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Fairway to heaven Wave goodbye to the winter blues with a relaxing getaway to Quinta do Lago in the sun-drenched Algarve

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Richard Jones enjoys Quinta do Lago South golf course

Richard Jones enjoys Quinta do Lago South golf course

Daughters Isla and Evelyn at the beach

Daughters Isla and Evelyn at the beach

A Four Seasons Fairways villa comes with a private pool

A Four Seasons Fairways villa comes with a private pool

Richard with wife, Rachel, Isla and Evelyn

Richard with wife, Rachel, Isla and Evelyn

The Four Seasons Fairways Masters gala dinner

The Four Seasons Fairways Masters gala dinner

The stylish villa

The stylish villa

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Richard Jones enjoys Quinta do Lago South golf course

As we made our way across the wooden bridge, the calming sound of the Atlantic Ocean slowly filled our ears.

Then I finally clapped eyes on something I had waited a long while to see. Admittedly, I have been to countless beaches before, but this one was special.

It was the pristine Praia da Quinta do Lago in Portugal. The older I get, the less I like the winter, and I’m desperate for a break.So this year, my wife Rachel and I decided to get away from it all, along with our daughters Isla and Evelyn.

We hopped on a plane and traded wind and rain for sand and shells, and battered brollies for parasol pine trees. Our destination was the resort town of Quinta do Lago, a 20-minute drive from Faro airport on the sun-drenched Algarve.

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Daughters Isla and Evelyn at the beach

Daughters Isla and Evelyn at the beach

Daughters Isla and Evelyn at the beach

Quinta was founded half a century ago by property developer André Jordan. Rumour has it he sat on a hillside by an old stone farmhouse one sunny day and dreamed of a place where velvety green golf courses were woven between pristine white villas overlooking the Atlantic and Ria Formosa lagoon.

Half a century on, Quinta do Lago signifies one of the three corners of Algarve’s ‘Golden Triangle’, along with the resort town of Vilamoura and the village of Almancil.

A playground for the rich and famous, the prestigious area is regularly visited by sports stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Rory McIlroy. And nestled in the heart of the Quinta development is the Four Seasons Fairways.

Combining the space and privacy of a self-catering apartment complex with the luxury of a five-star hotel resort, FSF prides itself on its ‘home from home’ hospitality. Over the past two years, it has undergone an extensive refurbishment, and the results are spectacular — sunset colour schemes and cool, minimalist styling which perfectly complement the traditional Portuguese architecture.

We checked into a family apartment comprising two large bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an open-plan kitchen which is perfect for a lazy lunch or night in. There was also a dishwasher, washing machine and, on arrival, we found the groceries that we had ordered from the mini-mart (before we left home) on the worktop and in the fridge.

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The stylish villa

The stylish villa

The stylish villa

Out on the terracotta-tiled terrace, we had our own gas-fired barbecue, and one lunchtime, we ordered sausages and burgers from the restaurant to pop straight onto the grill.

Our large hot tub was ideal for a dip in the cool mornings or evenings, while there is a full roster of Irish, English and sports channels on the TV sets inside. Up at the newly renovated clubhouse, there are indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, a sauna, steam room, gym and kids’ club.

Meanwhile, the snooker room is a great place for kids like Isla and Evelyn to hang out. You’re probably thinking all this sounds expensive, but with a family stay at FSF costing less than an equivalent break at an Irish holiday park, it’s a no-brainer.

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The resort is also great for health and well-being. Last year, Amy Williams took over from Helen Glover as the resort’s Active Living Ambassador, and guests can join up with the British Olympic gold-medallist rower during selected weeks for classes and workouts.

Food-wise, breakfast is served in the Fairways’ Vivo restaurant, which then provides snacks, lunches and cocktails by the pool. Its dinner menu is more extensive, with wood-fired home-made pizzas, sea bass and fillet steak their specialities.

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A Four Seasons Fairways villa comes with a private pool

A Four Seasons Fairways villa comes with a private pool

A Four Seasons Fairways villa comes with a private pool

There is also live music most evenings. During our stay, we had a delightful lunch at the newly reopened à la carte restaurant, Amara.

Gazing out over the golf course through the floor-to-ceiling windows, we made our way through a sumptuous buffet of salad, soup, roast turkey and desserts, washed down with a glass or three of bubbly.

Beyond the FSF grounds, there is plenty to see and do, and although public transport isn’t really an option in Quinta, most places are within reasonable walking or biking distance.

Just up Avenida André Jordan is Quinta Shopping, a boutique mall with a selection of fashion stores and eateries, including Irish gastro-pub Cheeky Pup.

Then, back down Avenida Ayrton Senna, past some of Quinta’s most spectacular villas, is The Campus sports facility, with its onsite sports bar Dano’s. Our morning stroll took us over the spectacular bridge and boardwalk spanning the Rio Formosa marshlands.

Then, after the girls splashed in the ocean, we made our way back through the Passadico do Ancao hiking area. For the more adventurous and those with a car, Vilamoura and Almancil with their famous fish markets, are great days out, as is Faro, the ‘Pearl of the Algarve’.

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Richard with wife, Rachel, Isla and Evelyn

Richard with wife, Rachel, Isla and Evelyn

Richard with wife, Rachel, Isla and Evelyn

And even if you are of the ‘golf is a good walk spoiled’ persuasion, you can’t really visit southern Portugal without getting into the swing a bit.

After hitting a few balls on the range at the Paul McGinley Academy, I played a round on Quinta do Lago South, regularly praised as one of Europe’s top courses. Its breathtaking signature hole, the 15th, is one of the most photographed on the Algarve.

It requires players to hit a challenging 200m tee shot over a lake onto a green shaded by pine and palm trees. Residents at FSF can also benefit from reduced green fees at local courses, and during our stay, the annual Four Seasons Fairways Masters was taking place.

We were invited to the gala dinner. For winter this year, I wanted one thing: to feel the sand between my toes on a foreign beach with my family — and I got that and so much more.

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The Four Seasons Fairways Masters gala dinner

The Four Seasons Fairways Masters gala dinner

The Four Seasons Fairways Masters gala dinner

On our last day, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the 20s, and as I looked out from the terrace onto the manicured lawns beneath the umbrella pines and took a large sip of my favourite — and Portugal’s most famous — seasonal tipple, port, it was pure holiday bliss.

FACTFILE
QUINTA DO LAGO, PORTUGAL
See visitportugal.com

  • Richard Jones and his family were guests at Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago, southern Portugal (fourseasonsfairways.com). Seven nights in a three-bed villa with a private pool on a self-catering basis from €1,200, based on travel in November 2022 and not including transfers or flights.
  • Flights from Dublin to Faro via Lisbon with TAP Air Portugal from €100 return. Go to flytap.com

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