Travel: Northern Portugal – An unsung region that will have all the family howling at the moon

Travel: Northern Portugal – An unsung region that will have all the family howling at the moon

Christmas is far enough in the past to make another family get together seem like a delightful idea and the hunt begins for the perfect holiday. Something for everyone is the selling point for too many holidays which clearly don’t even come close to keeping everyone happy, whether in accommodation

or activities.

I’ve found the solution in northern Portugal – sold to me initially with the description “it’s like the Highlands with sunshine”, which was always going to appeal to a native of Skye. If you’re holidaying across the generations you need enough room to escape without causing offence and Quinta de Agriboa, 10 minutes from Ponte de Lima, is typical of the luxury accommodation. A former farmhouse built in the late 18th century, it has been beautifully and sensitively restored to accommodate up to

14 guests with six bedrooms and

five bathrooms.

The public rooms are bright and spacious with two well-defined and separate sitting areas and the two bedrooms on the main floor and the facilities in the bathroom have been designed to allow wheelchair access. There are two large patio areas and a large 15m x 8m swimming pool is the focal point of the landscaped garden with its orange, apple and olive trees. There’s a BBQ and dining area, shaded by mature trees and further space for badminton and other activities.

So far, so good for ticking all the generational activity boxes and ensure family closeness doesn’t become overwhelming. This is the sort of property where grandparents can happily set up camp for two or three weeks and the rest of the family can fly in and out to suit. There are direct flights from Edinburgh to Porto and Vigo and hiring a car is best if you want to see the area well, though some guests are happy just to relax and do as little as possible.

The website Distinctive Portugal is an excellent start, not just in finding the right accommodation, but also in planning activities. Portugal is renowned for golf, which has most people thinking the Algarve, but the prices in the north are one third of what you’d pay there. There are gorgeous beaches within easy reach and wonderful walking and cycling tours offering a chance to see the

real Portugal.

My favourite activity – of interest to fascinated adults and ghoulish children alike – has to be the Wolf Track, at its best during full or half moon. It starts in the late afternoon, when you meet a guide in the national park and then enjoy a picnic as the sun goes down. A leisurely walk in the woods in the dusk has added spine prickling in the shape of the wolves howling at the moon, with the luckiest visitors seeing them as well as hearing them.

Then there’s the Seven Lagoons trip, where you can dive and swim in the national lagoons, kayaking for all ages run by the silver medal winner at the 2012 Olympics, body boarding and kite surfing lessons, horse riding, 4×4 trips through the national park to see wild horses and the slightly more relaxing opportunity to follow different historical trails. You can be a shepherd for a morning, try a cruise down the river with a train ride back, go walking with a donkey, combine hiking and yoga, relax with the mouth-watering cornbread experience or enjoy a biking wine tour.

For a 21st with a difference, one lucky girl celebrated her birthday with a walk through gorgeous countryside, ending with a meander up a gentle wooded slope. A table of lovely food awaited them at the top where they all relaxed, feasted and toasted the birthday girl late into a starry night.

There are fabulous pubs and restaurants and nightclubs for the younger generation, and the sheer value for money is something that will strike you time and again. Food and drink always play a huge part in the success of a holiday, so wine tasting tours, picnics in the vineyards and leisurely lunches feature extensively

– and very enjoyably.

Distinctive Portugal can also

help solve the endless “Who’s

driving/babysitting?” by recommending a local cook who

can come to your villa, create a

menu, do the shopping, prepare a meal for your group and clear up afterwards. The food they prepare is authentic Portuguese, superb and yet again terrific value for money – for larger groups the average cost per head for three courses with two choices is around €16.

A perfect family holiday is priceless when it comes to memories, the chance to enjoy experiences together and to revel in shared moments which you know will be remembered for decades. Fortunately, when it comes to northern Portugal, you don’t need a king’s ransom to afford it.

Visit quintadeagriboa.co.uk/acommodation,

distinctiveportugal.com and descubraminho.pt/en/home