Oitavos Dunes looks like the best of the Algarve courses, with immaculate greens lined by elegant umbrella pines next to the Atlantic. Unlike the Algarve, however, there’s plenty of history, culture and sport on offer away from the many golf courses and the beach.
Historic Lisbon, full of art galleries and trendy bars, and one of Europe’s oldest capitals, is also one of its most underrated. But that is set to change. Ryanair plans to double its passenger numbers to Portugal within three years, while Lonely Planet put the country in its top 10 best-value destinations for next year, calling Lisbon a cool, less-crowded and cheaper rival to Barcelona.
CASCAIS, CHOICE OF KINGS
Five minutes from the Oitavos course, the former fishing village of Cascais is a favoured escape from Lisbon. The Portuguese royal court first visited in 1870 and Spanish and Italian royal families moved there during the Second World War.
There are more royal connections up in the hills of Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, while Estoril has Europe’s oldest casino, the inspiration for James Bond’s Casino Royale. A vast National Park extends to Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most westerly point, while Blue Flag beaches include the surfers’ favourite, Praia do Guincho.
“Overseas property buyers like Cascais because of the sophisticated quality of life with marinas, sports and shops 20 minutes from Lisbon airport,” says Joao Fidalgo of Engel & Volkers Cascais.
“This Portuguese Riviera enjoys good weather year round, excellent golf courses, protected mountains and beautiful beaches close to all the services buyers want.”
Flats in Cascais range from £160,000 to £2.4 million, and villas from £240,000 to £10 million. Both modern and historic properties are on offer. A two-bedroom modern flat with sea views is £256,000 while a four-bedroom villa near the centre is £550,000, both through Engel & Volkers (www.engelandvoelkers.com/cascais).
David Taylor of Hamptons International (www.hamptons-international.com) says Chinese and Asian buyers are increasingly keen to buy in the area through Portugal’s Golden Visa residency programme. “Most of these investors favour upmarket new apartments which can rent for £800 to £1,600 a week in high season,” he adds.
Prices are highest around Quinta da Marinha, close to the Oitavos course, where Engel & Volkers’ Fidalgo is selling a new three-bedroom villa for £959,000. For good value he tips the historic centre of Cascais, where both long and short-term rentals are strongest.
A PLACE TO STAY: THE OITAVOS
In 1920, Carlos Montez Champalimaud bought Quinta da Marinha, 900 hectares of unspoiled sand dunes and rocks between Sintra and the sea, with a vision to create a natural second home and tourism project. He planted thousands of pine trees and connected utilities but it wasn’t until the late Eighties that properties were built.
Today his great-grandson Miguel, an ex-international surfer-turned-hotelier, manages The Oitavos, a five-star hotel. It is part of the family business that extends to wine estates, an equestrian centre and the adjacent Oitavos Dunes, in the world’s top 100 golf courses.
“The golf course opened in 2001 followed by the health and fitness facilities in 2004 and the hotel in 2010,” says Miguel.
“For the active traveller, the location is special. Portugal is one of Europe’s best surfing destinations and Cascais is the best destination in Portugal. There are nine golf courses within 30 minutes but with only 5,000 beds in the Estoril-Cascais area, we are not a high tourism destination.”
Golfers or not, sun-starved northern Europeans love this hotel, and with good reason. The Oitavos is a strikingly modern steel-and-glass building on an undeveloped peninsula overlooking the course and the moody Atlantic Ocean.
The pale blue and steely grey colour theme is replicated in 142 generous and thoughtfully designed rooms, all with sea views, while the wraparound windows and wealth of crystal maximise light. There are indoor and outdoor pools and three restaurants serving locally sourced seafood and sushi.
- Rates at The Oitavos start from £125 for a superior double room with sea view, including breakfast (www.theoitavos.com)
- Portuguese airline TAP flies from both Gatwick and Heathrow to Lisbon from £92 (www.flytap.com)