Family matters in the Algarve
WHETHER you're looking for golf, mountain biking, a relaxing spa or five-star cuisine, Charlie Mallon reckons you can find it all in the algarve's Martinhal resort
PORTUGAL, like ourselves, may be in the bailout zone, but a new beach resort and hotel complex is flying the flag of confidence rather than that of doom and gloom. Aimed at the high end of the families market, the five-star Martinhal Beach and Hotel resort overlooking Sagres in the western Algarve is set within a protected natural park.
The complex is more than 50 acres and has been designed for families and children of all ages.
Everything from a bottle steriliser to a potty can be booked for your little baby darlings.
Baby sitting, creche facilities, as well as the 'Raposinhos', or little fox club, caters for younger age groups, while programmes are available in the Explorers Club 9-12 and the Adventure Club for children up to 18 years old.
Little touches, such as having a separate breakfast area for kids, score highly with adults.
Having corn flakes and crayons on the table is encouraged and keeps both kids and adults happy.
A Blue Room caters for older kids, with a futuristic look, the latest video games, table football and board games galore.
Whether you choose relaxation or action, your whims are catered for.
Take your pick from surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, snorkelling, or the new craze of paddle tennis, which is played with a table tennis-style racquet and a soft ball in a handball alley-size court.
It is even becoming more popular in some sun spots than regular tennis.
Golfers can visit one of four clubs within 20-40 minutes, including the Henry Cotton-designed championship course at Penina, a 6,273-metre challenge off the white tees.
Another option is the Christy O'Connor Junior designed course on the Amendoeira Golf Resort.
This is about 40 minutes from the airport and can be played going or coming back from your Martinhal base.
If you want to chill back at the resort, take advantage of the giant beanbag-style cushions at one of the five pools before slipping in to cool down.
For further relaxation, visit one of the six treatment rooms in the Finisterra -- which means 'end of the earth' -- Spa.
Do not leave the western Algrave without taking in the unspoilt and immaculately clean beaches -- about 25 in all -- which dot the Atlantic coastline.
Call en route to see the most southerly point of Cape St Vincent lighthouse before a final stop off in Sagres itself, at the working harbour or in the handful of local pubs where nightlife can go on into the morning.
A major plus for this hotel resort is its two first-class restaurants, O Terraco and As Dunas.
Both serve only the best of local produce, western Algarve's wine, seafood and vegetables.
Sea bass, sea bream, monkfish and turbot, washed down with local rosé, white and red wines add up to five-star cuisine which I guarantee will not be bettered.
Again, the Martinhal has an answer for the fussy eaters among the kids and teens.
They have an authentic Italian restaurant and takeaway, Os Gambozinos, for those who prefer pasta and pizza.
Martinhal village also offers an eclectic mix of accommodation. The hotel itself has 38 bedrooms while the overall village has 132 houses.
There are 55 ocean houses on the resort front, 28 bay houses overlooking the nature reserve and ocean, 39 garden houses within a walled garden setting and 10 pinewood houses, each with its own pool in a separate "close".
The resort also boasts 45 luxury 3/4 bedroom villas and 23 houses with 2/3 bedrooms and private gardens with ocean views.
> Liss Ard House in Skibbereen is currently being upgraded by the owners of the Martinhal resort.
Useful websites: www.aerlingus.com www.martinhal.com. www.lemeridienpenina.com/en www.oceanicogolf.com www.clubstohire.com