Stopover UK to Costa del Sol? Stay at Hotel Meson Despeñaperros in the Natural Park

So you're planning that long drive down from the UK through France or maybe just from the north of Spain and wondering where to stop. I have the ideal stopover for you that is not only a place to sleep but serves great local food.

A few weekends ago on a dismal (for Andalusia) weekend hubby and I drove northwards for about an hour, from home in the Sierra Sur de Jaen, to the Hotel Meson Despeñaperros  at the edge of the Natural Park by the same name. It's in the very north of Jaen province adjoining the region of Castilla-La Mancha.

A rugged, beautiful spot, once the haunt of highwaymen, which was the natural pass from north to south. Dramatic mountains,  stunning scenery and soaring, circling birds of prey mark this area. Driving through the natural park, craggy rocks line the main road and if you're looking you'll see a sign 'Hotel' from the road itself. That was our destination the Hotel Meson Despeñaperros.

A hotel since the 80s some of the decor is charming and traditional like the bar and the little cosy lounge, the bedrooms are a little outdated but clean and comfotable, with ongoing improvements, new beds throughout and charming touches.

The highlight of our overnight stay, along with the breakfast, was the lunch - a tasting menu in the restaurant which has far-reaching mountain views although not visible that lunchtime. We had an absolutely excellent meal sampling some of the best gourmet extra virgin olive oils of the area and a local white wine from a new-to-me local winery with freshly-made bread to dip into the oils.

Closely followed by cold cuts and cheese, all local, all very good indeed - goat's cheese, wild boar sausage, duck chorizo, venison chorizo, this mountainous land is home to some great gastronomy.

Then a novel twist on a Spanish classic, Potatas Bravas sprinkled with juicy diced venison, very good!

Partridge Salad, with nuts, cherry tomatoes and goats cheese. Very good indeed, though huge!

Loin of Venison with sliced garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Excellent.

Selection of the home-made desserts - whew, these we managed to taste but,  just couldn't finish.

What we needed after our fabulous feast was a looong walk, but the weather was against us so we went exploring this scenic mountainous area by car.

It's good cycling and walking country too, most of the time!

Our bedroom view the next morning of the huge outside terrace and hills behind was grey but not as wet as the forecast and things only improved.......

We said goodbye to the Hotel Meson Despeñaperros to explore more this stunning little'known area of Andalusia the  Natural Park or Parque Natural de Despeñaperros.

Climbing up into the Natural Park the sun began to peep through and by the time we reached Aldeaquemada it was obivous we were going to be able to walk to the waterfall Cascada de la Cimbarra.

Only a few kilometres down a well-marked track and our destination, which we had been to before but there was no water falling, was alive. Green, verdant and with plenty of water after the spring rains, we could hear the fall before seeing it.

I got to play and take a first selfie with my mobile on my birthday-present camera, that needs a bit more practice and I've probably forgotten how to do it now as I haven't since then!

And then we see the waterfall. High above it from the ridge in the photo above. The water tumbles and falls far below.

Yet another stunning inland spot of Andalusia and one of four Natural Parks in Jaen province alone. A great stay combined with fabulous food and scenery make it a great stopover wherever you're heading.

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