Just a few miles from Spain's Mediterranean coast, this wonderfully located villa nestles below limestone hills near the sleepy village of Manilva.
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Six (two double, four twin bedded).
Private swimming pool
18m x 6m x 1.5-3m deep.
Access is just off the main road, 4 km from Manilva in the Western Costa del Sol region (Province of Málaga).
Sleeping 8 From 4,730 € to 9,190 € per week.
Sleeping 12 From 5,250 € to 9,190 € per week.
Just a few miles from Spain's Mediterranean coast a leafy valley cuts through the limestone hills beneath the sleepy village of Manilva, surrounded by vineyards of the region's famous muscatel grapes. Since Roman times the valley's hot springs were channelled into one of Spain's oldest spas whilst a little further to the south the river's waters once turned the millstones of Molino del Duque. After a recent makeover this 18th century mill house, with secluded elegance both inside and out, offers one of Andalucía's most seductive holiday experiences.
Arrival at El Molino provides a fitting first taste of the narcotic charm of the house and gardens. Entrance gates draped in bougainvillea open out to an avenue of towering palms and giant strelitzia which in turn lead past the old mill channel to a pebbled patio where a murmuring fountain imparts oodles of southern allure.
The faded pink façade of the house with pan tiled roof and windows etched in chalky blue could not be prettier: the feel is reminiscent of the country houses of Provence or of those of Umbria and Tuscany whilst the three acre swathe of mature gardens evoke the romantic idyll of the palaces of Moorish Spain.
As soon as you step in from the courtyard this is a house that wraps you in a warm embrace. A huge collection of hand-painted furniture and wall hangings – created under the owner's guidance in a neighbouring workshop – have been commingled with antique furniture and an eclectic collection of prints and paintings. The feel is much more of home than of a holiday let whilst you're aware that these are interiors that were designed to please, created with the surest of touches by this accomplished interior decorator.
The main living spaces of the Molino lead off from an airy entrance hallway. The drawing room lies within what once was the machine room of the old mill house. Heavy stone flags sit beneath a traditional beam-and-brick ceiling with a sofa and easy chairs, dressed in muted colours, facing a planked table and an open hearth flanked by amphora-style table lamps and hand-painted wall hangings: their colours synch' perfectly with that of the rest of the room. French windows overlooking the old mill channel, where turtles float amongst the water cress, bring in masses of light and the mood of the room speaks of lazy afternoons with a good book. In the drawing room's small annex, which leads out to the garden and pool, you'll find an honesty bar and a small collection of books, CDs and DVDs.
On the southern side of the house is a second sitting room - it doubles as a winter dining room - where the TV and DVD player are hidden away in a hand-painted wardrobe. This room has a similar, shabby-chic feel to that of the main drawing room: there are terracotta tiles, wooden beams and an open hearth along with a small collection of Andalusian folk art and another of blue chinaware. Back across the hallway you'll find a small guest cloakroom with an eye-catching hand-painted ceiling.
And the mill's metre-wide exterior walls ensure that there's no need for air-conditioning at even the hottest time of year.
The Molino has six bedrooms of which four are within the main house and two to one side of the entrance patio in a separate guest cottage. At the top of the house, occupying most of the second floor, is a huge suite which faces the fountain patio and the greenery beyond. Coco floor matting offset by walls of duck egg blue and white beams impart a mood of rustic charm as do hand-painted tables and chests of drawers. There's more hand-crafting in the form of floral stencilling around the small corner hearth whilst a huge wall-to-wall wardrobe offers masses of space for cases and clothes.
The room has a huge bathroom with bath, separate rain shower and a long sweep of marble-topped surface with twin sinks and retro-style taps.
You can access the top suite via the main staircase or through its French windows where a large, private terrace has twin staircases leading down to the pool garden as well as to the fishpond courtyard: the room can be utterly private if you prefer it that way.
Downstairs on the first floor are three more bedrooms whose twin beds can be linked to make king-size doubles. Two bedrooms face the main courtyard whilst the third room, this one with an open fire place, looks to the rear of the house with a velux-style window bringing in additional light.
All bedrooms have floors of polished terracotta tiles and feature hand-painted furniture – tables, chests and headboards. The three rooms share two bathrooms: one comes with a tub whilst the other has just a shower. All rooms have electric radiators and immersion heaters and the luxury of underfloor heating in their bathrooms.
The guest cottage, or Casita de los Invitados, offers the possibility for two families sharing the Molino to have entirely separate accommodation. Fronted by a covered terrace with a dining table and separate chillout area, the cottage has a large, low-ceilinged sitting room with terracotta floors and an open hearth. The two bedrooms, Rosa which is a double and Amarillo a twin, feature more hand-painted artefacts whilst their bathrooms come with a retro-style stand-alone sink and a tub with overhead shower: Rosas's is backed by a half-moon window.
Expect a big stack of white hand, bath and pool towels along with gel, shampoo and soap courtesy of Alvarez Gómez of Madrid.
If the Molino's kitchen is endearingly rustic in style you'll find all you need for self-catering in style. A small, scrubbed-pine table provides extra work space for the prepping of food whilst the all-marble surfaces and floor are both attractive and practical.
The focus of the kitchen is its big, six ring industrial hob and oven which has an additional compartment for heating plates. There's a fridge and a dishwasher, toaster, microwave, kettle, a blender and a juicer, and you'll find masses more culinary instrumentalia in the glass-fronted kitchen cabinets. In an annex leading off from the kitchen and out to the fishpond courtyard a high, wall-to-wall dresser contains a generous stash of all-white crockery and glasses.
Whilst staying at El Molino nearly all your meals will be alfresco events and you can choose between three outside dining areas: just beyond the kitchen there's a glass-topped table beneath the palms in the fishpond courtyard, there's another on the covered terrace of the guest cottage – this a few yards further away - and there are two more dining areas next to the pool.
The chances are that you'll spend most of your stay at the Molino in and around its palm-lined swimming pool: this must surely number amongst the most alluring pools in southern Spain.
Flanked by high canary and washingtonia palms, banana and strelitzia, and measuring in at a huge 18m by 6m (that's excluding the big semi-circle of steps to one side), it could be that you'll never make the beach after a first dip here.
You'll find chunky pool sofas and wooden loungers topped with cotton mattresses at the pool's edge whilst a large, heather-topped gazebo offers masses of shade and a great spot for pool-side dining and barbecues. Just beyond the gazebo, in the old dovecot, there's a toilet and shower whilst next to the entrance back into the mill house is another shaded terrace/chillout: it's a perfect spot for sundowners or more casual, low-seated dining.
From the moment you get a glimpse of the Molino's gardens through its main entrance gates you sense that you're in for a huge treat of the botanical kind. High, sculptural washingtonia and a century-old auracaria reach improbably skywards with a second canopy provided by the delicate fronds of dozens of canary date palms. Plumbago, strelitzia, bougainvillea, agave and aloes enhance the feel of this most exotic of gardens whilst groves of fig, citrus and avocado are interspersed with big stretches of well-tended lawn: this would be a perfect place for kids of toddling age to play or for younger children to kick a ball around.
Unless you object to the presence of canines you may well find that you'll be joined in the garden by Dulce, Molino's resident and most gentle mut.
Any stay at Molino comes with included home help from María, a gentle mannered middle-aged lady from Chile. María can also prepare breakfasts for any groups should you prefer a more laid-back start to your day. And should you prefer not to shop on the day of your arrival food hampers can be ordered. More details on request.
Even though you may find that you're loathe to leave the inner sanctuary of the Molino del Duque there's masses to do, and a lot of it right on your doorstep. You could climb the steep track from Molino's main gate up to Manilva and have a simple tapas-style meal in one of its many lively bars and restaurants.
If you fancy a more sophisticated meal you're just 5kms away from the excellent fish and seafood restaurant Sal whilst it would be a shame not to eat at least once, with your toes in the sand, at Florian's, one the best of the local chiringuitos (‘seaside bars'). And temporary membership can be arranged for Molino guests at Finca Cortesin's beach club which also has an excellent restaurant.
Gibraltar can be reached in half an hour, Tarifa in a few minutes more whilst Bolonia, with one of the best beaches on Spain's Atlantic Coast, is a 45 minute drive from Molino del Duque.
If you're happy to drive a little further Ronda and the White Villages as well as Jerez and Cádiz can be comfortably visited as day trips as can Tanger via the fast ferries which leave every couple of hours from Tarifa.
The swimming pool is open throughout this period but because it is not heated, the swimming season is usually May to September.
Rental start and finish days for this property are flexible in low season, Saturdays in high and mid season.
Please, no smoking in the house.
Pets may be accepted, please ask.
A 500 Euro security deposit is required on each booking. This is held against your credit or debit card and will be cancelled one week after your holiday, subject to any reductions for breakages or damage. See Terms and Conditions for full details.
Costa del Sol beaches 10 mins; Gaucín (most facilities) 30 mins.
Gibraltar 45 mins; Málaga 1¼ hrs; Jerez 1¾ hrs; Sevilla 2½ hrs.
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