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At this splendid 18th Century Manor House situated in over 3 hectares of grounds, with fruit trees, a lovely romantic garden and a pool, you will be warmly welcomed into a pleasant family atmosphere by the owner.
The décor throughout is exquisite, particularly in the bedrooms, each of which is decorated according to a different colour scheme and style, and where you’ll maybe find a four-poster bed, perhaps a modern room or one furnished with antiques.
If you prefer to be more self-contained, rent the Gîte by the pool, where you can enjoy all the facilities of the Estate and have the privacy of your own space.
Touring: Minho is Portugal’s second most popular holiday region after the Algarve. Unlike the Algarve, however, there are no British pubs or Fish ’n’ Chip shops, no amusement arcades or theme parks. It’s all rather more discreet, more natural (unspoilt, you might say). People come here to relax in a quiet rural setting. A lot of visitors tour around, seeing the historic sites, the small market towns and villages, the rugged landscapes and the quiet empty beaches. Others come to lose themselves in a terrain that is still largely unaffected by modern European development, and amongst a people who still live a simple life. Most are subsistence farmers, and while there are few women who still wash the clothes in the stream, they do still go every day to collect the milk from the communal cow, in churns balanced on their heads. Inland, traffic jams, more often than not, are caused by an ox drawn cart.
Folklore, wildlife and cuisine: There’s a thriving regional folklore tradition – singing and dancing and various rustic handicrafts, and the region is famous for its “Romarias”, local village feast days involving religious processions, markets, fairs and evening feasts and folkloric entertainment. They’re a bit like British Village Fêtes, but as they might have been hundreds of years ago! At night there are wild boar in the hills and owls hunting, and during the day plenty of black squirrels, jays, red kites, water birds on the river below, and, of course, harmless lizards. The regional cuisine of Minho is famous all over Portugal, and there are some great restaurants in the area - including the Solar - and some great wines. Minho is where Vinho Verde comes from, and is next door to the Douro valley, the home of Port Wine; Portugal’s table wines generally are one of the world’s best-kept secrets and they’re all available locally.
Golf: Estela (30km), built on a 3km stretch of sand dunes on the beautiful Costa Verde, this is one of the Portuguese golf links that secured a high reputation for itself when it hosted two events in the European Professionals' Circuit. Par 72, 6129m. Ponte de Lima (40km), part of “a bucolic scenery of mountains, vineyards and fruit gardens”, is a course typical of the Minho region. Par 71, 6005m, including Portugal's longest hole at 622m (par 5). Quinta da Barca golf resort (25km), an excellent 9-hole course with stunning views over the Cavado River. Par 31, 2012m.
Gîte: Viana Do Castelo Vacation Rental by Owner Listing 57358ha
Located in the gardens of the Solar da Natureza e do Bem Estar, the Gîte is right next to the and tennis court. It has been newly refurbished and re-designed (in 2005) and is completely self-contained and available on a self-catering basis. There are two double rooms, with twin beds and en suite bathrooms, both with satellite TV and central heating, and an open-plan kitchen and lounge with fireplace. There is also a double sofa bed in the lounge, so the cottage will sleep up to 6 people. Outside, there is a pleasant terrace reserved for guests in the Gîte, while the pool, gardens and all the facilities in the main house are freely available and shared with other guests from the Solar. If you are taking a holiday with a larger group of family or friends, you may also like to rent rooms in the Solar, which sleeps up to 24 people.
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The Solar is in Vila Franca, 6km south of Viana do Castelo, the major fishing port in the region, and a thriving market town steeped in history. The Peneda Gerês National Park is only 50km away, where you can spend days driving or walking around a part of Portugal that remains totally unspoilt. It’s rugged and mountainous terrain is wild and full of rare plants and animals, as well as the occasional village seemingly left over from centuries ago. Viana do Castelo is midway on the 100km “Costa Verde”, with a different beach every few kilometres, most of them wide and sandy, uncrowded and safe. There are also more sheltered river beaches on the banks of the Lima river – one of them just 1km from the Solar. There’s something to suit every taste – sandy or rocky, surf beaches, family beaches, quiet and romantic or beaches full of activities. Or, of course, you can simply relax by the pool, with a good book! Or there are 3 golf courses within 40km.