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A Walking Week with Chris Stewart

Las Alpujarras – land of olive and almond trees

This holiday combines unique insights into local ways of life with several opportunities for some fascinating excursions and superb walks accompanied by raconteur and author, Chris Stewart (Driving over Lemons, A Parrot In The Pepper Tree, The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society and Last Days of the Bus Club), who has lived – and farmed – in the region for many years. Read his entertaining blog here >

Starting point:

On arrival at Malaga airport, you will be met by your hosts, David and Emma Ilsley, and transferred to your base for the week, their delightful home in Mairena, Casa las Chimeneas. Here, they will be only too happy to share their knowledge of their adopted village and its traditional practices with you, and to introduce you to some of their neighbours. To get your bearings, David will take you on an introductory tour of their small finca and the village, explaining the intricacies of the complex Moorish irrigation system which still waters the terraces. You will also meet their friend – and your fellow guest – author Chris Stewart. Chris will be your fellow guest for the rest of week, sharing your meals, and joining you on many of the excursions.

Days 1-6:

During your stay, you will join Chris and his wife Ana for lunch at their home, El Valero. On the lovely winding track down to Chris and Ana’s farm there really are lots of lemons, millions of them – enough, in fact, to drive over if that’s what you fancy. The areas is famed for its almond groves and citrus orchards – but you’ll know that, of course, if you’ve read Chris's books. With his wit and eye for detail he has described these scenes so vividly that many of us feel that somehow we actually already know the legendary El Valero that is his home.  Read more about El Valero here >

Walking from Mairena:

Other undoubted highlights of this holiday are the relaxed and informal walks in the company of Chris. The nature of the terrain will make for enjoyable and varied walking, and the walks can be adapted to the suit the level of the group – from gentle strolls through terraced olive groves that cover the Alpujarran hills and valleys, to options that climb up to the higher summits of nearby peaks, rewarding with you dramatic views towards Mulhacén (mainland Spain's highest peak) in the distance.

Local visits & insights:

Not only will you learn about the history and heritage of the Alpujarras from Chris and your hosts but you'll also get the chance explore nearby villages and towns. In previous years, guests have visited the villages of Jubar and Ugijar; met artisan food producers and sampled their wines, olive oils and cheese; enjoyed visits to historic towns like Almeria with its fascinating Alcazaba, and learned about authentic Alpujarran cuisine.

[Please note: the visits are all very informal but will be arranged before your arrival. Due to local conditions beyond our control, it's not possible to provide an exact list now, but we'll let you know the itinerary nearer the time.]

A taste of Andalucia:

At the guesthouse, you will also have the chance to see how age-old local recipes are given a modern twist in the kitchen; while at dinner Chris takes it in turn to sit with each group of guests, to further share his thoughts and experiences on this wonderful region of Andalucia.

Sustainable tourism at the finca:

David and Emma care deeply about the long-term sustainability of the Alpujarras region and a week with them will give you a real insight into some of their ongoing projects. From its inception, this was always going to be a place where traditional farming methods would be used to enhance and improve the land, creating a restful haven where the fruits of the fields could be harvested for the guesthouse and restaurant. Central to this idea – and still as important today – has been learning from the locals and working in tune with nature and the seasons. With this uppermost in their minds, David and Emma have always been quick to seek – and accept – help and advice from local farmers who showed them how to irrigate, plough, prune and tend the land in the age-old traditions of the village.

The Soil Association has granted the finca official ‘organic’ status, based on farming methods and a complete absence of herbicides and pesticides, thus recognising that all their produce is as fresh, good and natural as nature intended. A welcome by-product of these methods has been the deliberate setting aside of areas of uncultivated land – as all weeds, hedgerows and grasses now have to be controlled the old-fashioned way, by hand – leading to an extraordinary variety of flowers and an abundance of insects and bird-life which flourishes in this magical place.

To find out more or plan your trip

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  Flexible walk
Local Map
Enjoy lunch at El Valero
Chris and his wife Ana invite you to join them for lunch on their farm, El Valero. Read more here >