficult. We could have lingered over a drink on one of the plush lounge chairs by the outdoor Swimming Pool, or on one of cushioned wicker chairs surrounding the glass tables in one of the pergolas or on white wrought-ironed chairs and tables on one of the many beautiful terraces (including the one off our room).

As this is Spain, at 6:30pm, we found ourselves with 3 more hours until Dinner. We opted for the ”Centro de Belleza” – their indoor world of health, well-being and beauty. We had a quick swim in the indoor Pool followed by relaxing soak in the hot, bubbling Jacuzzi which felt great. Gazing around, we noticed there was also a Sauna, Steam Room and Massage/Beauty Rooms. Had we felt more energetic, we could have opted for a game of Tennis on the outdoor courts or worked out in the Gym. Back at the Plaza de Toros, we decided to take a siesta before dinner.

We wizzed up to the dining room of the Al-Andalus Restaurant on the golf cart with the cool night air waking us up completely. We started with a selection of Andalusian appetizers (Pata Negra ham, Chicorzie, and Manchego Cheese) and moved onto the best tasting, freshest, most beautifully presented Seafood Pialia we had ever had. Although full, we were unable to resist the Coulant de Chocolate, it would warm the hearts of chocolate lovers the world over. A gourmet end to a perfect day!

Awakening to the blue skies of Andalusia with the sun streaming in through the window, puts a huge smile on the face before you even get out of bed. Somehow the sky seems bigger here. Maybe it is richness of the deep, almost cobalt, blue colour it has combined with the never-ending rolling green hills. To complement our enjoyment of this fine morning, hot coffee was delivered to the terrace; the day was off to a great start. Back on the Golf Cart, we headed for the Breakfast buffet in the Blue Room.

The Orange Juice in the crystal craft was like a beacon. One sip and you knew someone was up early to pick and squeeze the oranges from the Estate’s Orange Groves. The Iberian ham was complemented with thinly sliced tomatoes, a sprinkle of Cortijo Soto Real’s own olive oil and freshly baked ciabatta. Somehow the traditional English Breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon & sausages, smoked salmon, pastries, yogurt, cereal and fresh fruit were not as interesting and in fact, seemed out of place here; although others seemed to be going back for more and ordering other specialty breakfast items a la carte. Finished with a creamy Expresso and another glass of orange juice (just can’t seem to get enough) we were good to go.

We had arranged for a romantic horse carriage ride to take us on a relaxing ride around the Estate. They thoughtfully wrapped us in warm, wool blankets and we were off. Camera in hand we snapped away to ensure we would capture the surroundings and abundant fauna and flora. Stunning – absolutely gorgeous! Next time we will arrange to take along a picnic basket and have a tranquil lunch somewhere along the way! For now, we reserved for a moonlight carriage ride with champagne under the stars!

Lying on one of the superbly comfortable lounges beside the beautiful outdoor pool, a luxurious tranquillity sets in. Whether you take in the surroundings lying by the pool; by a horse carriage ride; by taking a stroll, walk, run or bike ride through the grounds; one thing is for certain, you can’t help but enjoy this oasis of peace and tranquillity. The natural beauty of the undulating Andalusian hills and valleys surround you as far as you can see.

It was time to be a little adventurous. The Quad Bikes fit the bill as neither of us had ever ridden them. Helmets secured, gears figured out, off we went (following the hotel’s bike guide). Up hills and down, along the valley floor we sped. Incredible!
Sensing our enjoyment, the guide took the notch up a level – there were some seriously steep hills – looking back, my fear has turned into a memory of fun! Really fun – felt like a kid again and did not want to stop when our hour was up.

It was time to explore Andalusia. We headed to the Reception (in the former Chapel) to have a chat with the helpful and knowledgeable Concierge. Choices, choices, choices as the Hotel is so ideally located and within an hours casual drive of at least a dozen places worth a visit. A short jaunt could take us to Andalusia’s capital city of Seville with its Royal Palace, the Giraldi Cathedral and experience the excitement of bullfight; or the sherry capital of Jerez de la Frontera with the Carthusian Horses. Other options are one of the many famous White Villages, Rhonda with its plunging river gorge ‘El Tajo’, or Europe’s largest waterfowl sanctuary in the Donana National Park. We decided to take a short drive to one of the White Villages, well known for its hand-made leather goods. There we found several shops which specialized in Jackets, one in particular appealed to our tastes with its simple but elegant designs. For under €300 you could order a tailor-made leather jacket, fully lined in silk. We had some delicious tapas at a local bar before heading back.

When we returned to the Cortijo Soto Real, we happened upon the General Manager of the Hotel – very friendly with a clear passion for both the hotel and making sure we had a wonderful experience here. We had a great chat about the hotel and then he took us on a tour of some of the other rooms and suites. The Palacio was originally built by the Arabian Prince and was transformed into luxury suites maintaining the Moorish architecture. The Suite de Charlotte was my favourite as it featured an authentic marble bathtub centring the marble bathroom; a lovely lounge which opened onto a long terrace overlooking the outdoor pool; an elegant bedroom with a separate office opening to yet another terrace facing the orange grove. The El Torreon Tower Suite however, was a close second. It had surround floor to ceiling windows providing a 270 º view of the surrounding countryside. While I loved our Plaza de Toro, the next time, we’ll book the Suite de Charlotte. I can’t wait to have a rose-petal strewn bath in that marble tub!

As we chatted about the Hotel and all it had to offer, we thought what a fantastic location for a business retreat as well. With complete facilities well organized, clearly, they have had many (not to mention weddings, family reunions and other banquets). Apparently, the Cortijo Soto Real can also be exclusively booked for a private hunt- whether it be red-legged partridges, rabbits, quail, doves, or hares, depends on the season. I was comforted to know that the shoots are only possible if the estate is booked out exclusively – so we can enjoy the walks, bike rides, 4×4/quad rides knowing that our heads will not end up mounted on a wall!

The Cortijo Soto Real is a treasure – a special place; truly a natural oasis of beautiful peace and luxurious tranquillity in the heart of Andalusia.

From a Supercar friendly standpoint, the access road from the highway to the hotel is in fair condition and you do need to keep your eyes out for the occasional pothole. The road from the gate to the hotel is not paved but it is flat and well taken care of. Covered parking is available and a car wash can be arranged. The roads from the hotel to many of the areas sites are scenic and make for a nice challenging drive.

Hotel Cortijo Soto Real
Ctra. Las Cabezas
Km 13
41730 Las Cabezas
(Sevilla), Spain
Telephone: +34 955 869 200

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February 2018

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