On the Cover: Style in the Saddle at Caballo de Hiero

By Lucy Cleland

5 months ago

For the latest Country & Town House cover, the team headed to beautiful Spain, to Caballo de Hiero – an exclusive equestrian estate surrounded by nature, offering an unrivalled richness of experience.

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The Sound of Silence at Caballo de Hiero

Jan/Feb ’24 Issue of Country & Town House cover

All photos by Dan Hack

It is the silence that catches you first. The inky black sky strewn with stars may draw your eyes in wonder, but it is the deep nourishment of real silence – so rarely encountered – that makes you stop and breathe. It is of course broken come morning when the water features rush, the birds trill and the horses whinny – life awakening in its natural daily ritual.

We are at Caballo de Hiero, a 5,400-acre estate in ‘pata negra’ country, just over an hour north-west of Seville, surrounded by undulating green hills, which in turn are cloaked by evergreen oaks, many over 100 years old. Come summer, this land turns red, dry and arid in the oppressive Andalusian heat – so redolent of Lorca’s poetry – but for now, on this perfect cobalt blue December day, the land is green, alive and epic.

Caballo de Hiero aerial view

The estate – which is available for guests to take over and use exclusively, with staff – is the legacy project of a Hispanic-Belgian couple whose search for the perfect property took them two years, via the Highlands of Scotland (‘too cold and wet’) to the fields of the South of France (‘the land too cut up’) before ending in the raw beauty of southern Spain ten years ago. It was the combination of being completely rooted in nature, in utter privacy and remoteness (you cannot see another person nor property for miles), yet being within easy access of the vibrant culture of Seville that sold it to them – and that will attract guests seeking such a rich offering.

Man in blue jacket rides white horse

Formerly belonging to a farming family, who grazed cows and pigs, this new iteration sees the land naturally filled with fallow and red deer, mouflon sheep and wild boar, while vultures, eagles and falcons soar overhead. If you’re very lucky, you might, just might, catch sight of a lynx or a timid otter in the river, especially if you’re on one of the beautifully trained, forward-going Spanish or Arab horses, on which you can gracefully explore the terrain in ultimate, sheepskin-padded comfort.

And explore it you must. Weaving your way along disused railway lines, up steep rocky paths to enjoy sweeping vistas and a canter through dew-dropped meadows, which come spring are flower-filled with lilacs and wild peonies, feels gloriously atavistic, so far removed are you from the churn of daily life. There are also fat-tyred ebikes, lakes for swimming in, hiking boots for walks, binoculars for bird-watching. Picnics, laid out by Ramon and Ellie, appear as if by magic in the shimmering light. And if you ask nicely, the on-site equestrian, Jesús, who was born just over the hills, will demonstrate his awe-inspiring dressage skills in the ring. This is a land to sink into.

Man on white horse with female model in denim shorts and long shirt dress, Caballo de Hiero shoot

The house itself was built anew on the exact footprint of the old farmstead yet entirely remodelled as a family home that could also work beautifully for guests. Because it’s located in a national park, building permissions took a long time to secure but once attained, the final build – centred around a typical Spanish courtyard and using as many local and reclaimed materials as possible – took just 18 months. Guest accommodation – all suites with high timbered ceilings, fireplaces, and exquisite furnishings including embroidered headboards and marble sinks – flank the sides of the courtyard, which shines bright white in the moonlight, along with a sauna, steam- and massage room, art room, and other spaces for yoga practice or perhaps a flamenco demonstration. 

Inside the main house, there are more bedrooms, plus a dining room and a large sitting room with huge fireplaces, piles of books, family photos and deep sofas to recline on. Outside, pale stone steps lead down to the natural pool which is filtered by plants and for the cooler evenings, there’s a small indoor pool. The owners sourced many of the interior pieces, furniture and elements from flea markets, auction houses and reclamation shops. It feels at once lived-in and soulful despite its relative newness. 

Caballo de Hiero shoot

And, as with anyone who wants to build with nature and the future generations in mind, they have cleverly denied the need for radiators and noisy, polluting air-conditioning units by designing an underfloor heating system that pumps hot water round in the winter, and cold in the summer, from geothermal, solar powered and heat pump-sourced energy. It is a blueprint for what a sustainable build can be; along with its shutters and thick walls, you are protected from the elements – temperatures drop sharply in the winter at night yet rise unfathomably high come summer. They are also replanting trees, where old-age and disease have overcome them; as well as an orchard for fruit trees, crops that attract birds and pollinators for their bees. 

The best months to visit are in the spring or autumn, when temperatures remain deliciously warm, streams refill and vegetation blooms. The owners are quick to point out though that Caballo will not be for everyone – they made it clear to a Hollywood star recently that it was not possible just to walk to a nearby restaurant. However, for those drawn to somewhere blissfully private, with nature at its beating heart and where silence wraps you in its powerful hold, this could be just the place you are looking for.

BOOK IT: 11 doubles, plus seven more in two other lodges. Minimum stay three nights. From €750pp per day, all inclusive. caballohierro.com

Lucy Cleland flew return from London Gatwick to Seville with a carbon footprint of 240kg of CO2e (ecollectivecarbon.com