WE ARE PLANNING A WEEK IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL IN MAY/JUNE NEXT YEAR, USING AN APARTMENT/VILLA IN EACH AS A BASE FOR EXPLORING BY CAR. WE ARE MORE VILLAGE AND SCENERY PEOPLE THAN BEACHES AND CITIES. WHAT AREAS OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL WOULD YOU SUGGEST?
M. PARKER, SHEPPARTON
In Spain at that time of year I'd be inclined to use Seville as a base for wider explorations of Andalucia, but if cities are not your cup of tea then a better choice might be Antequera. If even this city of about 45,000 is too large, then either Iznajar or Priego de Cordoba, but then your choice of accommodation might be limited. There's not too much wrong with the gorgeous town of Ronda, and you're not quite in the tourist season, so it should be reasonably sane. You can find plenty of villa accommodation in the countryside. That might be fine if you plan to do your own cooking, but staying in a town would give you far more dining options without having to worry about driving, and discovering local cuisine is one of the delights of the Iberian Peninsula.
In Portugal, I have happy memories of Evora, a lovely medieval town set on a hill above the Alentejo Plain just inland from Lisbon, which would give you easy access to the interior of the Algarve. Other possibilities include Monsanto, once named "the most Portuguese village in Portugal", and Elvas, which sit close to the Spanish border, both packed with history and large enough to offer a variety of accommodation and dining.
Sawdays (sawdays.co.uk) specialises in small hotels, B&Bs and villas, with plenty of quality recommendations throughout Spain and Portugal.