For the regattas
The 550-berth Sotogrande Marina is at the epi-centre of life in Sotogrande, one of Europe’s most exclusive residential areas. And the fiercely competitive annual summer regattas, the Mediterranean’s answer to Cowes Week, are exhilarating even as a spectator. Get yourself into one of the trendy, yet down-to-earth, bars for the post-race banter.
For the King of Sports
Even if you don’t ‘get’ the rules of polo, watching a match at Santa Maria Polo Club, said to have Europe’s best pitches, is an unforgettable and thrilling experience – and it’s free. Sadly, drinking in the Champagne bars isn’t, but you may spot the likes of the Duchess of York, that’s ‘Fergie’ to you and me, like I did last time I was there.
For its golfing legacy
Simply put, some of the world’s best golf courses are in Sotogrande, including the legendary Valderrama Golf Course, which hosted the Volvo Masters (1988-1996) and the Ryder Cup in 1997. It’s said to be one of the most challenging and naturally beautiful courses in the world, with holes four and 17 the most daunting yet spectacular of all.
For tax-free shopping
As it’s one of the continent’s most luxurious developments, you won’t be surprised to learn it has many great shops to unload some serious money. But normally, I use it as base to drive the 20 minutes to Gibraltar where goods are tax-free. Don’t forget you’ll need your passport to cross the border and you have to pay in sterling.
To see the birds
Lying on the west bank of the Guadiaro River, there’s an UNESCO-protected natural park that’s an important resting, feeding and breeding place for local and migratory birds. The wooden walkways covering the marshland’s 27 hectares allow birdwatchers access to scores of different species.