Spain’s most family-friendly spot

With animals galore, great food and a vast toybox, Caserío del Mirador is a winner for children says Jenny Coad in The Times last Saturday.

The thoroughly family-friendly hotel, near the town of Xalo — with mountain views of the Sierra de Bernia in front and the Serra del Ferrer behind — was opened more than 20 years ago by expats Sarah and Johnny Robinson. Their youngest son, Charlie, was tiny at the time, which informed the decision to make it all about the children. Their three are now grown up and working in Barcelona, but Sarah and Johnny are still welcoming little ones and their parents to their unique rural stay, which feels like a home from home.

I’m here with extended family — my sister, Flick, and I were lucky enough to have our two-year-old girls within weeks of one another so I feel as if I have two daughters and, happily, they adore each other. We’ve started an annual holiday tradition that provides the opportunity for Lycra-wearing (the cycle-mad husbands, Rob and Andrew), unbroken conversation (us sisters) and, these days, anything that will wear out the daughters.

Jenny Coad’s daughter enjoying the beach

Part of Caserio del Mirador’s winning formula on that front is its menagerie of animals. Each morning and evening we feed leftovers to the pigs — Peppa and Daisy — and the girls collect eggs from the chickens with enthusiasm (amazingly none are broken). There’s a donkey, Josep, who “eey-oores” in reply when they call to him across the fields; a Shetland pony; two little goats; a tolerant cat, Lola; and — joy of joys — a hutch full of snow-white baby bunnies. When Lyra is distraught to be parted from her cousin at bedtime, we take her on an evening paseo to say goodnight to them all.

There are also lots of toys — at least two of most things (thankfully), including a couple of toy prams, which the girls immediately take ownership of and rattle around the patio in matching dressing-gowns while we have breakfast. The morning mist before the sun burns across the Bernia is magic — and the evening brings with it a blustery wind as well as sunset drama. Sarah delivers a basket of hot croissants and warm rolls to the door and we help ourselves to eggs from the chickens. Weetabix, muesli and other essentials, such as tea, coffee and biscuits, are provided in the rooms.

The hotel — in 15 green acres peppered with palm trees and pink pig’s foot flowers — is split into three suites, two apartments and a casita, down the road from the main house. Each has a small kitchen, though there are only two hob rings in the one-bedroom apartments and no ovens, so we’re talking modest meals. Interiors are simple and some could do with a spruce-up but it’s all about the outdoor living here. And the outsourcing of chores. If you don’t want to cook — and who does, on holiday? — children’s tea is served at 5.30pm with a side of Aperol spritzes included for the grown-ups (I don’t care if they’re naff, they still say holiday to me). So we watch the girls wolf down croquetas, sausages and pasta, and mostly reject broccoli, safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to clean up the mess. Dinner for the adults is later, when the children are asleep. Monitors are provided.

Spain's most family-friendly spot

Cala Fustera in Benissa

Sarah is an excellent cook. She doesn’t have a catering background but loved entertaining friends in the couple’s former London life, including hosting what amounted to a mini festival in Cornwall each summer. During our week’s stay, we eat artichoke four ways, all sorts of homemade croquetas, paella, pulled lamb, a stew of chorizo criollo and lentils, and melting chocolate puds — all delicious and accompanied by Johnny’s selection of wines and local vermouths. One of my favourite meals is the tortilla jamon picnic delivered to the apartment. The food is restaurant quality but informal. I don’t think Sarah and Johnny would mind if we’d turned up scruffy from a day’s exploration or with pool-wet hair, for example.

We don’t have much pool time — it’s unheated and chilly on our stay — but we make up for it (well, some of us do) in the sandpit, on the trampoline, swings, slide and old-fashioned red tractor. The girls (and I) are thrilled to spot slender red squirrels scampering up a palm tree — I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the wild.

Altea’s old town

The coast is about 35 minutes’ drive away and we make two visits to Cala de la Fustera, a sheltered, curving bay with coarse sand (not great for castle-building but with an apparently tempting crunch) and an open-air seafront restaurant, Mandala Beach Bar, which does fish-and-chip Fridays (mains from The sea is nip-in nip-out temperature but lovely nonetheless, and we watch cormorants dip and dive. The girls can’t resist the temptation of the stairs on a walking trail leading south to further beaches.

Caserio del Mirador is in 15 green acres peppered with palm trees

Moraira is another winner for young families, with its playground and volleyball net on the sand, and the name of the town spelt out in giant letters on the seafront (they’re perfect for dashing around). We also have lunch on the seafront at Altea, a slightly uninspiring sandy strip with a vast pavement, but its hilltop old town, overseen by the Virgen del Consuelo parish church with its gorgeously blue and white glazed domes, has more character — and award-winning ice cream.

Read Jenny’s full article here

Photo of author

Johnny Robinson