Country houses for sale

Property on the Costa Brava

Up the coast from Barcelona lies the Costa Brava and the sizzling mass of concrete that is Lloret de Mar, the resort that holds the dubious claim of spawning the Club 18-30 holidays.

Throughout the years of the boombust cycle of the Costa Brava’s package holiday resorts, there has always been a quiet seaside enclave of sophistication on this coast, dubbed by some media as ‘the posh strip’.

In the pine-clad horseshoe bays that wind between the villages of Calella de Palafrugell and Begur, wealthy Catalans, wily northern Europeans, and those with a few roubles to spare have all bought homes. Among them is David Miller, an engineer from Buckinghamshire who decided to buy a property here in the early 1980s.

The place, says Mr Miller, has witnessed modest changes since the British started coming to the Aiguablavas parador in the 1950s and 60s. ‘Today, it’s still about lots of blue rinse and tea dancing,’ he laughs. Perhaps this is because Begur has remained popular with affluent Catalan families looking for a second home. Testament to the type of people who visit this stretch of coast is the fact that Ferrán Adriá, the multi-awarding winning Catalan chef, chose it as a spot to set up his successful and expensive restaurant, El Bulli.

Beyond Michelin-star cuisine, another advantage of Begur is that it offers plenty to do when the beach gets too busy, which it can do at times. ‘The hinterland around the hilltop villages of Banyoles and Olot is fantastically beautiful. You can drive up from there to the ski resorts, or just go for long walks in the mountains,’ says Mr Miller, adding: ‘Many clever Barceloneses have sold their second homes to foreigners for vast sums to move into traditional stone farmhouses in the hills. To keep a toe in the sea, they can always park a boat in the marina.’

On the market along the Costa Brava

‘The pretty seaside village of Begur is one of the most exclusive areas of the Costa Brava,’ says Alex Vaughan of Barcelona-based agents Lucas Fox (00 34 933 56 29 89). ‘It’s completely unspoilt, has some great beaches and good access (the nearest airport is Gerona about 40 minutes by car),’ he says. Lucas Fox are currently selling a nine-bedroom property in Begur, which dates from 1860 and has previously been run as a boutique hotel, for ?1.7m (£1.1m). Also on their books is a larger villa set in the hills above the coastline with views over Aiguablava, for ?2.6m (£1.8m).