A labour of love: restoring a rural house in Asturias, northern Spain

This week’s guest post is written by Juan Otero Rionda. I spent several days with Juan on my recent blog trip to Valencia, and during that time he described how he owns and manages a couple of rural guest houses in the beautiful countryside of Asturias in northern Spain. His passion for his home region and the restoration work he has done to restore his houses to their full glory shone through whenever we chatted. So I asked Juan to share his story on 501 Places:

The village of Antrialgo

The village of Antrialgo

More than fifteen years ago my family had a cottage in a sunny village called Antrialgo in the Council of Piloña, Asturias. This cottage used to be rented from time to time but it was not prepared to receive many people. We have always liked the countryside, and thinking about restoring a typical Asturian house with its wood and stones was an important challenge which would make us work in a different way.

Casa huerta San Benito

The house during construction

We thought about making the two houses into one to avoid a very uneven piece of land and we aimed to build a typical Asturian rural house, while considering the design of a hotel. A long time ago rural tourism meant that your parents sent you to your family village during the summer, but now setting up a business in the countryside is part of an important economy run by entrepreneurs who do not necessarily live in a rural environment.

The house is finished

The house is finished and ready for guests

When we started to restore the house all the family worked on it, and even during the weekend we worked hard to be able to have it opened for the summer. When building a house for renting it is important to take into account that August is the peak season and it must be ready to welcome customers at this time.

Even harder than building the property was finding the name of a website in order to be visible on the internet which, although slowly at first, was starting to be used by many holidaymakers. The name we chose was that of the area where the house is settled; Campón de Antrialgo (www.campondeantrialgo.es). At that time many hotels did not have their own website and their email addresses were hosted on hotmail, which made them look bad in front of the customer.

Inside the house

Inside the house

We worked hard to create a quality brand although we realized that intangible things were not the key for customers to come to us. Our main worry was to be able to pay the loan we had asked for in order to mend the house, and to gauge our business to make sure we could get full occupancy during the busy days.

Inside the house

Inside the house

We met a lot of people: rural tourism allows you to be nearer to your customers and they even become our friends. Our tourists were and still are mainly domestic, and we have always thought that the real challenge is to make us well known in other countries. Every time we have German, Dutch or British customers we realize that there is still hard work to be done in order to sell our product in Europe.

We have been like this now for ten years, until by chance we were offered a chance to be part of what is known as Huerta San Benito. This has become one of the most important businesses in Asturias, being in several interior decoration magazines and being one of the 180 charming houses classified by the prestigious “Guia El País Aguilar”.

Currently we have a new focus, which is the conversation derived from social media. Being in rural surroundings does not mean that you can’t use the internet in a professional way with your customers, but it does mean that you must talk to them in order to foster your brand. Many of these customers have their own blogs, Twitter or Facebook accounts and they speak highly of us through these channels. Our business, although settled in the small community of Rural Tourism, has and uses the same online resources as any other firm.

Juan Otero RiondaJuan Otero Rionda was born in nearby Arriondas, and used to work for a large multi-national business before turning his passion to developing and managing the rural houses.

As well as looking after the growing business Juan also founded Ruralvalue, the first franchise of Rural Tourism in Spain and is the founder of Turismo.as, a forum to discuss Tourism and Technology that had its first meeting in Oviedo in April 2010.

When he is not working hard Juan can be found travelling around Asturias, constantly learning more about this region while enjoying its diverse gastronomy and beautiful landscapes. You can follow Juan on Twitter.

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

9 Responses to “A labour of love: restoring a rural house in Asturias, northern Spain”

  1. zomg! i wanna live there.. the place looks fantastic.. modern yet cosy.. luv the sloping ceilings:)

    August 18, 2010 at 10:17 am
  2. A lovely place in amazing area. Asturias, our county.

    Juan always make his home yours. Good guy! 😉

    August 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm
  3. Thank you very much Andy for detail to get me in your blog.
    You are invited to my rural houses
    Best regards

    August 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm
  4. Thanks to all for the kind comments, and I agree that Asturias looks beautiful from these pictures. Thanks again for the kind offer Juan. I would love to visit the rural houses and see their beauty for myself. I hope that early next year we can take up your suggestion. We both love hiking and it looks like a perfect landscape for this.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm
  5. Abi #

    I’d love to go there one day as well. It’s obvious that a lot of work and passion have gone into this project.

    September 25, 2010 at 3:32 am
  6. There aré not many houses with such quality standars in Spain.

    Also the location is perfect for visiting Asturias and as a part of Camino de Santiago.
    A bonus is the great friendly atmosphere Juan and Ana provide, one arrives as a guest and leaves as a friend.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:42 am


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