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Martinhal Family Resort, Quinta do Lago: Augusta of the Algarve renowned for golf, but it is perfect for a family break too

By Paul Ferguson

The envy grew as I drove between the six roundabouts of Quinta do Lago. I could look, but touching was out of the question.

Akin to a wannabe fashionista walking down Fifth Avenue in New York without her purse, I was surrounded by the most majestic golf courses on the Algarve without even a seven iron to swing in frustration.

There are five courses — Laranjal, Pinheiros Altos, Quinta do Lago North, Quinta do Lago South and San Lorenzo. Wonderfully manicured fairways and spectacular greens resting in the middle of serene lakes, all within a short shot of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and Atlantic Ocean.

On Masters weekend, my mind drifted back to a late summer sojourn in the Augusta of the Algarve.

Golf though, which has been synonymous with this region of southern Portugal since its inception in 1972, was not on the agenda during my long weekend in the ultra-classy, cool and sophisticated Quinta do Lago.

With two-and-half-year-old twins in tow, this quick getaway, on a section of the Algarve’s prestigious Golden Triangle, just a 20-minute drive from Faro airport, was all about sand and water without fear of a hazard penalty in golf. We didn’t even venture to the mini-golf at roundabout four.

Three ‘finds’ made our trip most enjoyable — Martinhal Resort, the two-mile Quinta do Lago beach and Apolonia supermarket in Almancil.

Martinhal Quinta, set on a secure site, comprises two and three-bedroom townhouses along with three, four and-five bedroom villas, all independently owned and let out by the Martinhal group.

We booked into a beautifully furnished stone-tiled two-bed townhouse, set on a Wisteria Lane-style street, with our own swimming pool, fenced off for child safety, and built-in rear barbecue.

With family at the heart of the Martinhal ethos, the resort’s baby concierge, having been in touch in advance, made sure our townhouse was equipped with child-friendly equipment including safety gates, bed rails, bath mats and potties.

A discreet toilet, handy utility room, reasonably sized kitchen with all the mod-cons, dining area and a two-sofa lounge with a 42inch flat screen TV were on the ground floor. Upstairs, a decent-sized landing separated two spacious bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms including a powerful shower and a deep bath.

The townhouse was perfect for relaxing on a humid evening, but with the sun shining, the kids were keen to hit the pool hangout, just a 12-minute walk downhill past the reception or, if you are lucky to catch a passing member of staff on a golf buggy, just a couple of minutes away.

Here we found a large, heated swimming pool with two small slides, powerful jets and a baby pool with water features. These were surrounded by palm trees, a small wooden bridge and comfortable sun loungers. There is an indoor pool, but it is primarily used during poor weather.

Behind the main pool is the resort’s outdoor playground with a ground-level trampoline, which the kids absolutely loved, a sand pit and a VW Campervan for exploring, which is a trademark of the resort’s sister hotel in Sagres. In the Blue Room,  meanwhile, older children can enjoy table tennis, table football and computer consoles.

M Bar provides drinks and light meals in the pool area, along with homemade ice cream, which is a great way to keep the kids extra happy during the long afternoons in the sunshine.

Above the M Bar and on a balcony overlooking the pool is the resort’s restaurant, O’Terraço. Sumptuous hot and cold breakfasts are served here, with omelettes and pancakes made to order.

If you’d prefer to enjoy a kids-free breakfast, then children aged between three and eight can visit the Raposinhos club in the morning for a few hours. The kids’ club, meaning little fox, allows children to read, play and learn in a wonderfully bright soft play area under attentive supervision, while outside there is an irresistible bouncy castle. All at a cost of 10 euros for a session.

The resort has plenty of amenities, but nothing can come close to the pleasure our kids derived from an afternoon at the nearest beach.

A short five minute drive away — hiring a car is essential as there is no public transport — is a white, sandy beach, which is accessed by a 300-metre wooden footbridge across the Ria Formosa. For children with an active imagination, this walk proved to be a joy rather than a chore with crocodiles and trolls apparently under the bridge. In reality, it was more like different species of birds.

Dunes are prevalent along the beach, but it is the ferocious Atlantic Ocean with the breakers which is most enticing. But be careful, the currents are strong and you only have to step in a few yards to feel the full force and height of the waves, which the kids absolutely loved.

The beach, home to lively eating and drinking establishments such as Koko and Gigi, has the usual supply of sun loungers and watersports.

If you’d prefer watersports in a confined area, then 45 minutes away from Quinta do Lago is Aqualand and Slide and Splash. Zoomarine is a little further afield, and alongside water slides you’ll find dolphin and seal shows.

Back at the resort, O’Terraço restaurant offers a dinner menu but in the form of room or townhouse service. Therefore, the built-in barbecue in the garden saw plenty of use during our time there, especially after shopping at Apolonia.

There is a supermarket on-site and one near the first roundabout at the shopping complex, which is full of stores, bars and restaurants.

But it’s worth travelling to Almancil,  a15 minute journey, for such variation and choice when it comes to steak, chicken and fish from all over the globe.

Quick-lightning charcoal is available in the shop, but that is all you’ll need as the townhouse is fully stocked with utensils. It’s just a matter of grilling your food to taste, then simply sitting back and enjoying your food al fresco under the stars.

If you’d prefer to head out of the resort — there is babysitting available, with ladies from the Raposinhos club fulfilling the service — then Bovino steakhouse or Case do Lago, for locally caught fish, are both extremely popular, with reservations essential, even in late summer.

However, Julias, on the beachfront between Quinta do Lago and Vale Do Lobo, offers a range of reasonably priced yet exceptional seafood in a chilled-out atmosphere. It is also child-friendly.

There is no denying Quinta do Lago is a salubrious area with all the big-name chain hotels in operation and some of the most expensive property on the Algarve. But for a short break, it is well worth the expense.

Famous stars from past and present have holiday homes here. Indeed, there is a street named after the late, great Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna.

Primarily though, Quinta do Lago is about golf, and the three and four-bedroom villas at Martinhal, with balconies overlooking the course, are the essence of luxury for those who have been on the fairways all day.

An enticement to return but ultimately this was a most enjoyable family holiday with the only birdie in sight coming across that 300-metre wooden footbridge.

Travel factfile

Paul and his family stayed at the Martinhal Family Resort in Quinta do Lago.

From April 8 to April 27, and September 15 to October 31, prices start at £179 per night for a two-bedroom

townhouse.

From April 28 to June 29, August 25 to September 14, and December 29 to December 31, prices start at £274 per night for a two-bedroom townhouse.

From June 30 to August 24, prices start at £400 per night for a two-bedroom

townhouse.

For further information and rates, visit www.martinhal.com/Quinta or telephone +351 218 507 788

EasyJet flies from Belfast International to Faro. For schedule and rates,

visit www.easyjet.com.

Avis offers excellent deals on family vehicles from Faro airport. Visit www.avis.com for  information on the best rates and availability throughout the year.

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