After a 2h30 drive from Malaga with the aircon on full blast, we pulled up into the tiny village square of Mairena and parked our hire car. Following the sign to Las Chimeneas, we trundled down an alleyway past the traditional white square houses up to the bright blue front door and into the refreshing cool air of the house.
David, who along with his wife Emma restored Las Chimeneas and have been welcoming guests since 1998, showed us round the shared living space, its white walls and tiled floor stylishly furnished with antique rocking chairs, an open fireplace and bright patterned rugs.
After showing us the shared fridge stocked with beer and soft drinks and asking us to keep a tally of what we took, we headed out to the terrace where the plunge pool had not yet been filled with water. It was only early May and not yet full summer- despite it being warmer than most days in August at Macs HQ. That evening over an aperitif we met the rest of the walkers staying at Las Chimeneas, ranging from New Yorkers to Yorkshiremen. Everyone was friendly and exchanging tips on which routes were best, where to see wildlife and where to buy the best olives. We knew the food here was supposed be good, and we weren’t disappointed. Over the next two nights we ate well, with Soledad the chef even offering a cookery demo one evening while Emma translated.
The following morning over breakfast David and Emma advised everyone individually on which trails to follow according to the weather and their preferences. We opted for a short stroll along the GR7 route to the nearby village of Valor, through meadows absolutely bursting with colour from the wildflowers, past almond trees and one loudly braying donkey.
The next day we chose a longer route, through the national park where we spotted a golden eagle only 15ft away before it flew off through the trees. From the forested path we made our way to the summit of one of the smaller mountains, and could see for miles through the gentle blue haze. With only two days we barely scratched the surface of what’s available- David & Emma are full of local knowledge, and deeply rooted in the community. They can offer options for any length of walk, arrange visits to local wineries, markets or olive groves and even hold lectures on local history some evenings. With picturesque Andalusian countryside punctuated with pretty white villages, incredible food and wine and fantastic tranquil walking trails through the Sierra Nevada, it truly is a beautiful escape.