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Cortijo Romero – A Different Kind of Holiday

Cortijo Romero is situated at 1300 feet, with breath-taking views across the Alpujarra Mountains, in the foothills of Andalucía’s Sierra Nevada.  Set in its own private grounds, the complex has been created around an original farmhouse and an enclosed courtyard.  The swimming pool is cocooned in a picturesque walled enclosure, surrounded by palm trees and wafted by the scent of jasmine and the gardens are planted with sub-topical flowers and fruit.  The area has been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and has been described by National Geographic magazine as "one of the most inspiring and uplifting areas in the world".

It’s a centre for a different kind of holiday, based around the idea that, given the right conditions, everyone can aspire to their potential and live a more fulfilling life. A wide variety of courses provides opportunities for people to get what they really need from their holiday - whether it’s to grow, develop, learn, expand, create, be challenged, rest, rejuvenate, heal, or be inspired......

Nearly thirty years of experience have taught us that there are as many ways to ‘grow through’ the current phase of life as there are visitors to our holiday centre! It all depends on who you are, who you want to be, what you need or want, and where you’re currently ‘at’ in life.

Some people come to join a specific course based on an existing interest – others come to learn something completely new. Some come for a ‘sanctuary’ from a difficult phase in life, or a busy and stressful job. Others come to engage with a deep and challenging look at themselves, knowing they want to change. And many come to have fun and be with others of like mind.

As one of the regular guests put it, “The beauty and tranquillity of the location undoubtedly contribute to the sense of well-being experienced by most participants, but there is more to it than that: something about the atmosphere of warmth, trust and honesty in which relationships seem to acquire a depth and quality that would take ten times as long to develop in the outside world. I find myself opening up to life, becoming more receptive, unfolding like the petals of a flower, all my senses more alive.”

Guests can also visit the nearby market town of Órgiva, as well as the ancient city of Granada (home to the Alhambra, one of the wonders of the world), or take a swim under the natural waterfalls. Each week our local guide takes guests to visit the charming ‘white villages’ which are dotted picturesquely amidst the surrounding mountains. Stroll through the mountain paths, enjoy a picnic with the backdrop of stunning scenery in every direction, and taste some of the locally renowned produce. The combination of all elements is a recipe for a truly great holiday – many say it’s the best they’ve ever had, and the majority return – some frequently - since there are so many courses on offer, different seasons to experience and always new people to meet.  

"I have come away from my week refreshed, rejuvenated, optimistic about life, and with new friends." Ellie Blair for Kindred Spirit magazine

So how did it all begin?

The founder of Cortijo Romero, Nigel Shamash

Nigel Shamash had long dreamt of running a centre that would promote the important things in life. He believed in deep personal connection; growth, development, fulfilment; a chance to slow the pace and ‘be’ – both with oneself, and with others. He was looking for a place that could offer both nurture and empowerment, where people could really engage with the more meaningful aspects of life and go home deeply renewed, refreshed, and most importantly, changed - feeling more able to follow their dreams. After a long search, he finally found a potential venue in Andalucia, southern Spain.

Walking up the track that leads to Cortijo Romero, the then owner did not show Nigel in from the front; instead they passed through a gap in the back wall. The space opened and there was the big empty swimming pool, the palm trees had been planted; it was rough but the framework was all there. Nigel remembers how it felt: “Like an acid trip there was a rush and everything slowed down. It was amazing. It was more beautiful than I could possibly have imagined.”  

After so much searching here it was: the prize. He did not have the money but he felt guided. The dream was now a blazing vision and the force was with him. After a lot of hard work to prepare, in June 1986, the centre opened and the first guests arrived.

Those early days were wild, and full of the dramas to be expected with one man and a small team doing everything. Through all of the tough times, the vision held. It was about love and how happiness is found in the service of other people. There is power in community and groups, particularly when people come together under a common cause. It brings them into relationship as they become mirrors for each other. It enables them to find their joy, their peace and their passion.

In 1993, Nigel met his wife and sold Cortijo Romero to have a family and set up a much smaller centre in France. Alan Dale bought Cortijo Romero and has been running it ever since.  

Alan Dale looks back on 25 years of Cortijo Romero

The years at Cortijo Romero have provided many challenges and unexpected twists and turns, as anyone might expect in such a period of time. From our early beginnings, when my son ran the centre and I continued working in my professional field to bring in financial support, we grew rapidly and within a very few years, needed to expand.

We were generously supported by many of the early guests, who, filled with enthusiasm and appreciation for what Cortijo Romero was giving them, offered to loan money so that we could fund the work. We added some double rooms in the orchard, bought the neighbour’s property to give additional space, and built a circular meditation room in the gardens. All bedrooms have remained in keeping with the original ‘cortijo’, or farmhouse style – single storey, white, Andalucian buildings that provide maximum cool in the hot summer months, with heating for the winter. 

The new facilities were just being enjoyed by guests, when the Iraq war started, which meant fear of travel for many and higher flight costs for all. This was a difficult time for us, yet a positive new phase began when Ruth Skipsey joined us and with a strong background in tourism, was able to very quickly take over the running of the centre and remains our manager to this day.  

We were just about to draw breath, when the first of the American banks collapsed. Years of recession followed, heralding another testing time, with financial restraints affecting people, leading to reduced numbers of guests coming to the centre.

Throughout all these years and the ups and downs, we have been blessed with deeply committed staff, both in Spain as well as our UK office – and equally committed guests, some of whom have been up to 50 times!  Throughout our history, we’ve always found that most guests enjoy their time here enough that they want to return, at least once if not many times, and the majority of people come because they’ve heard about us through personal recommendation. It is very rewarding to know that, with all the hard work ‘behind the scenes’ over the years, we are able to provide a place that means so much to guests, and supports what we believe in – a place for inner growth and development so that people can truly live the life they want. We get very heart-warming messages and feedback from guests, and this tells us what we need to hear. For example,

"If I only had 7 days left and a choice of where to spend such precious time, it would be at Cortijo Romero!" John Francis

 “Cortijo Romero for me radiates warmth, welcome and friendship and I feel I have a home from home here in Spain.  I feel so relaxed and accepted here.”

“I couldn’t think of any way to improve Cortijo Romero.  You have created exactly the right balance.”

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