I would normally never dream of travelling to Portugal in the winter but when I was invited earlier this year to the five star Martinhal Beach Hotel & Spa Resort in beautiful unspoilt historical fishing port of Sagres this was an offer I could not refuse in fact it was just what the doctor ordered!
After a very early and pleasant flight with Aer Lingus from Dublin we arrived at Faro airport before noon. Our hired clubs were all ready and waiting to be collected at Clubs to Hire inside the terminal and a short time later we were all sitting down to a beautiful plate of fresh fish and sampling the local wine in Martinhal’s As Dunas beachfront restaurant.
What a welcome and what a stunning setting. Floor to ceiling glass doors surrounded the restaurant protecting diners from the cold wind coming from the wild Atlantic. From the window we could see across the bay to Sagres harbour. While we were tucking in the fabulous lunch the restaurant manager informed us that the chef has a special licence to buy fish directly from the boats as they come in with the daily catch.
Martinhal is situated within the protected natural nature reserve which is within walking distance of the historic village of Sagres.
Designed in a village setting the architects have taken full advantage of the natural landscape. There are a variety of houses on the resort from luxury Ocean houses to Bay houses and garden houses.The main accommodation in the Ocean houses is upstairs making the most of the wonderful sea views.
The Bay houses have views of the nature reserve and the Garden houses are situated around the beautifully maintained gardens. There are five pools, a well equipped gym, sauna, steam room, a creche, and Spa.
The village square is the hub of the resort, here you’ll find the pub and right next door is the creche and children’s play area. Parents can relax over a drink in the bar or enjoy a romantic dinner in Os Gambosinos restaurant knowing the kids are safe and being entertained by Martinhal’s expert team. There are activities for all age groups including five sports academies offering coaching in tennis, football, swimming, surfing and windsurfing. Not a chance of hearing those famous words “ Im bored”.
I have stayed in resorts in many places and I have never seen anything like the thought Martinhal management have put into making this a special place for families, I wish there had been something this good when my kids were young!
The Finisterra Spa is located in the grounds of the resort. The Spa menu offer all kinds of luxurious treatments and massages to enhance health and vitality. Voya beauty and skincare products used in Finisterra Spa. are all made from hand-harvested natural organic seaweed which are produced in Co. Sligo.
Rooms at the hotel are bright and spacious all have private balconies with sea views. The gorgeous Voya seaweed based products are also used in the hotel bathrooms. Nothing but the best for guests in this haven of luxury!
Furniture and furnishings in the houses and the hotel guest rooms are all of the highest standard. There are 32 “ TVs, wifi and an MP3 docking station, all mod cons that we have all come to require these days!
You will be spoilt for choice for good healthy food as there are five superb restaurants. Traditional and beautifully prepared Portuguese cuisine is served in O Terrace restaurant. In the corner there is an area with small tables and chairs for kids attended by someone from the kids club just to keep them occupied while parents enjoy a relaxing dinner!
At As Dunas restaurant you can choose from a wide variety of fresh fish such as John Dory, wild Seabass and Turbot all depending on the catch of the day.
As well as coming to this lovely part of Algarve to experience this wonderful five star Beach Resort and play golf, we had an opportunity to do some sightseeing.
The first stop was to The Costa Vicentina Natural Park . The magnificent fortress which is located on the Cape of Sagres owes its origins to Prince Henry the Navigator who died in Sagres in 1460. There is an ancient church on the site which is available for special occasions such as baptisms and weddings.
One of the most important attractions of the fort is the “rosea-dos-ventos” (the wind rose), a sundial which is massive and set into the ground, Many believe it dates from the time of Prince Henry and the nautical school he founded here played such a key role in the discovery of The New World.
Cape St Vincent is steeped in history it is the most south western point in Portugal and is one of the most spectacular landscapes. The cape is a landmark for ships travelling to and from the Mediterranean. The cliffs rise nearly vertically from the Atlantic to a height of 75 meters. Birds nest on the cliffs, such as the rare Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcons, kites, rock thrushes, pigeons, storks and herons.
The area around the cape was plundered several times by pirates from France and Holland and in 1587 by Sir Francis Drake. All existing buildings including the Vila do Infante of Henry the Navigator fell into ruins because of the earthquake of 1755. The Franciscan friars who cared for the shrine stayed on until 1834, when all monasteries were disbanded in Portugal.
Cape St Vincent lighthouse was built over the ruins of a 16th-century Franciscan convent in 1846. This lighthouse, guarding one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, is among the most powerful in Europe!
I would thoroughly recommend visiting this historical region while on holiday, it was a wonderful and memorable experience and something the whole family would enjoy.
After an a really nice relaxing breakfast at the hotel we set off to play the newly opened Espiche golf course. The course is approximately twenty minutes from Sagres and close to Lagos.
Espiche is a challenging and interesting 18 hole par 72 course, the tight fairways mean you need to be fairly accurate with shots! The course was fun to play, the fairways and greens were in suburb condition. Espiche is set in an Ecological Reserve area so emphasis is on maintaining its ecological and environmental features.
High on a hill overlooking course stands the magnificent new Espiche clubhouse. The German designed building was just weeks away from being opened when we visited. The richly furnished interior was stunning, leather couches, wooded floors and tall glass windows letting in light and allowing golfers in the bar and restaurant to take in the breathtaking views of the Algarve countryside.
Martinhal Resort and Espiche Golf Club have put together some excellent golf packages for the whole family, juniors can play free when with an adult. This is a great offer and will be sure to make Espiche very attractive to golfing families.
Apart from playing golf in this area there are many other activities to occupy one self, for example surfing and windsurfing, although not for me many others would love it, and Sagres is known as the surfing capital. The magnificent coastal paths attract hikers and if your interested in birdwatching this is thee place. There are also Dolphin watching boat trips from the harbour.
Sadly our short visit to Martinhal had come to an end. There was so much to do and see as well as of course as indulging in locally sourced and fabulously prepared food, drinking the local wine with good friends.
It is not surprising that Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel has won both Portugal’s Leading Family Resort and Europe’s Leading Villa Resort at the World Travel Awards.
Aer Lingus fly twice-daily from Dublin to Faro, five times a week from Cork, twice-weekly from Shannon. Aer Lingus also operates a daily service from Belfast for the summer, April through to October.
For further information on fare and flights visit: www.aerlingus.com
Because of the high costs of up to 60€ to 100€ to book clubs on flights, it makes sense to hire from this Irish owned company ClubstoHire prices start at a mere 35€ a week.