Regal, restful and relaxing: perfect harmony in a Portuguese palace

YOU don’t have to travel far from Faro in Portugal to holiday like royalty.

Just 10 kilometres from the airport lies one of the small luxury hotels of the world – the Palacio de Estoi.

It offers modern and old in perfect harmony. The magnificently restored 18th century rural palace built by the Viscount of Estoi is ancient Portugal at its best. And since becoming part of Portugal’s Pousada (hotel) routes in 2009, it has added a stylish new annexe with 63 luxurious rooms, including three suites, a spa with Turkish baths, saunas, tropical showers, hydro-massage and even a heated indoor swimming pool.

Of course, staying in a palace raised high expectations for our two-night stay and thankfully the warm and welcoming greeting on our arrival set the tone for friendly and attentive service. It was a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle and an ideal location for couples wanting some relaxed quality time together in magnificent surroundings.

The beautiful neo-rococo family home is a romantic setting with regal gardens inspired by Versailles and pink walls adorned with domes and statues and exotic flora. It even has its own beautiful chapel and tea pavilions.

The sun trap outdoor pool and bar area offers great views across the gardens to the city and back to the impressive frontage of the palace. And this being in the Algarve the climate is perfect almost all year round for sun worshippers. Our late September break saw the dial hit 27 degrees during the day and it was very pleasantly warm for early breakfast feasts on the lovely veranda.

For all the pink palace is stunning from the outside, the inside is worth exploring with its al frescos, antique paintings, glimmering gold leaf and ornate plasterwork commissioned by the palace's original owner. Such was the importance and history of the palace it was bought by the City of Faro in 1987 to ensure it was preserved and maintained. The Pestana Hotel Group, Portugal’s premier hotel chain, now have this retreat amongst its stunning portfolio.

Fine traditional regional cuisine is served in Restaurant Visconde. You walk past the ornate lounge and foyer, and enter through the old kitchens before taking a seat to savour authentic cuisine, including Algarve seafood specialities. You can also dine on the terrace before enjoying an evening stroll through the formal gardens.

Estoi itself is a lovely little town well worth exploring and is a gentle stroll from the palace. It is as you would imagine Portugal before us pesky tourists arrived. It is relaxed, traditional and friendly with cafes and open air restaurants. At its centre is the 15th century neo-classical Igreja Matriz de Estoi church. It was significantly restored after the devastating 1755 earthquake with all the wood for the construction of the altars previously used for ships and boats. One side alter has farming equipment as the decoration above the religious statues.

Also make sure you visit the Roman Villa of Milreu where you will find some of the best preserved Roman remains in the Algarve. The site was originally an agricultural settlement during the 1st century AD but was converted into a luxury villa during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It included a large temple and a bathing complex of which the mosaic images can still be seen.

And don’t forget that this is the Algarve. Great beaches, coastline, and golf courses are but 13km away and easy to get to by car. As is the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Not to mention Faro itself.

The eye-catching Rococo palace is a perfect location for a luxury break and to enjoy a bit of r, r and r – regal, rest and relaxation.

TRAVEL NOTES

The Pousada do Palacio de Estoi is one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and part of the Pestana Hotel Group.

Rooms from around £100 per night.

Easyjet offer great value flights from Glasgow to Faro. Jet2 also flies from Glasgow.