Magical Martinhal: A family break to remember on Portugal's Algarve
Melanie Finn bites the bullet and books her first family holiday in ages... a whirlwind trip to Martinhal in Sagres.
Set the Mood
It's 8pm and I'm sitting on the balcony of our villa in the Portuguese town of Sagres watching the sun go down over the Atlantic while sipping a cool glass of Mateus Rose.
The air is thick with the sound of Cicadas and I'm so relaxed, I'm worried I may have had a mini-stroke. This is what holidays are supposed to be like but rarely are – especially when you have two little boys aged three and four.
For years, we went nowhere.
We were practically house-bound as we veered between sheer exhaustion and utter bewilderment. But finally, we bit the bullet and decided if we wanted to see the sun again before the boys were 18, we needed to book a foreign holiday to try and feel like normal adults again.
We stayed in the luxury Martinhal Sagres (martinhal.com/sagres) and despite being at the pricier end of the scale, it's worth it when you've young kids.
A 'baby concierge' service means you can order ahead and have things like travel cots installed in your room when you arrive, there's baby gates in the Villas in addition to a kids' club and baby-sitting service. All the soft furnishings are designed with young families in mind. Which is also helpful after a few glasses of Vino.
I took a trip to the hotel's Finisterra Spa, which means 'end of the earth' in Portuguese. In pre-colonial times, locals thought the world stopped at Sagres given that it's the most Westerly point of mainland Europe. So I could also justify it as being a cultural visit while I was getting pummelled with hot stones and sweet-smelling oils.
In terms of cuisine, Sagres is mainly a surfer town so don't expect to find any amazing restaurants. But if you fancy a road trip, Lagos is a 45-minute drive away and is packed with amazing eateries and gorgeous architecture.
Given its stunning, wind-swept beaches, surfing is the main attraction in Sagres. But a visit to the Fortress is an absolute must. Dating back to the 15th century, it was built to protect the Franciscan convent lying adjacent to it from Pirate attacks. Stand at the edge of the cliff-face and soak up the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.
The hotel lies a little out of town so unless you have hired a car, you're dependent on the resort's supermarket – which isn't cheap. Particularly annoying is the mark-up on nappies and baby wipes, given that It's mainly families staying there. But there is a taxi service to the nearby Carrefour for €7 return.
Get me there
Martinhal Sagres has early summer packages for April and May (select dates), with houses from €292 per night for a week, based on a family of two adults, two children under 12 and a baby staying on a half-board basis (martinhal.com).
Aer Lingus run direct flights from Dublin to Faro for €200 return. Under two's are €20 each way with the airline now running a 'Family First' offer (aerlingus.com).
We rented a car at the airport and at €150 for the week with no hidden extras, Zest were surprisingly good value (zestcarrental.com)
Read more:Perfection in Portugal: Is this the Algarve's best family resort?