There's more to the Algarve, Portugal, than package holidays and golf, says Emma Hiley, you just have to know where to look.
While the Algarve swells its ranks with new places to stay, each shinier than the last, some of the original properties are holding their own.
Four Seasons Fairways has been hunkered down among its manicured grounds for more than 30 years. There are second generations of families checking in, having holidayed in the very same rooms as children, and staff that have worked here for decades. It says something of the enduring appeal of the place and of its cleverly positioned corner of the market.
It’s incredibly good value, it offers significantly more space than a hotel, and significantly more service on tap than a standalone villa. In between the swaying palms and the umbrella pines, a terracotta-tiled micro-village jumbles gently down the hillside. Houses with two or three bedrooms and their own swimming pool, and smaller, but still pretty spacious apartments with a hot tub on the terrace, all slot in like a game of Tetris, with cobbled steps and bougainvillaea overhanging walkways running between them. Tiny warblers ducking and diving provide the soundtrack.
Recommended videos for you
There are all the bells and whistles you need for an actual wind-down-and-relax break: a kids club that is incredibly good value, a main pool where children make friends and busy themselves, a minimart for fresh croissants and still warm bread each morning, a poolside bistro and family friendly restaurant for piri piri prawn lunches as well as takeaway suppers, plus the new Amara fine dining evening restaurant (and babysitters to cover) where the sommelier expertly pairs local wines and greets you with a sparkling aperitif.
You can dip in and out as much as you want.
Interiors are simple but considered. A recent update has made things crisper — flashes of colour and tiles that nod to the area’s heritage. Nothing tries too hard for attention, instead there is focus where it matters: big beds, big bathrooms, fully stocked kitchens and laundry cupboards, sun-trap balconies and hibiscus flowers tumbling out of pots.
There’s a sense of tradition but also you can see the desire to stay current. While the rest of Quinta do Lago has evolved into one of the shiniest, most polished stretches of the Atlantic Coast, this is a little slice of the old guard, and all the more charming for it.
While you’re there
- Borrow bikes from the hotel and cycle over the boardwalks — wooden slatted pathways — to a neighbouring lake which boasts a private, sandy beach and watersports. Visit www.arturwatersportsacademy.pt for more information
- Explore Faro’s Old Town (the other side of the airport from the hotel), or take a boat from the harbour out to one of the fringe islands. A particular highlight was Estaminé restaurant on Ilha Deserta — but you’ll be just as happy with a picnic on one of the many beaches (warning: there’s no food to buy once you get there so go prepared)
- If you like beef you must go to Bovino — a steakhouse on the Quinta do Lago estate