1. Quinta da Cabrita
Just 45 minutes from Lisbon and 10 minutes from Santarém, this is an 18th century farm and its grounds, appealingly guarded by traditional custard-yellow walls and high gates. Within, cobbled paths wind around former farm buildings and shared spaces.
There are five houses, each tastefully refurbished in keeping with their rustic surroundings. Features like high ceilings combine with round picture windows, roll-top baths and open wood fires to surprise and delight. Items from the architect owners’ collection add character and style: huge cabinets filled with ancient tomes and glassware, tactile wooden boxes, and original artworks, all way more interesting than the usual generic offerings in hotels.
Each property has its own terrace area for sunbathing and outdoor eating, most of them facing west across the hillside to take advantage of gorgeous sunsets. Undulating lawns are dotted with shady and ancient trees (where a family of cute kittens played during our stay). The heating swimming pool is overlooked by a shared covered lounging area where you can eat and sip your cava or beer, and pretty lighting creates magic at dusk.
Breakfast is provided by the pool or in your house and kitchens in each property give you the chance to self-cater. Coffee and tea are supplied but if you want apéritifs by the pool (and I guarantee you will), I’d recommend going shopping before you arrive, because once you’ve passed through those tall green gates, you won’t want to leave. You’ll need to bring or buy the little things too, like salt, pepper, herbs, and oil.
Prices range from 85 euros per night for a T1 studio in low season and up to 180 euros per night for a T2 in high season.
2. Quinta do Arrobe
We were welcomed here like long-lost cousins. Quinta do Arrobe offers tasting stays, meeting and events rooms. 7 simple one and two-bedroom cabins are ranged among the trees outside. These are brand new, smallish but neat and clean and perfect if you’re not expecting to spend a lot of time indoors. A larger block offers a shared space to meet and hang out.
Meanwhile inside the main house, the aroma of fresh baking greeted us. An open-plan living room unites a cosy lounge corner, a convivial dining table and a large fireplace. The impressive wooden mantlepiece from the owner’s previous house serves as a constant reminder of family and continuity at the heart of the space. There are a further two traditionally-furnished bedrooms, one twin and a double with an eye-catching old cartwheel in the bedframe.
The owners here welcomed us to their table, while their enormous, gentle dog snored by the fire. To accompany a warm and generous family lunch they took us through a flight of their wines. More on that tasting in a later article.
3. Quinta Carvalhas
Set in rolling countryside, this wellness retreat is utterly gorgeous. South African owners Richard and Michelle have built a circle of like-minded friends and colleagues in this rural community and their hard work and mindset is evident in every aspect of what’s on offer here. Yoga, vegan and vegetarianism, and self-reliance form the backbone of the philosophy, but if you’re thinking this means roughing it with clothsacks, think again.
The accommodation is composed of very generous en-suite rooms and apartments with stunningly high-end furnishings and finishes. Sympathetic renovations allow the history of the building and the region to shine through – bare limestone walls, exquisite tiling, wood-burning stoves in the gorgeous bar and pool area, and a firepit in the heart of the courtyard for chatting into the evening. It really is breathtakingly lovely.
You can wander in a mediation garden of tinkling fountains, gently winding paths and lush planting. Animal lovers will delight in the property’s friendly dogs and horse interaction therapy is available. Michelle recounted her desire to make everyone feel like family here. It’s a place to they want you to relax, recharge, and return,. Richard told me of his passion for learning to cook vegetarian and vegan food for large groups – his latest favourite is sure to make your mouth water: gluten-free potato gnocchi with pea and nut pesto, roast pine-nuts and vegetables. Hungry for yoga yet anyone?
4. Quinta Monteiro de Matos
For lovers of caravanning, Quinta Monteiro de Matos offers spaces for 4 to 5 caravans, with electricity and water, plus views across the vine-studded hillside. Guests can make use of the stylish terrace attached to the visually-arresting eno-tourism centre and events room.
Alongside the hosts in their modern restaurant, we ate a delicious lunch of oven-baked pork ribs with roast potatoes, salad and olives, with floor to ceiling vistas. As well as their multi-award winning wines, they have their own olive oil from 100 trees, pressed and bottled by a neighbour. More accommodation is planned, so this place is one non-caravanners to bookmark too.
5. Casa da Amieira
This family-owned-and-run boutique hotel is perfect for relaxed family holidays, or groups of friends seeking a luxurious spa weekend (bachelorette party anyone?). We enjoyed coffee in their tasteful library, had a delicious brunch on their sunny terrace (in November!), and couldn’t wait to explore further.
Spa facilities include a pool with waterfall, jacuzzi, sauna, and massage and treatment rooms. All are attractively tiled and give a sense of both airiness and privacy. Hotel guests have free and exclusive use of the pool and jacuzzi.
Outside there’s another pool, open May to late September, but wait until you hear about the gardens! Resting on undulating lawns are 8 bungalows (in addition to the 10 hotel rooms inside the converted family house). These are newly constructed, clad in attractive cork tiles with an expert balance of smart and cosy in the décor. They offer varying sizes of accommodation.
What’s more, the hotel has some permanent residents you may want to meet. Sheep, rabbits, peacocks and even meerkats! I didn’t want to leave.