Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary: A Journey with James Stewart and Savills in SotograndeBy James Stewart, 01 Feb 2024
A Journey from Quiet Beginnings: James Stewart in association with Savills
25 years ago this month, James Stewart in association with Savills opened for business in Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro, the satellite village of Sotogrande. The years have flown by and a quiet village in 1999 is now a bustling hive of activity offering just about anything you need on a day to day basis. With this milestone under our belts, people ask me what the biggest change has been in Sotogrande not only since then but since 1982, 42 years ago, when I first came to work in the area and discovered Sotogrande.
The Early Days in Sotogrande
The obvious answer is how much Sotogrande has grown but there is something more important than that which I will come to later. But first let’s take March 1982 when I first came here from Estepona where I was staying in a small 2 star hotel prior to taking up my new position as General Manager of what has become one of the finest hunting estates in Spain, set in a most beautiful stream filled cork forest – Monte del Duque, near Casares.
There was practically no traffic and Sotogrande was totally deserted. Between Estepona and Sotogrande on the way here, I had noted that there were virtually no restaurants and certainly none that I could see that were open except one funnily enough just opposite and above our current office which was called Hostal Bernardo. We had a good supper there, Bernardo was charming and I often ate there through the years until Bernardo retired. It is now a bank.
We were out of season of course and even two years later when I actually started living in Sotogrande and commuted to Monte del Duque, I remember one winter’s day driving towards Casares and seeing no cars at all between Sotogrande and the turn off the single lane main road towards Casares. Imagine that now!
The Evolution of Sotogrande: A Year-Round Destination
And that is what has really changed, there is no off season now and Sotogrande has become, and ever more so, a year round destination. In 1982, there was no marina, Sotogrande Alto had just a few houses built to attract buyers towards Las Aves golf course which in 1985 became the legendary Valderrama, La Reserva hadn’t even been thought of, there were no commercial areas and Torreguadiaro, now well stocked with fun bars and restaurants doing good trade throughout the year, was a ghost village from October to June.
Every year one noticed a little bit more activity in the winter months but it was admittedly only in the last few years that activity increased dramatically. A lot of that has to do with the now world renowned Sotogrande International School (SIS), which with its now 1200 pupils, attracts families from over 40 countries world-wide. Then rather perversely the pandemic has helped us with people being able to work from home so enabling them to base themselves in Sotogrande and commute to their foreign offices from time to time rather than just coming on holiday to Sotogrande.
Infrastructure and Amenities: The Pillars of Growth
Fortunately, investors with vision had already created the facilities to enable the transition to this year round destination. To increase from a winter population of maybe 2000 people, including locals, to nearer 10,000 needed to have infrastructure in place. Mercadona, Lidl and El Corte Inglés head the supermarkets here; Sotomarket, Paniagua and Pueblo Nuevo provide the commercial areas. At last count there are more than 45 bars and restaurants within ten minutes’ drive of the main entrance to Sotogrande, a far cry from Bernando’s lonely outpost back in 1982.
Great Sports and modern Healthcare
Sport is amazingly represented with five golf courses, Sotogrande Tennis Academy is producing some fine players who make it to the ATP tour and fitness fanatics can choose between a number of excellent gyms safe in the knowledge that Sotogrande is never short of physiotherapists. On the subject of health, Human Line medical centre is on site as well as the very efficient local social security facilities. The prior presence of all these amenities have allowed Sotogrande to expand and grow into a year round destination in a remarkably smooth way and it will keep growing, of that I am convinced.
Reflections on 25 Years
As we celebrate 25 years of business, it’s clear that Sotogrande’s evolution mirrors our own journey. From a quiet village to a thriving year-round destination, the growth has been remarkable. Looking ahead, we are confident in the continuous growth and prosperity of both Sotogrande and James Stewart in association with Savills, as we strive to provide unparalleled experiences in this beautiful region.