São Lourenço do Barrocal, Monsaraz, Portugal
Hotels have a multitude of personalities; some are bold and extrovert, others hip and nonchalant. Sometimes, the most special are the understated ones that tell stories in a laid-back, beautiful manner – no bells and whistles required. São Lourenço do Barrocal, two hours from Lisbon, in 780 hectares
of olive groves and vineyards in the Alentejan countryside, falls into that category.
With 40 rooms and cottages, this lovingly remastered terracotta-roofed farmstead has been 14 years in restoration, and the results are astonishing. Think whitewashed walls, orange trees flanking cobbled pathways, and delicately decorated rooms in sage and buttermilk tones, furnished with botanical drawings and cosy rugs (perfect for late-night stargazing; it’s in a Dark Sky Reserve – an area where the use of artificial light at night is restricted). There’s a pretty pool in a meadow, sailing trips on nearby Alqueva Lake, as well as a spa by Susanne Kaufmann.
Fare at the restaurant reflects the surrounding fields: homegrown veggies, estate-made wine and freshly pressed olive oil. Its walls are decorated with sepia photos, vintage beekeeping garb and ladies’ gloves, which provide a glimpse into the property’s past; history whispers everywhere here. As you dip warm bread into pumpkin and fennel soup, then tuck into apple-cinnamon cake while wild boars trot by oak trees and birds trill from their branches, it’s hard to think of a more wonderful place to start a new chapter than this slow-paced idyll.
Winning streak: On-site stables mean you can go for sensational just-before-sunset canters – with equestrian guru Felipe – through countryside and up steep streets to the hilltop town of Monsaraz. It’s a magical way to end the day.
Go: A Farm Room costs from approx £150 per night, B&B; barrocal.pt. TAP Air Portugal offers return flights from London from £78.