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The long drive to Ubrique

Photos by Ashley Maer

By Ashley Maer
We knew next to nothing about Ubrique when we looked it up on the Internet, which is exactly why we decided to spend three nights there.

What we can tell you now for free is that it’s a long drive to Ubrique — but it’s worth it!

Leaving Gibraltar after work one Thursday evening armed with Google Maps, it was supposed to take us just over two hours.

However, after passing Alcalá de los Gazules, we were somewhat deflated to discover the next 35kms of winding mountain roads were in need of repair and at times were only wide enough for one car.

That said, it was a picturesque drive and one that is no doubt popular with cyclists, as it cuts through the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema.

Anyway, we arrived a little later than expected and our first impressions of Ubrique was that it was a beautiful, clean little town surrounded by imposing mountains.

We rented an apartment called Loft Casa del Agua on for three nights, which cost us 410 euros. Located in the Old Town, it boasted a jacuzzi in the living room, dreamy balcony views of the town and was built into the side of a rock.

Now, for full disclosure, I love a good Spanish old town. And I fell a little bit in love with Ubrique’s old town. It reminded me a little of the Albaicín in Granada. Built on hills, it is a maze of winding, cobble stoned paths that lead everywhere and nowhere — with the occasional proudly decorated residential street, cosy bar or look-out point for good measure.

But in retrospect, the old town probably wasn’t the best place to stay with a four-month-old baby in a pram, as there were a lot of hills and steps to negotiate.

We struggled to find anywhere to eat on our first evening and after passing five restaurants where each kitchen was closed, we found Bar Torre del Oro on Avenida de Espana, which is the main street in town. It was typical Spanish tapas and saved us from ordering dinner from the kebab shop. What we found strange though was that the town was almost empty, and no one seemed to be eating.

The next day, after exploring the town on foot (we ditched the buggy and experimented with the baby harness), we made a dinner reservation at Bar La Herradura, which is rated the second-best restaurant in Ubrique. The barman said there was no need to reserve and that if we turned up at 8pm, then that would be fine.

Walking along Avenida de Espana later that evening, it was absolutely heaving with people on the streets and the bars and restaurants were rammed – a complete change to the previous night.

Bar La Herradura was off the beaten track on a quiet street and looked a bit tired to be honest. However, never judge a book by its cover, the food was the highlight of our entire trip — so much so that we debated returning Saturday night for an encore. We had fried aubergines, spinach croquetas and a steak to share on a sizzling stone — leaving us delightfully heavy ahead of our climb back up into the old town.

The next morning, we left the flat before sunrise to beat the midday sun (the weekend saw highs of 32c!), with our daughter fastened to my chest in a body harness, so that we could climb to the Ermita del Calvario. This small, modest chapel can be seen from miles around and was well worth the steep, 20-minute climb to get there.

Having ticked one tourist attraction off the list and devoured a breakfast with two coffees (it was a hard climb!), we headed to the tourist office to see what else there was to do in Ubrique — but it was closed.

We read that Ubrique is the home of a famous bull fighter called Jesulin de Ubrique and for this reason, the Bull Fighting Museum and Bull Ring were next on our list. But after a 15-minute walk to the edge of the town, we weren’t surprised to find that both were also closed. So, we posed for a photo outside the bull ring and cleared off pronto. The saving grace was that locals were friendly and helpful with directions and that nothing seemed to be further than a 20-minute walk away in town.

We ate a disappointing lunch at Las Cuatro Esquinas in the Old Town, which was rated third best restaurant on Trip Advisor somehow. It appears the owners or kitchen staff have changed since its glory days – but the location is nice for a drink and there are nice views.

But we ended on a high — Saturday night we stumbled upon a cute little square just a short stroll from our apartment called La Plaza de la Verdura, where we found a typical old town Spanish bar called Bar Carriles. Here we had a cold beer, tapas and watched the world go by before retreating to the apartment.

In short, we loved Ubrique and plan to return in the winter when snow falls here – and it was definitely worth the long drive!

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