El Molino del Arco is a quintessential Andalusian cortijo; a former farmhouse and olive mill, now small, romantic hotel that oozes southern Spanish charm
Last week I returned to Ronda, and also to a hotel where I last stayed some 5 years ago. El Molino del Arco is a family owned property, now marketed by Small Boutique Hotels (Sevilla), who had had significant input on the improved management of the property.
This romantic style historic property is surrounded by rolling countryside; fields of wheat, vineyards, and olive trees, whilst in the distance are the striking mountains of the Serrania de Ronda. Owned by the Clavero family, El Molino de Arco was once one of the most important and renowned olive oil mill estates in the area for generations.
It is now a boutique style country hotel of 21 rooms, with rustic, shabby-chic style. The large grounds and small market garden that supplies the kitchen were updated with architect-designer walled terraces that carry water to different levels of the gardens, echoing the Al Andalus Hispanic Muslim irrigation systems common across Andalucia in the last millennium.
The property has an abundance of classic Andalusian details, from old studden wooden doors, terracotta pots filled with geraniums, vine-clad white-washed walls, iron window bars, and river-stone cobbled courtyards – in short it is a very photogenic place!
This former olive oil mill is found in Ronda’s sheltered and peaceful ‘Llano de la Cruz’ valley, with impressive views of the Serrania de Ronda. It is about 8km (15 minutes’ drive) from the picturesque town.
Access is from the A374 road that runs north out of Ronda towards Seville. The last part of the access lane is a rustic track, but it is in good condition and just fine for a normal car.
(Make sure you reach the hotel via the A374, as sometimes online navigation from smartphones etc. can direct you across a rustic field track that is not maintained – fine for 4×4 but not for cars.)
In my opinion, don’t let the location put you off. Although close enough to Ronda to dine out, the chances are, once you arrive at the mill, you won’t want to leave, the place will really capture you, and the in-house restaurant is good.
The Molino is a large property, by virtue of its spread out design, in a typical Andalusian cortijo style. Yet each space, like the reception, salon and restaurant have intimate, welcoming proportions.
A large open interior cobbled courtyard and three further smaller patios filled with pots of geraniums, flowering bougainvillea and roses lend a Spanish charm and beauty.
Many of the 21 guest rooms are on the ground floor, accessed either from the central open air courtyard or from the main house. Some are duplex or have mezzanine levels.
- Location is beautiful. Close to the must-see town of Ronda, yet with a feeling of rural tranquillity
- The style and charm of the estate is seductive. The beautiful geranium filled courtyards lead out into large gardens for al fresco dining; a swimming pool as well as a smaller more secluded pool
- The upstairs restaurant has greatly improved, and had a good menu and atmosphere
- The property’s website as of May 2015 is in need of an update. English version is poor, as are the directions.
- A little more attention to detail needed with overall presentation (the pool area needs to be maintained throughout the day, as does the honour bar and other public areas, and terrace tables need to be cleared after use)
- Wi-Fi was a little slow in some parts of the property, as is often the case in historic buildings
Ambiance / Presentation
The hotel is a very relaxing place, thanks to its design and location. The staff are happier and more motivated that my last visit. In fact I found the team very welcoming indeed.
Upon arrival we were met by Juan Clavero, the owner who was the host at reception and as well as overlooked the dinner service throughout our stay.
There is no traffic noise at the estate, just the sound of the wild birds in the courtyards. The homely, informal style makes one feel comfortable and at ease. The décor is of muted earth tones of pale greens, browns and creams with exposed beams and rustic farming items on display. Furnishings are a mix of antiques, rustic pieces and vintage style fabric sofas.
The salon, the main public space, furnished with sofas, easy chairs, coffee tables and details like hard back books, opens out onto a terrace with wrought iron tables and chairs that overlook the main courtyard. To the back of the salon is an honour bar (just write down consumption for it to be added to you bill later), with a wide choice alcoholic drinks and mixers. There is a fridge with ice, although the lemon for mixed drinks was not fresh. There was a kettle for tea and a Nespresso machine and also a freshly made cake each day.
The gardens are large enough that even when the hotel is busy, everyone can find a little Andalusian peace. Off the main courtyard are other smaller courtyards, one with a swimming pool. I would like to have seen more terrace furniture in these areas.
The terraced gardens have benches and seating, offering shaded spots under olive trees, or near the scented rose garden to relax.
The pool is at the bottom of the grounds in a separate walled garden. The pool is large and well maintained, although on my visit the sunbeds were not well arranged. I think that a team member needs to regularly pop down to this area and keep things ship-shape.
However, generally speaking the hotel is in much better shape that it was when I last visited in 2010. Maintenance is improved, with freshly painted walls etc. and well-tended gardens.
Each guest room is named after an olive variety, in homage to the building’s former use as a mill. Simple, glazed ceramic tiles display the room names outside each door, such as ‘Vidueño’, ‘Gordal’, ‘Manzanillo’, ‘Malteño’ or ‘Picual’.
I was in the ‘Abequino’ duplex suite. This is tower room, with a downstairs entrance vestibule, bathroom, suite with four-poster bed, and then steps up to a living room area, with chairs, and a large antique daybed sofa, and two French windows opening out to offer views across the grounds towards Ronda.
There is the small spiral staircase which leads further up to the private roof terrace with views all across the estate and surrounding countryside – wow!
Other guest rooms vary in dimensions and facilities (some suites with living rooms, others with terraces, some just bedrooms) but all are decorated in the same, pared back countryside simplicity of the cortijo, with vintage earth tones, subtle fabric prints and antique or rustic furniture.
The room was clean and well presented; and the bathroom had new, white towels.
Breakfast is a simple buffet served in the upstairs restaurant. Monogrammed china and a few vintage details like cutlery make for a pleasing, rustic countryside aesthetic. The estate has its own olive oil, available for purchase, presented in an attractive dark glass bottle with mauve label. It’s a tasty oil to go with the classic Andalusian breakfast.
Coffee is good quality espresso. Warm dishes such as eggs and bacon are available to order. The local honey was particularly delicious, as were some of the local cheese. I think overall presentation of the buffet could have been improved to make it more elegant. The local cheeses could have been cut, and the layout of the items could have been more creative.
Dinner was served in the upstairs restaurant (but can also be outside in the height of summer). It’s double height space with windows overlooking the main courtyard. There is subtle background recorded music and gentle lighting. Tables are dressed with white linen. It would have been nice to have had a candle on each table or candles on the side boards to add more atmosphere and ambience to this cosy and period space.
The restaurant was full, and we at the later second sitting – so clearly dining here has become a popular choice. I would recommend it. Not only of the well-priced enjoyable menu, but alos for the convenience of dining in the hotel – it makes the most of a short stay and allows you to have cocktails and wine and not have to think about getting a taxi.
There was an a la carte menu and set menu. There is a good choice but not overly extensive. The focus is on local and fresh. The Ronda wines are well priced and I think represented a good selection.
We ordered from the set menu, including filo parcels of large prawns; mains of cod and oxtail (both particular flavoursome) and puddings of white chocolate Crème Anglaise with brownie and a chocolate fondant. Menu was good value at less than 25 euros a head, well presented and tasty.
Without a doubt the impact of this property it its Andalusian charm. Personally it’s my dream-style Spanish cortijo farmhouse, with white-washed exterior walls, flowering gardens and peaceful courtyards.
El Molino del Arco
Ctra. Ronda – Algodonales, Km 26, 29400 Ronda, Málaga
Tel: +34 952 11 40 17