As we drive through the wrought iron gates just under an hour after leaving home, I feel like I’m entering into the driveway of someone’s private home.
Somebody is coming towards us before we’ve even stopped the car, I ask if were in the right place for Hidden Valley camp site and Jayne confirms we are as she introduces herself with a smile and warm welcome.
She is accompanied by a small dog named Jasmine who is as friendly as her owner and my daughter is immediately taken with her.
We decide to leave our things in the car for now as we’re eager to explore and Jayne is already offering us a drink so I chat to her over a coffee on the terrace of the finca where Jayne and husband Red live.
She informs me this is also where they serve breakfast and evening meals.
My husband meanwhile is chasing our daughter around the pretty gardens and walkways while she explores and chats excitedly to the chickens and pigs.
I have noticed already from the chalk board that pork medallions are on the menu tonight but Jayne informs me that Babs and Winston are pet pigs and the chickens (Rita and Elsie) lay the eggs we'll be eating for breakfast.
Although on closer inspection there's only 1 egg so far, so we may go hungry in the morning.
I’m already falling in love with this place but have yet to see where we’re sleeping for the night. Let me tell you, I have only ever camped once in my life and it was such a bad experience I’ve never tried it again..
Maybe it’s because I have low expectations of camping but when Jayne does show us to our tent I am literally wowed.
This is my sort of camping, there’s at least 25 meters between each of the 4 tents, in fact we can’t actually see any of our glamping neighbours from our tent, instead just lovely views over the olive groves and valley below.
There’s no funny musty smell that I always associate with camping, in fact it smells fresh and of clean linen.
There’s a proper double bed and a single with beautiful matching bedding, 2 bedside tables, 2 chairs complete with throws and cushions and there’s still room to walk around.
Jayne informs me this is a 5 meter round bell tent; It’s huge yet cosy and immaculately clean and comfortable.
In addition there are 3 others like this one and a 6 meter tent “The Emperor” which easily accommodates a family of 4, (we know because our friends Mel, Alex, Izzy and Jack stayed in it).
Each tent is individually decorated with matching bedding and set in their own grounds with a seating area, hammock and a toilet just a few steps from each one.
The fact that there is a proper toilet, (albeit outdoors with just a bamboo fence protecting your modesty) is a huge bonus and not at all like camping as I had imagined or experienced before.
We headed back down to the finca passing a lovely swimming pool and sunbathing area and even though the weather wasn’t great for swimming, the whole area is beautifully set under some shady trees.
Back at the house, our friends have just arrived and Rosie excitedly calls on her friend Izzy to come and explore with her.
The two friends run off through the olive groves in search of the animals while the adults enjoy a drink on the terrace knowing they are completely safe.
We meet Red who is as friendly and welcoming as his wife and after chatting for a while we learn that Jayne and Red have been running this business for just 2 weeks and we are only their 5th guests.
I’m shocked, you would think they had been doing this all their life but they inform us they’ve recently taken it over and although you can’t fault anything, they have some great future plans for Hidden Valley.
Their background and genuine warm personalities clearly help them to feel at home here even after just two short weeks.
Both Red and Jayne have been in hospitality most of their lives, Red as an army chef then head chef in a popular restaurant on the coast.
He informs us he is the chef here at Hidden Valley and should we like to dine with them there is a set 2 course menu for just 15€ per person. The menu looks delicious and great value so we all immediately agree and he kindly offers to cook the kids a separate meal of breaded chicken with broccoli.
We ask where we can pop for a light lunch and Red recommends we try the restaurant we passed at the bottom of the hill on the approach up to Hidden Valley, ‘Fuente de la Higuera’.
It’s not far but as it’s a steep hill with no path we decide to drive as it’s not ideal to walk it with the kids.
A few minutes further down the hill is the little town of Alora with a good selection of bars and restaurants which would be a nice place to visit if we had more time.
After a bit of a boozy lunch and a few very tasty sharing plates of salad, prawns pil pil, jamon, calamari and chicken skewers we make our way up the hill back to the camp site.
The kids enjoy playing games in the tents, swinging in hammocks and exploring the vast grounds, then at just before 8pm, we meander through the winding paths for dinner. It’s just getting dark and Jayne and Red make the place feel really cosy with candles on the outside table and fairy lights decorating the trees.
We’re joined by a very nice Spanish couple for dinner who are also staying at Hidden Valley, so we introduce ourselves and all sit down around the huge table to eat.
Jayne does a great job of making sure everyone’s wine glass is topped up and Red is cooking up a storm in the kitchen with a delicious starter of chicken liver pate salad followed by pork medallions in a mushroom sauce.
All the food is beautifully presented and cooked to perfection and the portion sizes are good too. This hands down beats my past camping experience of warming up a tin of beans over a gas stove in the pitch dark.
The kids seem to thoroughly enjoy their Chicken and Broccoli too and after their meal they are happy to chill on the sofas with their I Pads while we chat to Red and Jayne over a glass of wine.
Maybe it’s all the fresh country air and maybe the wine a bit too, but by 10.30pm we’re all tired so decide to call it a night.
Once back in the tent I'm grateful for the addition of a torch on the bedside table for those late night toilet trips.
Not that it was needed because at around 8.30 the next morning I wake up to the gentle sound of rain and lie there for a minute realising I’ve actually had a great night sleep, and so has my husband and daughter by the looks of things.
Surprisingly it wasn’t at all cold in the tent and it was so quiet and peaceful, I feel like I could stay another night!
Jayne had told us the views across the valley are stunning on a clear morning as the sun comes up, so it was a real shame that it was so cloudy as unfortunately we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us.
It did start to clear though and as we get to the finca, the breakfast table is already laid with a great selection of continental items oh and plenty eggs to go round.
For an extra €4.95 there is an option of a cooked breakfast too but we're happy with the choice on offer and after a delicious breakfast and as much French Press coffee and Red’s own home made plum jam as we could manage, we pack up.
The kids are protesting that they don't want to leave they've had such a fun time, and I have to say I think us grown ups have too.
So we reluctantly say goodbye to the lovely Jayne and Red and promise to come back again soon to this beautiful part of the Spanish countryside.
To Sum it up
For me this is how camping should be, sleeping outdoors under the stars but in a bed with a cosy duvet and fresh bedding and someone to make your breakfast in the morning.
The location of the camp site is ideal for anyone wanting an outdoor active holiday, less than an hour from Malaga and only around 20 minutes drive to the stunning El Chorro Lake District and of course the famous Caminito del Rey.
Hats off to Jayne and Red as It’s fair to say I had the best camping experience ever and were already planning our next visit.
What it Cost
Accommodation at Hidden Valley starts at €50 a night including continental breakfast. A two course evening meal is €15 per person and with our drinks on top we paid a total of just €91 for the three of us.