Having enjoyed my experience with them on an RWH trip to Tuscany, I was more than ready for another excursion in the company of Graham and Tony – a splendid pair of fellows who overlook the fact that my enthusiasm far outstrips my ability on the rambling front!
“Your mind is writing cheques your body can’t cash,” is how some fictional character summed up the situation. And, let’s face it, we all arrive there sooner or later. When the knee or the hip begins to let us down, or the inescapable effects of time and gravity start to tell.
But Graham and Tony were prepared to put up with me on a fresh trip. This time to Andalucia, which is a part of Spain I know well and for which I have great affection. However, they had a cunning plan, and it involved the participation of Kathy, Joint Managing Director of Ramblers Worldwide Holidays and her husband Paul.
“What we’re going to do,” explained Graham, “is travel around Andalucia for a few days, staying in hotels that are featured in the RWH brochure. We’ll do a little walking when we get an opportunity, and we’ll probably meet some proper ramblers along the way.”
I didn’t like the implication behind that “proper ramblers” comment, but said nothing. Paul had generously volunteered to drive and Kathy was there to add the ingredient that had been missing from the Tuscany trip – much-needed female commonsense.
I’ve just returned from that visit to the white towns that perch in the foothills of the Sierras. It was, in every respect, a rewarding experience and I envy folk who are able to spend more holiday time in such locations. It is wonderful walking country, the people are genuinely welcoming and the food and wine were, in general, as excellent as the company – the friends with whom I travelled, and the folk we encountered along the way.
Thanks, I suspect, to money from the EU, Spain has a superbly-engineered and well-maintained motorway system and the same goes in general for the narrower roads that twist and turn up into the hills and those fabled “White Towns”. Paul handled the driving with ease, though one of the hotels was somewhat difficult to locate, and we spent more time than we had planned negotiating the tangled streets of Ronda.
But Ronda, like Malaga and Granada, rewarded the time spent exploring them – an afternoon in the Alhambra being especially memorable.They were ideal contrasting places in which to stop on our journeys between Grazalema and Competa, Capileira and Antequera.
It was in Capileira that we met the group of “proper” ramblers Graham had mentioned. A cheerful bunch who had, that morning, flown to Malaga from Manchester and were settling into the Hotel Meson Poqueira. Over dinner the talk was of the week ahead and of past holiday experiences, and I appreciated, not for the first time, that folk who walk for pleasure make congenial company and have many good tales to tell.
Grazalema and Competa were also excellent locations – whether you call them large villages or small towns makes no difference to their charm, or to the fact that you feel you have gone back in time as you contemplate their narrow, steep streets and small plazas, each with a scattering of tables under umbrella shades tempting you to sit and watch the passing scene.
Their hotels – Puerto de la Villa and Balcon de Competa respectively – richly deserve the stars they have earned.
I confess I did no proper walking – apart from the aforementioned steep streets and inviting plazas – but it felt like a rambling holiday just the same. The company made it so, of course, especially that group from Manchester, and the experience of Andalucia set me thinking that RWH should perhaps consider catering for walkers who are now content to be strollers And, indeed they have through their new ‘Adagio’ programme which is more about ambling than rambling. So walkers who are now content to be strollers, can now relish the company of like-minded folk with tales to tell of past achievements and the triumphs of their youth.
For, after all, what is the point of travelling if you cannot share your pleasure with friendly and like-minded companions?
A week at the three-star Hotel Balcon de Competa on half-board terms costs from £699, including flights between Gatwick and Malaga (Birmingham & Manchester on request) and the opportunity to explore the Sierra Almijara and Sierra Tejeda.
A week in Capileira, staying half-board at the Meson Poqueira, including flights between Gatwick and Malaga, (Birmingham & Manchester on request) costs from £769 and offers a wide range of walks in the southern valleys of the Sierra Nevada also featuring a “2 Walks, 2 leader, 2 grades option” .
01707 33 11 33
For more leisurely walking options in Andalucia visit: