There is a piece of land overlooking the coast near Marbella that is unique in its importance in the history of real estate development in Andalucía. This is Real de La Quinta, and its story goes back a lot further than the start of the tourism boom in Spain in the latter years of the 20th century. It starts a long time ago, when danger and untimely departure was a musket shot away.
Article by Chris Chaplow, Aman Sandhu and Vivion O’Kelly
The early story is both dangerous and cold. Centuries ago, the old path across Real de La Quinta was one of the starting points – the other being Istan village – for the journey of both goods and people from Marbella to Ronda and beyond into the interior. This route could be made safely only under the protection of caballerías (cavalrymen or horsemen) due to the infamous highwaymen stalking the byways at that time. The last highwayman to be caught on this path was the unfortunate Flores Arrocha, who was shot in a clearing called Fuenfria as late as 1932. As the name suggests, Fuenfria is today a welcome stopping point for tourists to fill bottles with cold spring water while enjoying a hike in the Sierra de las Nieves National Park.
A gin and tonic is not quite the same without ice, and never was. For that reason, and to preserve food, of course – especially the fishermen’s catches on the sunny coast – winter snow in the mountains was hauled down on the backs of mules to destinations as far away as Seville, Gibraltar and Ceuta, on the African continent. The snow would be pressed with large wooden ramrods until turning to ice, to be later extracted and transported. Many of the snow wells close to the old route, now abandoned, can still be seen by hikers. Trade was most active during the warmer months of spring and summer, and the transportation would be done at night to reduce melting. This, quite naturally, also increased the risk of being attacked by highwaymen.
New Ronda Road
The route is quiet today as a result of a new road linking Ronda to the coast that began in the latter half of the 19th century, which older residents of the Costa del Sol will remember as being long and winding. It took a while to build, being finally finished in 1939. The second part of our story begins a few decades later, opening with a view of a beautiful hilltop village.
A few minutes’ drive up the Ronda road from San Pedro brings you face to face with La Heredia, which has all the appearance of a traditional Spanish village. A bit chocolate boxy, you might think, with its pastel colours and juxtaposition of red-tiled houses, but hardly much more so than many other pretty traditional villages all over Andalucía. This was the brainchild of a well-known interior designer named Jaime Parladé who, despite the speech and mannerisms of the typical English gentleman of the landed gentry, was a genuine Spanish caballero.
It was also the first of a series of high-end developments built on what used to be the Alcuzcuz estate, once an enormous swathe of land owned since the early part of the 19th century by the Heredia family that one of Parladé’s aristocratic forebears had married into. The original Manuel Heredia had arrived from La Rioja to make his fortune in the deep south and eventually became the wealthiest businessman in the country, starting as a shop assistant in Malaga City at the age of fifteen, setting up in business during the War of Independence in 1808 and marrying the daughter of a well-to-do Anglo-Spanish couple in Malaga with ties to the aristocracy. His own daughter would go on to create the beautiful botanical gardens known as the Jardines de la Concepción on the family estate outside Malaga City in the middle of the 19th century.
Manuel Heredia built his country residence on land he purchased in Benahavís, which became the enormous Alcuzcuz estate. He also established his iron foundries at La Concepción and El Angel, and another in Malaga City. While providing much-needed employment in the area, these industries also, unfortunately, consumed most of the trees on the Sierra Blanca foothills. His Ferrería de la Concepción was, in its day, the first blast furnace to operate in Spain, and its ruins survive into our time.
Large blocks of the estate were sold off in the mid-20th century, some of which were later to become El Madroñal, La Zagaleta and more relevant to our story, Real de La Quinta, a luxury 200-hectare residential resort in the foothills just outside the Sierra de las Nieves National Park and a short drive up from the coast. This is also, as it happens, the estate on which the award-winning Vista Lago Residences of 18 luxury villas is being built.
Another name linked to the area, perhaps more familiar to anybody who has purchased milk in a Spanish supermarket, is that of Tomás Pascual, an entrepreneur from the province of Segovia, born in 1926. Milk apart, he was the founder of the well-known Grupo Inmobiliario La Quinta, which he set up in 1992. But many years earlier, in 1969, he established the famous Leche Pascual company, a pioneer in sterilised milk and tetra brik packaging in Spain. The company now markets over 300 food products in 22 plants, mostly associated with dairy and breakfast products.
La Quinta: the fifth part. The word, which goes back to Roman times and is mostly associated with land and property, was chosen by Tomás Pascual for his property group, and for some of the developments he was later involved in. Like Heredia, he started in business at ground level at an early age, in his case selling sandwiches at the railway station in Aranda de Duero where his father ran the canteen. He built the La Quinta development, not to be confused with Real de La Quinta, on land just west of the Rio Guadaiza. This led to the founding of the La Quinta Golf Club, whose professional was top golfer Manuel Piñero, who not only designed the course but was destined to become a kind of ambassador for both the club and the development in the latter part of the 20th century.
Real de La Quinta
Pascual began acquiring the land needed for this new luxury project in the 1990s, to be built on the Real de La Quinta estate, although he died before actually seeing the project come to fruition. Work on the development began in 2018, when the new access bridge connecting La Quinta to Real de La Quinta was opened to traffic.
The project, called Olivos, showcases the unique vision of the estate by implementing the latest designs into peaceful natural surroundings. Following its success, planning began on the second project, Quercus, with work starting in 2020. The buildings, of no more than six apartments each, feature spectacular views to the new lake, golf course, and the Mediterranean Sea.
And so we arrive back at Vista Lago, the current luxury development under construction in Real de La Quinta, developed by BRIGHT. Future residents (14 of the 18 villas have already been sold) will be happy to know something of the history of the land they now call home, and to know that they themselves are forming part of the continuing story of the beautiful Real de La Quinta estate.
This article is based on the longer and more detailed original version written by Aman Sandhu and Chris Chaplow, highly recommended for those who disagree with Henry Ford on the subject of history. It can be read here.