The Palm Springs of the Algarve
Matt Hawtin Roper discovers the incredible Quinta do Lago, Portugal
There is something very exciting about the Algarve in the southwestern part of Portugal. The climate, with its 300 days of sunshine, unspoilt coastline and if you’re a sports enthusiast, it quite simply is a ‘Disneyland’ for adults.
If you look out the window as you make the final approach into Faro Airport, you will gaze down at scenery resembling the Florida Everglades. You almost have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you’ve only been flying for three hours and you’re still in the same time zone as the UK. We were met at the airport by a QDL shuttle, and after a short drive through some quaint Portuguese scenery, we turned off the main road onto a winding country lane, suddenly reaching the hidden gem that is Quinto de Lago.
Over four times the size of Monaco, it’s home to some of Europe’s finest golf courses, sports facilities, fine-dining and acres filled with beautiful upscale villas and breath-taking 5-star hotels. We stayed at the brand new Magnolia Hotel. A unique two-story boutique property, complete with a retro neon sign that offers a taste of Palm Springs; a homage to that 1950’s Motel vibe.
The property has 74 well-configured rooms and three suites across its two floors, plus seven lodge style self-catering cottages. It’s a resort that has been designed to offer affordable 4-star accommodation for families, golfers, or people that want a relaxing, poolside escape. The rooms are compact but contemporary, with either a balcony on the upper floor or small patio that offers direct access to the pool. This may be a 4-star hotel, but you can expect all the luxuries of something grander. Features include a high-quality, king-size bed with 300 count cotton sheets and duvets, blackout blinds, plush bath towels, and a waterfall walk-in shower with a range of branded aromatherapy skincare products.
It’s obvious the owners have invested in quality where it matters. Thoughtful little touches like USB charger points, UK and International sockets, and a large flat screen TV with all the UK digital channels, give you home away from home convenience; the attention to detail adding to the air of luxury. The seven pastel-coloured cabins offer the flexibility of self-catering accommodation.
Tucked away at the rear of the property, with views across green fields are tennis courts. You almost wish they were sitting at the edge of the sea when you step out of them. They are unique and individual in design and ideally suited to guests looking to book a more extended stay or those with families.
If you venture into the basement of the main accommodation complex, you will find one of the best hotel gyms you’ve ever seen. You can understand why the hotel is proving a popular destination with international athletes and sports teams in their training season.
The beautiful heated pool separating the restaurant and bar from the accommodation is surrounded by sun loungers, allowing good use of the vibrant red beach towel and flip flops the hotel leaves you in your welcome pack. The restaurant’s original menu was designed by ex Soho House Chef, Tom Briggs, but we were told there is a new menu arriving featuring local influences from their new Head Chef, Luigo. It really ticks all the boxes, not to mention it’s reasonably priced and they cater for all with their signature “Mag” burger and also kid’s favourites like fish fingers should they want it.
In the summer evenings, it has outdoor movie nights projected onto the side of the hotel, with live music and DJ nights giving you that true members club in Miami feeling. You get the impression they have tried hard to give their guests a relaxed boutique experience where anything is available without giving it that exclusive 5-star stuffy feeling.
After lunch, we took a drive into the heart of Quinto do Lago. It holds a long-standing heritage as Portugal’s finest residential resort - something we will be writing about in a future issue. You drive by some of the most breath-taking Villas, each surrounded by electric gates and palm trees. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d just driven into Beverly Hills. Residents in QDL don’t talk about who lives here, but you can see why A-list celebs and athletes choose to build here as it really is the place of dreams.
If sports and fitness is your thing, The Campus is a €10 million multi training and wellness retreat. If you took the very best David Lloyd Club, fused it together with Soho Farmhouse and then add a Stadium quality training pitch, you would be close to imagining the vision behind this unique state of the
art innovation. Framed light grey panelling really gives it that calming exclusive retreat feeling, and these design influences are continued throughout the complex. What makes it stand out, though, is the facilities. There are two bright and airy gyms with all the equipment a gym goer could dream of, plus spin and exercise studio on the upper floors.
The Hydro Centre offers a quiet retreat touch. With two amazing aromatherapy steam/ sauna rooms complete with a cold plunge pool and jacuzzi. There is a wellness and rehabilitation spa opposite offering a wide selection of massages
and complementary therapies. We, of course, ventured outside and found the full-size swimming pool with sun loungers to catch some rays. The complex is finished off with six clay and acrylic outdoor tennis courts and four paddle tennis courts. They host racquet and football academies throughout the year for juniors and adults; Judy Murray and Rio Ferdinand hosted this year.
The Campus has been designed to offer elite athletes a warm training and rehabilitation centre and fitness enthusiasts an action-packed adventure. You start questioning why your gym membership back home isn’t this good.
QDL is beautifully located on a hillside overlooking the sea. If you want to explore its beauty, you can hire a bike from the aptly named “Bike Shed”, managed by Mark Rohan, a Double Paralympic Champion. He and his team are so friendly and there to help with maps and a guide if you want one to take you on the most magical tours through the 2000 acres of the Ria Formosa National Park.
After an action-packed, physical day, we visited Dano’s Sports Bar and Restaurant, located within the Campus Complex. Still, in keeping with that member’s club feel we weren’t disappointed with the atmosphere within the beautiful gastro setting. They have an extensive Live Music program which added to a great night. We didn’t feel out of place drinking a refreshing Orange Marmalade Breakfast Martini at 9pm.
Day two – We couldn’t visit Quinto do Lago without experiencing the golf this oasis offers. There are three world-class golf courses, and they genuinely are breathtaking. Now, I haven’t picked up a golf club in over ten years, so we took a trip to their Paul McGinley Academy and had a few lessons from a very patient and forgiving instructor called Nunno. There is nothing quite like having a lesson on a driving range with a beautiful ocean on the horizon and the sun beaming down on you. I was starting to feel like I wanted to sell up everything and buy one of the Villas overlooking this beautiful scenery.
In search of a little pick me up after golf, we had to try a local favourite called Pure. With the most amazing home-made salads and desserts, it was the Algarve’s take on your favourite little afternoon tea spot. On this occasion, though, we tried a shot of lemon and ginger infused with cayenne pepper and flaxseed oil, which picked us back up before dinner.
There are so many great restaurants in QDL, but we opted for Bovino’s Steak House, stunningly located up in the Hills with its neighbouring sister restaurant Casa Velha, where reservations have to be made six months in advance. A traditional Portuguese ‘Calcada” style space, combined with a contemporary approach reminiscent of the Ivy, it has a sublime atmosphere. You can see why it’s a favourite of the locals. But the real stars here are the food and drink. A beautifully crafted cocktail list that you could spend an entire evening sampling as the sun sets. For the foodies out there you can’t leave without sampling their steaks. The Chateaubriand and signature cuts are available as sharers, and they literally melt in your mouth. I’m afraid this isn’t the place to be a vegetarian!
The possibilities are endless in Quinto Do Lago. With its stunning natural landscapes, incredible dining experiences and world-class sports and leisure facilities. If you’re looking for a foodie extravaganza full of activities or want to lounge by a pool or beach and recharge QDL has it all.
Quinta do Lago Algarve, Portugal