When summer is over and young families have returned home, Portugal's Algarve becomes the go-to destination for golfers. The 39 golf courses along the 150-mile coastline give life to hotels and restaurants long after the summer rush.
Golf is the main deal but sun and a warm winter make conditions ideal for sailing from Lagos marina or kite surfing on Faro Island.
Local culture can be hard to find but artistic Lisbon is two hours north and Seville and Andalucía are 90 minutes to the east.
Property prices have plunged along the coast. In the western beach resort of Carvoeiro near Lagos, Carleton Properties has a three-bedroom villa reduced from £459,725 to £309,350 and a five-bedroom sea-view villa down from £1 million to £395,270. Director Mike Clarke says these cuts are not unusual.
Quinta do Lago
This is one of the most exclusive golf resorts in Europe, just 15 minutes from Faro airport. Captains of industry and sporting celebrities own homes here, wooed by wide Atlantic beaches and a level of security and privacy that's increasingly hard to find. Families love it for its spa, sports and sunshine, while golfers love its four pristine courses.
Savills says that even in the darkest days of recession, Quinta do Lago saw steady and consistent sales, outperforming any other market. But sales levels are now 30 per cent lower than five years ago, says Alison Buechner of Savills associates Quinta Properties. "Owners at Quinta are generally still wealthy and will wait to get the price they want. But those who can't are taking price drops."
That means you can find identical properties next door to each other with a substantial price difference.
In Saõ Lourenço, home to some of the most expensive properties on the estate, a refurbished two-bedroom apartment facing the golf course is £326,500 while next door a three-bedroom apartment, 300sq ft larger, is £845,000. A four-bedroom 2,900sq ft townhouse in a cluster of 12 around a communal pool is £1.19 million, while the one next door costs £352,300 more. All property is through Savills.
"Our market is not as badly affected by what is going on in Portugal," says Buechner. "Our buyers are business people who aspire to live here for its well-kept facilities, good build quality and strict planning rules."
Vale do Lobo
Four miles away and with easier beach access, family-orientated Vale do Lobo has excellent facilities for children and teenagers. A circuit bus tours the resort stopping at the tennis centre, golf clubhouse, gym and spa and the central hub of restaurants and bars above the beach.
This is the area's oldest resort, celebrating its 50th birthday next year. Property is more densely built than at Quinta and more visible from the roads but prices start at £171,860 for one-bedroom resale apartments. Savills has a well-renovated three-bedroom townhouse with roof terrace an easy walk from the beach for £472,615 while the resort is selling a three-bedroom 250sq m apartment opposite the tennis club for £597,200. Large land plots on the golf course or seafront cost from £988,190.
* Quinta Properties (020 7016 3740; savills.com)
* Vale do Lobo (00 351 289 353 434; valedolobo.com)