Easy Escapes: Hacienda Zorita, Valverdón, Salamanca, Spain

Madeleine Spencer kicks back in a charming country hotel with good wine, organic cuisine and a spa


Madeleine Spencer kicks back in a charming country hotel with good wine, organic cuisine and a spa

Madeleine Spencer kicks back in a charming country hotel with good wine, organic cuisine and a spa

Why go? Hacienda Zorita is a small wine hotel and spa on the estate of a former Dominican friary, 230km northwest of Madrid. Set beside the River Tormes, it has its own organic farm close by and is a place to wind down and embrace the values of the global 'slow food' movement (slowfood.com).

Dominican republic: a former friary, Hacienda Zorita sits by the River Tormes

When? Anytime, although summers tend to be scorching. Fortunately, the rain in this part of Spain really does stay mainly on the plain, with only around eight days of rainfall during the soggiest month of May. Spring and autumn offer the best culinary experiences, with freshly foraged food such as cherries from nearby Sierra de Francia and tomatoes from Peromingo appearing in the Hacienda’s restaurant.

You really must… Take your cue from the hotel and relax. Yes, by all means head to Ledesma (20 minutes away), stopping to take in the extraordinary Roman bridge, and to Salamanca (just 15 minutes – the hotel can arrange tours to both), to see its extraordinary cathedral and university buildings. You’ll get the best out of a stay at Hacienda Zorita, though, if you treat it as a microcosmic village. This means de-stressing with a Qi yoga lesson in the courtyard after breakfast, perusing the chapel that is home to extraordinary medieval art, taking a tour of the spectacular vineyards, and enjoying a pre-dinner aperitif on the banks of the river at sunset. Tough, eh? In summer there's also a small pool in the gardens.

Learning curve: spare some time to visit the historic university buildings in Salamanca © Turismo de Salamanca

Stay at: Dating back to the 14th century, Hacienda Zorita (doubles from £162 with breakfast; the-haciendas.com) sits in the Duero Valley surrounded by vineyards and organic farms. Rooms are traditional and rustic with blankets embroidered with 'Z's and cocoa-coloured tiled bathrooms in keeping with the brown beams and wooden furniture. There are only 40, all at ground level, so it feels like being part of a little village, a sense heightened when you sit in one of the sunny courtyards dotted around and gaze at the rows of vines or River Tormes. The spa is unmissable: housed on a bridge on the river, the exposed wood ceilings and outdoor jacuzzi (there is no pool) offers wine and olive-based therapies including a 90 minute 'Wine and Roses Ritual' (£150) mixing exfoliation, massage and a facial.

(Image credit: Gaspar Dominguez de Prado)

Spanish nights: a bedroom at Hacienda Zorita

Dine at: Zorita's Kitchen, the hotel’s large restaurant overlooking the river, champions the farm-to-table ethos evident in every dish on the constantly-changing menu. For breakfast, expect the usual suspects with a little Spanish flair – think scrambled eggs with farinato (a sausage infused with garlic and brandy) and Iberian chorizo on bread drizzled with olive oil. In the evening, inspiration is taken from the seasons and surroundings with lamb-based stews, chickpeas from nearby Fuentesaúco and lentils from Armuña often making an appearance. In Salamanca, head to Oroviejo (restauranteoroviejo.es) in Plaza de San Benito where you can feast on Ibérico ham, grilled vegetables and succulent suckling pig in the cavernous restaurant, as well as bread fresh from the wood oven. It’s worth phoning ahead to ask about specials as some require pre-ordering.

Take it slow: the tranquil grounds at Hacienda Zorita

Bring home: Wine, of course! Pack some of the Hacienda’s bestselling Marqués de la Concordia Rioja Reserve (£11.49) and Marqués de la Concordia MM Selección Especial Cava Brut (£10.99). If you’re partial to a richer red wine, try the Natural Reserve Syrah (£19.99). You’ll also want to leave room for the estate’s organic produce – the ewe’s milk cheese in particular is delicious.

Book now: BA (ba.com) flies from London to Madrid from £89 return. A taxi from the airport to Hacienda Zorita costs around £150 one-way and takes two-and-a-half hours. For car hire options see carrentals.com. Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays.com) has packages to the hotel.

Info: Madrid (Lonely Planet, £12.99) includes a chapter on Salamanca – you can download it here (£2.99), and see salamanca.es and whatsalamanca.com.

Thumbnail © Turismo de Salamanca


Madeleine Spencer

Madeleine Spencer is a journalist and broadcaster who has contributed to titles including Grazia, Glamour, InStyle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, and Stylist, as well as offering commentary for the BBC, Sky News, and ITV.

She is keen on exploring the significance beauty rituals, products, and memories have on people from different walks of life, and enters into conversation on the topic with guests on her podcast, Beauty Full Lives.