In the early 1960’s Joseph McMicking envisioned a sprawling Floridian style residential sporting estate in Europe as a chic but more demure family friendly alternative destination to the French Riviera with an unrivalled climate.
Before long he had fallen in love with an enchanting unspoiled landscape with an undulating terrain of Mediterranean forest lush with Cork Oaks and wild Olives in rural Andalucia. Comprised of five country estates, nestled between the coastal mountain range of southern Spain and a 2.5 KM Mediterranean shoreline with the majestic backdrop of the two Pillars, the Rock of Gibraltar and Mount Hacho of the North African coastline of Morocco. In 1963 – 60 years ago, having acquired these country estates – he wasted no time and embarked on making his vision a reality.
For 45 of those years Ben Bateman, who has lived in Sotogrande all his life, has grown up with the changes that have occurred in this privileged corner of Andalucia.
Ben loves it so much he surrendered to the irresistible pull to return home after five years of life in Bristol.
Speaking to the Olive Press he said: “Sotogrande has evolved slowly with controlled expansion and has always remained true to McMicking’s original inspiration.
“His vision was for an elegant, luxury estate where people could simply be themselves without having to bother about ostentatious displays of wealth. For that, there is Marbella – Sotogrande is about a different way of life.
“It is a place where families can come to enjoy outdoor sports and a relaxed lifestyle; a wonderful place to bring up children for those who settle here.”
He added: “Of course it helps that we have everything we need for a very comfortable life right here. The international school – created in 1977 (and which Ben attended) is vital, but also the excellent out-door facilities.”
These include yachting at the marina, polo at the famous Ayala and Santa Maria Polo clubs, World renowned championship golf courses of Real Club Valderrama, The Real Club de Golf Sotogrande and La Reserva, tennis, rugby, and much more.
“There are plenty of fine-dining options around as well, but Sotogrande is much more than just a resort where you spend a couple of weeks in the summer,” continued Ben.
“As people visited people fell in love with the place and started to settle, whether for five or six months a year or full time.
“This goes back to McMicking’s original vision. The feeling of just being who you were and a related lifestyle proved – and continues to prove – to be very enticing.”
Indeed this is how the family Bateman ended up in Sotogrande in the first place. His father visited on a golfing holiday and liked it so much he decamped with wife Jackie and family within a year to set up Holmes properties in 1979. Ben has now taken over the family business.
Ben explained: “The feeling they found of finding a home from home is not unusual in Sotogrande.
“I know people who return to the area generation after generation for holidays and to settle
“And I am delighted to see them arrive. They share with me – in fact with just about everyone who lives here – the same outlook on life. They want to be here and be themselves. We all have a sense of belonging.”
According to Ben this has been helped by the careful development of the enclave. He explained: “Since Orion took over the private company in 2014 they have been careful to preserve the lifestyle. Developers sometimes want to move things in a different direction, but Orion recognised that you need to understand, respect and harness the senescence of the spirit of Sotogrande.”
And now the growth of remote working has given Sotogrande fresh impetus.
Ben said: “There is nowhere else in Europe that has this lifestyle, connectivity to airports (Gibraltar is just up the road, with Malaga and Sevilla not too far away), sports facilities and the essentials like high-speed internet. For remote workers – especially if they want to raise a family – nowhere can beat it.”
Ben added that Sotogrande is also insulated from dips in the global economy.
He explained: “We have an internal market here that does not rely solely on international buyers. Whether it is families looking to upsize or others looking to downsize, the demand is there locally.
“Add to that over the past 15 years we have seen that most buyers are cash buyers. Very few buyers have used loans to buy property here; we have avoided the ‘investor’ purchases seen elsewhere that can go sour due to an economic downturn. Put it all together and you have a solid and steady property market.”