A weekend with El Gran Sueño
Asturias in Northern Spain may not be on everyone’s radar yet, but with its seasonal climate, green valleys, epic mountains and rustic charm, it’s hard to understand how the area hasn’t been flooded with rambling tourists keen to explore this beautiful location. Stunningly preserved with quaint villages and traditional ways of old, it has a unique and slow vibe that’s perfect for a weekend getaway.
We drove across the northern coast of Spain from Bilbao, traversing mountainous landscapes along empty motorways before arriving at El Gran Sueño. A boutique, adults-only bed and breakfast owned by Dave, Javier & Carson (a charming and very well behaved spaniel) who between them take running a guesthouse to the next level.
From the outside El Gran Sueño is fairly unassuming, sat in a small village amongst modest homes and Hòrreos (traditional Spanish grain houses raised off the ground to prevent damp). Inside, though, tells a vastly different story, contemporary design and crisp, clean rooms delicately intertwine with the rustic charm of the old stable house it once was.
Dave and Javier are immensely proud of El Gran Sueño and with good reason, they have worked tirelessly to restore the once derelict building into a place they can welcome others to enjoy. Both have their own individual passions and skills needed for running such a luxurious boutique hotel - Dave is a passionate cook and runs the business side of things, whilst Javier’s attention to detail and love of design make for a stylish and spotless place to stay.
We arrived late and thirsty after our day’s travelling, so after checking in we share a beer with Javier on the patio. This is where El Gran Sueño’s final secret reveals itself - panoramic views of hillsides, valleys and the dramatic snow capped Picos De Europa mountain range.
Before long Dave appeared with fresh homemade sourdough bread, local olive oil and baba-ganoush. Sat out in the evening sun they share their story with us, how they had viewed over 75 properties in their hunt for the perfect guesthouse before finding an old, neglected building they fell in love with. Their concept of low impact and sustainable management, from using eco friendly geothermal heating systems and ethically sourced local produce to their small gift shop selling organic toiletries and handmade gift cards to help fund the “Save our Hòrreos” initiative to restore and preserve the traditional village grain houses. After a year of complete restoration they finally completed El Gran Sueño (named appropriately “The Big Dream”) and opened the doors to their first guests in July 2014.
That evening we dined with our hosts in the small dining room, which has retained its colourful and original Spanish tiling. Each room in this house has it’s own unique character, a cosy snug sits at the front of the house giving guests a place to relax and read. Upstairs each of the guest bedrooms have been stylishly kitted out with a mix of contemporary designer pieces, rustic furniture and large windows.
Dave’s cauliflower pakoras followed by light and crispy falafel served with rocket salad and a smooth tzakziki dip are delicious - it’s evident how much love goes into the preparation of food here, each dish is as immaculately presented as the rooms. We chat late into the night and no longer feel like guests in a hotel, but like friends catching up after a long absence.
The next morning we explore the trails in the area with Dave and Carson. Cowbells chime through the valley as we walk along wild flower lined tracks, through eucalyptus forests and past old farmhouses and churches. We see only one other dog walker during our 90-minute stroll, and with cloudless blue skies it’s a perfect start to the day.
Having worked up a serious thirst and appetite, we return to the patio again with its panoramic views for a freshly prepared breakfast of fruit, grated tomato, local cheese, jam and bread topped off with a very hard to refuse offer of zesty carrot cake.
After relaxing in the large garden we took a drive through the mountains to the coastal town of Gijon to try some of the famous local cider. Gijon is just one of the numerous picturesque seaside fishing towns in Asturias, all great places to enjoy an al fresco meal and watch the world go by.
Returning from our day out we were eager to return to the beautiful countryside and our new home in time to watch the setting sun turn the mountains red over a glass or two of wine.
The next day I awoke to an incredible view of the sun rising behind the mountains, which we were able to watch from the comfort of our bed. All too soon the time had come to say good-bye to our new friends, leaving them with a promise to return to their little paradise in the hillsides.
Our 3 course evening meal cost €39 each, excluding drinks. The Galeria room pictured above can be booked for €130 - €205 per night and includes breakfast
Book your trip to El Gran Sueño here