Magical Mallorca

Majestic mountains, fabulous food and friendly people….what more could you ask for from this little Spanish isle? Published on MSN Travel.

Mallorca, the original home of the all-inclusive holiday and the crudely nicknamed ‘Shagaluf’, does not have the most appealing reputation. So with slight trepidation off I went – with mother, brother and boyfriend in tow, to the little-known south-eastern area of S’Horta.

Driving out of the capital, Palma, and onto the long straight stretches of road, flanked by distant mountains and rustic farm walls, that wonderful, liberated holiday feeling came over us. It being the month of June the breeze was warm and the evening sun still strong. Lana Del Rey played on the radio and we felt as if we had suddenly morphed into a cheesy car advert – all four of us singing along, but we didn’t care.

The further south we went, the steeper and greener the mountains got. The area of S’Horta is a valley filled with small vineyard farms and traditional farmhouses. Red poppy fields, deserted roads and ancient olive trees with enormous twisted roots made it more picturesque than I ever could have imagined.

At the end of a gravel road we pulled into Hortets de s’Horta, our home for the next six nights. We were staying in a small but perfectly formed three-bedroom farmhouse with an azure blue pool, outdoor Jacuzzi and wonderful views of the surrounding fields. As we arrived the sun was just setting, pouring an orange glow over the pool. It felt as if we had the valley to ourselves, save for a few distant houses on the hillside and the odd burst of crowing from a nearby cockerel.

On the first day we ventured to the small town of Felanitx where a huge Sunday market is held. Surrounding a large piazza and up into the steep cobbled streets towards the majestic San Miguel church, the stalls sell all sorts of tempting Spanish goods, from parma ham to white linen clothing, espadrilles, miniature flamenco dresses and fans. It’s a feast for the eyes and you can quite easily spend an afternoon there wandering through the streets, stopping to sip on the local and refreshing limonata.

Stocking up on delicious food and wine became a fun daily ritual. The surrounding towns provided a plethora of gourmet delis and supermarkets for our evening barbie. Be warned though – finding a supermarket open in Mallorca on a Sunday night is nigh on impossible. One night, after an hour’s drive we ended up in Lidl of all places. This was no usual UK Lidl though, oh no. Here we are talking freshly baked, warm bread, full-size parma hams and rows and rows of fresh fish. The BBQ at the villa was an impressive beast and we made the most of it with huge spreads on the outdoor terrace every night, washed down with plenty of the great value local wine.

Beautiful sunshine and mid-20temperatures meant a day by the pool was an ever-tempting option and indeed for some of the trip all we did was sunbathe, sip delicious cocktails and cool off in the pool. The villa is so private you could easily hide away for a week if you wanted to.

On the one day we finally dragged ourselves away from the pool and off to the capital, Palma, the weather by happy coincidence turned cool and cloudy, which was perfect for sightseeing. Palma is a beautiful place – it has wide, tree-lined streets along which trotting horses transport tourists, especially around the huge gothic cathedral. The city is a multifaceted sort of place where one minute you can be sitting eating gazpacho in the shabby splendour of the old quarter, with its narrow streets and ancient murals, and the next you can be browsing the poshest of designer boutiques down on the marina. What’s really lovely about it is the atmosphere; the people are friendly and welcoming and, apart from the odd mad scooter driver, it’s all very civilised.

By the middle of the holiday we were keen to hit the beach. I’d heard that the north of the island is the best option but the south still had plenty of places to offer. One evening on the drive home we saw an old sign pointing to a cove and so we drove down a tiny country lane to explore. What we discovered was the most gorgeous picture-perfect little bay with turquoise waters, a soft sandy beach and best of all it was completely empty of people. A couple of yachts had discovered the area too and were parked up for the night. It was a lovely place to watch the sunset, with a beer in hand.

The next day we realised how lucky we’d been to stumble on that beach because we spent the best part of four hours searching for somewhere similar and we had no such luck. Either the places were just rocky cliffs, dead ends or horribly overcrowded. According to our guide, there was one beach – S’Amarador – that was meant to be the best in the area so we made our way over there. There was one problem, however. It was packed full of people. It seemed as if everyone else had also heard of this amazing beach which was ‘impossible to find’. So we found a spot, tried not to stare at the German tourists who revealed a very relaxed attitude to changing on the beach(!), took a quick dip in the cool sea and then left.

On the last day we drove to the pretty town of Artà. It’s a quaint little place, with a selection of shabby-chic French-style cafes and a pretty castle at the top of the town. Seeking a bit of adventure we then went to the Coves del Drach, a huge underground limestone cave filled with stalactite formations and a large underground lake.

That evening we visited a local restaurant to celebrate my ma’s birthday and what a great place it turned out to be. We enjoyed a delicious feast – the slow-cooked lamb and marinated monkfish were particularly good. Oh and so was the local wine!

On the final morning, feeling sad and quiet, all four of us got into our car to head back to the airport. What was special, however, was that we felt as though we’d discovered how magical Mallorca actually is, and that we couldn’t wait to return.

Ginny Weeks stayed with Mallorca Farmhouses. Her hire car was booked through Rhino Car Hire.