The entire self-catering property is a tranquil oasis in the heart of a small Madrilian village with a modern awareness but deep historical roots, and even its own cuisine.
A hundred years ago, this was the doctor's residence (you'll see some of his old texts and phials on bookshelves). Now it's an enjoyable holiday villa, carefully restored and decorated with imaginative and interesting modern artwork. Once inside, it's a serene world all to itself.
A plant-filled inner courtyard, graced with old columns, gives you summer and winter lounges, bedrooms and dining areas on two floors.Continue out from the courtyard and you pass to a roofed patio, ideal for dining together, open to a walled garden, completely private and with more accommodation at its far end, near the swimming pool.
It's all very stylish here. Each of the eight bedrooms is named after a fruit tree that grows in the garden: olive, apple, fig, pomegranate, cherry, almond, bay and the emblematic tree of Madrid, the madroño. Each with its own key, we found the bedrooms to be generously spacious and beds comfortable, except the smaller Bedroom 3 Laurel (bay tree).
The courtyard gives onto two en suite bedrooms at ground level, and the summer lounge with a dining table for 6 and kitchen. We liked the paintings and atmosphere in the lounge, but don't hold out hopes for the piano: its playing days are over. The worn tiles underfoot are 18th century and the sound of bubbling water comes from a fountain directly outside.
Above, one can walk round the open gallery overlooking rooftops, with the occasional sound of a church bell or a cock crowing in the distance, and dive into one of four bedrooms or the many-windowed and vaulted winter saloon with its fine hearth. This cheerful, luminous sitting and dining room has the better of the three kitchens, a dining table for 8, and a staircase down to the garden.
And beneath the courtyard, let's go down... to the cave! A curious feature of houses in Colmenar (beneath whose grand square runs a secret tunnel) are these deep grottos with their museum-like atmosphere, cool in the summer, the ideal spot to store wine. The extensive cave hollowed out at this fabulous villa is not so much musty and dark as well-swept and illuminated.
The covered patio has two barbecues and trestle tables that can be set up for group meals. It opens to the gardens, which in usual Castilian style are not lawned, but pebbled and planted with fruit trees: olive, apple, fig, pomegranate, cherry, almond, bay and the emblematic tree of Madrid, the madroño.
Also sunk into the garden are giant earthenware wine vats and an old well (barred for children's safety).
The swimming pool, like the other exterior spaces, is perfectly private, not overlooked by any neighbour.
In a corner at the foot of the garden, where another fountain bubbles away contentedly, is a family apartment on two floors: a bedroom downstairs that can sleep two children (although not toddlers) in addition to their parents, and an admirable upper floor with lounge and its own kitchen facilities. The steps up are made from chunky railway sleepers and provided with a simple hand rail: definitely not suited to young children.
If we were to find fault, it would be that cooking and serving facilities are limited and divided between two kitchens, making self-catering something of a challenge. However, groups of 16 have stayed more than happily here, but our guess is that some days they made use of the barbecues or the excellent meal service offered by Colmenar restaurants. A significant plus is that at least one of the restaurants will deliver ready-cooked meals to the villa. Previous clients have been very gratified with the paellas, for example. We still believe the property is special enough to be included in our collection of luxury villas.
Guests will feel well looked after here, with optional maid or breakfast service available on request. Four hire bicycles are also available on request for those willing to explore Colmenar de Oreja and rural Madrid by bike.
Colmenar de Oreja (population 8,000) is a typical small Castilian town with some fiesta or other almost every month. With its fountains and courteous populace, it’s an agreeable place to wander and stop off at cafés or bars for a tapa or two. At its centre, a five-minute stroll from the property, is one of the finest old squares in Madrid: 18th century, very spacious, framed by porticoes which give shade to bar and restaurant terraces.
Favourite local dishes include pisto vaquero (“cowboy pisto”): veal cooked with tomato and peppers and patatas chulas, potato slices fried in olive oil and served with garlic and fresh parsley.
Colmenar produces olives, respectably good wine (you can visit local wine cellars), Manchego cheese, and the smooth, white stone used to build the Royal Palace and the Cibeles fountain in Madrid. Surrounding the town are fields and vineyards.
It lies 45 mins south-east of the capital, from which access is by road (hire car or bus). The old railway line, best known for a train that whistled more than it went, has been converted into a walking and cycling track. Madrid's Barajas Airport is just 50 minutes away.
Interesting excursions for adults take you to Aranjuez, whose royal place gardens were the inspiration for Rodrigo's celebrated guitar concerto, and the delightful village of Chinchon, best known for the restaurants on its medieval square and anis digestif. Children will be keener to visit Warner Brothers Park, one of the best theme parks in Spain, well-designed and crowd-free.
In less than an hour you can be in old Toledo, or in the centre of Madrid, visiting museums or the Royal Palace, shopping, taking refreshments at café-bar terraces, strolling Retiro Park or sampling the nightife.