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Winter Sun-derland Perfect for families, the stunning Martinhal Sagres resort in the Algarve offers everything you could ask for

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Sarah, Mia and Chloe on the beach in front of Martinhal Sagres

Sarah, Mia and Chloe on the beach in front of Martinhal Sagres

The main pool at Martinhal Sagres

The main pool at Martinhal Sagres

Crazy golf at the resort

Crazy golf at the resort

Spotting dolphins

Spotting dolphins

Sarah and the girls enjoying the games room

Sarah and the girls enjoying the games room

Mia on the front of the tandem bike

Mia on the front of the tandem bike

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Sarah, Mia and Chloe on the beach in front of Martinhal Sagres

AS you pull into the plush Martinhal Sagres resort that overlooks Portugal’s Atlantic coast you start to wonder if it’s as family-oriented as they claim on their website.

There are golf carts and fancy mountain bikes parked by the door, the reception is like something out of a Kevin McCloud TV show and the staff are ridiculously well dressed, courteous and professional.

On the other side of the spectrum is Team Keany who have just landed into 24C heat wearing way too many layers after an un-Godly alarm call that morning.

Luckily, check-in was brief and seamless and we were then driven to our residence for the next four days. The beauty of Martinhal resorts is that they are high-quality from front to back and top to bottom. At this particular spot, perched on the most south westerly corner of Europe, each family gets a villa instead of a hotel room.

Each one comes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a spacious living room and a kitchen. There are varying degrees of villas you can rent to cater for families of all sizes and bank balances.

But no matter what your temporary address is on the award-winning Portuguese resort one thing is a complete leveller for every single guest — kids.

They are everywhere; newborn babies right up to teens. This is their sanctuary. Which in turn means this is a parents’ idea of heaven. Trust me.

I’ve been to lots of hotels in different countries. I have dumped my daughters in several different kids’ clubs and we have been lucky enough to get invited to a few other child-centric locations. But none hold a torch to Martinhal.

Public bathrooms have child steps at all the sinks, staircases have lower bannisters, the staff should all wear knee pads because they spend a lot of time on all fours playing and engaging with the kids. All while still providing a five-star service for the adults.

It’s a brave combination of services, but somehow it works brilliantly. Imagine The Westbury bought Centre Parcs and plonked it in a Mediterranean climate and you have an idea as to what you get.

Four different swimming pools, four restaurants (catering to all tastes), two bars, a 24-hour gym, several dedicated kids’ club rooms, a bike rental shop, an ice cream parlour, a gigantic playground, mini golf, football pitches, basketball courts and a picture-postcard car-free road network to connect everything all situated one mile from Sagres itself and you have a little piece of Portuguese heaven.

Over the course of four sun-soaked days we dabbled in all of the pools that the resort had to offer. On day one you have to perch yourself at the main pool in front of reception where there are two restaurants and a bar to choose from. You also have the towel hut and a one-minute walk to the beach, which is why it is definitely the most popular of all the pools.

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The main pool at Martinhal Sagres

The main pool at Martinhal Sagres

The main pool at Martinhal Sagres

But as the days went by we also discovered the merits of trying other pools. Our garden villa was a five-minute walk away so on day two we decided to take our towels to the quieter pool and ended up spending three amazing hours there and promised to never return to the first pool.

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The following day we decided we would try the pool up by the tennis courts but it wasn’t until day three when we found our favourite pool. Situated among the centralised hub where the games room and bar and gym are is a pool that is built half indoor and half outdoor.

It is quieter than the ‘main’ pool at reception and the roof over half of it means that when the sun gets too much for pasty white Irish people you can just curtail your fun to the sheltered section.

The on-site supermarket, games room, gym and impressive outdoor playground are right beside it too, so if and when the pool gets boring for the kids there are options within a stone’s throw.

There is also a stunning spa on site that my wife Sarah enjoyed. She got a full-body massage and returned to the villa floating on air like the burdens of the world were lifted off her well-rubbed shoulders. Like the Cascais resort that we enjoyed three years ago, the Martinhal is positioned outside the town’s hub so a taxi is definitely needed, especially at the end of a long day.

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Sarah and the girls enjoying the games room

Sarah and the girls enjoying the games room

Sarah and the girls enjoying the games room

We did walk into Sagres on the first night for a gorgeous dinner but there was no way we would have been able to walk back once darkness dominates the sky.

At around €6-€10 each way it is definitely worth the expense.

The beauty of the Martinhal is that you could very easily stay on site and not worry about venturing outside at any point during your stay.

You don’t even need cash as everything is synched to your room and you just settle the bill at check-out.

That’s just not our thing, though, as our inner explorer kicked in. So we decided to hire bikes (my youngest joined me on a tandem) and headed off for the day.

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Mia on the front of the tandem bike

Mia on the front of the tandem bike

Mia on the front of the tandem bike

Our first stop was Cape Cruisers beside the harbour that whipped us off on a speed boat 10 miles out into the Atlantic on the lookout for dolphins.

We were well warned by the owners and by previous tourists who had done the fun-filled excursion that actual dolphin spotting was not guaranteed but after 30 minutes of adrenalin-fuelled wave dodging we hit the jackpot.

As they danced and played around our boat the marine biologist explained loads of amazing facts about them before our captain told us we had to head in. The whole trip took 90 minutes and it was worth every cent of the €120 asking price for a family of four.

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Spotting dolphins

Spotting dolphins

Spotting dolphins

A well-earned trip to the award-winning Alice’s Ice Cream shop, some shopping and a scenic cycle around the various headlands made up the rest of the day before we returned our bikes to the resort and wedged in a quick nine holes of crazy golf before a delicious dinner in the O Terraco restaurant.

A delicious three-course dinner watching the sunset over the ocean that we had spent such an incredible time with our new dolphin friends was the perfect finish to one of the best days of the year for us

Martinhal prices reflect the service you get. You can definitely find cheaper resorts in the Algarve but you will struggle to find a better quality and more child-friendly spot anywhere in the continent.

TRAVEL FACTFILE

MARTINHAL SAGRES, PORTUGAL
See martinhal.com

■ Martinhal has four deluxe resorts in Portugal and each of them can be easily explored and booked on martinhal.com.
■ The Sagres resort currently has some amazing Christmas and New Year deals if you fancy some festive fun in the sun.
■ Cape Cruiser’s dolphin-spotting costs €35


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