More than just golf courses and beaches, the Algarve is riding the waves of Portugal’s ever-growing popularity to attract a different crowd. Julianna Barnaby stays in the Four Seasons Fairways at the heart of the high-end Quinta do Lago resort.
It’s no news that Portugal is having something of a moment in the spotlight. From big cities such as Lisbon and Porto, to the pristine beaches and Moorish-towns of the Algarve and the wild Atlantic coast of the Alentejo, it’s like a whole new crowd have suddenly discovered this charming countr.
The Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago, one of the Algarve’s most exclusive areas, has been a long-time favourite with those in the know. Spacious villas, each with its own private pool or jacuzzi are discreetly tucked away within the resort, all with a large terrace or garden calling for lazy days in the sunshine.
Four Seasons Fairways: The Resort
Palm trees, whitewashed villas, cobbled pavements – The Four Seasons Fairways has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best places to escape from it all in Quinta do Lago, and, more generally, the Algarve. It’s a must for your Portugal travel itinerary.
There are two kinds of resorts: the ones that make you feel suffocated and stuffed in, gaudy, tacky and loud…. and the ones that don’t. The Four Seasons Fairways definitely falls in the latter category.
Space is not an object, and each villa or apartment has a liberal amount of it, both indoors and outdoors. The result? You can walk around the whole resort and only see a few people on your travels but later find out that the resort is at full occupancy – the only true way of telling is to judge how busy the clubhouse is in the evening.
High-end as it is, the resort has a friendly atmosphere that’s often missing in the sterile surroundings of luxury resorts. After a few days, the gatehouse staff know us by name, checking our villa number before waving us in through the entrance. Buggy drivers, receptionists, bar staff – everyone on the team has a friendly hello at hand that really makes it feel like a small community rather than a resort.
The Four Seasons Fairways is currently undergoing a renovation process, which when finished, will see every one of its apartments and villas sporting a contemporary-luxe look.
We were lucky enough to snag one of the newly-renovated villas, which tread the perfect balance between feeling like a home-away-from-home and being luxurious enough to feel like you were really away on a break.
There’s something special about the light in the Algarve, it seems like every sunrise bathes the area in a golden glow that couldn’t be further away from the grey murkiness that seems to be the norm in the UK.
The villas have been designed to capture and maximise this light – large feature mirrors around the dining area and plenty of windows, along with the light decor all contribute to their contemporary feel.
Rooms are spacious and have en-suites, while the communal areas have more than enough room for everyone to relax in their own personal space without feeling crowded – unlikely to be an issue as it’s near impossible to resist the lure of the sun-filled terrace with its private jacuzzi and sun loungers. Villas without jacuzzis have pools – a fair tradeoff in my eyes (though I’d rather plump for the jacuzzi)
Years of fine-tuning (the Four Seasons Fairways originally opened in the 1980s) has meant that no detail has been overlooked.
Outdoors, this means a gas barbecue to grill the wonderful seafood abundant throughout the area (or whatever takes your fancy) – the basis of many an al fresco meal during our stay. Indoors, it means lots of small comforts from a fully-equipped kitchen to a whirlpool bath in the master suite.
The resort’s clubhouse is currently closed for renovation, but a full-service temporary replacement has been erected in the grounds, serving breakfast lunch and dinner, as well as functioning as the bar and reception as the works are carried out.
The setting might have changed, but the quality has not – clubhouse favourites such as grilled tiger prawns with piri piri, garlic and soy rice show no signs of suffering from the change in location – nor do the guests whenever we pop in.
Life at Fairways
Quinta do Lago isn’t lacking in high-end places to dine and drink, or things to do – but one of the most appealing aspects of life at Four Seasons Fairways is that they encourage you to explore further afield, and are on hand to provide insider tips on little-known spots and local favourites.
From hiking in the hills with Terry, a local guide, to exploring the traditional market in the quaint town of Loule, the tips from Angela at the Four Seasons Fairways meant that our trips outside of the resort were just as memorable as our time inside it. The Four Seasons prides itself on what it calls #lifeatfairways – far more than luxury accommodation, it goes to the heart of why guests return year after year.
Rio Formosa Nature Park
One such place is the Rio Formosa Nature Park. A short cycle away from the villa, this is a side of the Algarve that gets far less attention than the glitz and glamour around the main resorts. Teeming with bird and waterlife, the nature reserve is a quiet sanctuary covering 18,000 hectares, including five islands – only one of which is inhabited.
Walking through the park, you get a sense of the Algarve of times past – rugged beauty in peace and quiet (until one of the flights from the airport round the corner takes off anyway).
The section of the park nearest to the Four Seasons Fairways has the additional draw of a long, clean beach. Fringed by large sand dunes, it’s the perfect place to take advantage of the year-round sunshine for which The Algarve is famed.
Delving deeper into the park, you can take a boat tour with one of the local experts from Animaris to the Ilha Deserta. The trip, which takes 15 minutes on a speedboat, takes on a completely different life when you’re in a small catamaran with a professional nature guide well versed in everything you can possibly see in the area.
Drifting alongside mud flats and small islands, we’re able to see oysters, shore crabs, teals, curlews and (as an extra-special surprise) a few dolphins who have wandered into the park’s waters from the sea (don’t worry – they found their way out again with surprising alacrity).
Ilha Deserta itself is known for two things – its 7km long beach with powdery-fine sand, and Estamine – an award-winning restaurant that should firmly be at the top of every seafood-lover’s list of things to do while in the Algarve.
Completely self-sustainable, the restaurant produces its own energy and purifies its own water. More importantly, the owner Isabel is something of a genius when it comes to seafood – oysters, octopus, clams, prawns – every dish that comes out of the kitchen exemplifies her deft touch.
Want to know more? Take a look yourself
3 bedroom villas at the Four Seasons Fairways start at £1,200 in the low-season to £3,900 high season.
Hint: Book your trip in April/ May or September/ October for lower rates but with warm temperatures.
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