Four Seasons Fairways, Quinta de Lago, Algarve review
First impression: Tumbling trad-style villa village
Staff: Long-standing, know all the regulars, sweet and obliging to newbies, adore children
Food and drink: Surprisingly good
Bed and bath: Contemporary, clean lines
The crowd: Not as many golfers as you’d expect, British families who’ve clocked how much easier this style of stay is than a hotel
In a nutshell: Dream set-up for those with children in tow. Childcare for the smallest and endless activities for the bigger ones
Set the scene
This is not a Four Seasons, it’s a terracotta-roofed, tiered gathering of mini villas and apartments, which cluster around a main pool and clubhouse then drift down the hill towards the tennis courts. The grounds are immaculate: palm trees and flat-topped umbrella pines, as well as carob, olive, fig, almond and lemon, plus a very old cork tree, border lawns that have been intensely manicured (like the surrounding fairways). This part of the Algarve is more golf course than countryside, after all. But if hitting the tees is not your thing, don’t be put off. The lay of the land here works brilliantly for a family holiday.
What’s the story?
Built in 1989, this whitewashed cascade of traditional-styled villas and apartments, low rise but stacked like a clever jigsaw puzzle, with pathways and staircases leading to private entrances, has stood the test of time. Everyone has their own terrace, prettily planted with bougainvillaea and hibiscus, with a barbecue, sun beds and hot tub or swimming pool. The past two years have seen the rollout of a full-whack renovation, starting with the Clubhouse and now working its way round the rooms. To date, 85 have been completed, and it’s out with the casita-style sunset colour schemes, in with crisp, fresh, cool styling thanks to local interior designer Astrid Schep – Crittal doors and copper pendants in the restaurant, all-pleasing white-on-grey in the rooms.
What can we expect from our room?
Your villa actually. The smallest are two-bedroom apartments with hot tubs on the terrace, the biggest roll out with three bedrooms and swimming pools. Everyone has a gas-fired barbecue, and if you can’t face a supermarket trip, you can order sausages, chicken, steak, prawns etc from the restaurant to pop straight onto the grill. The full kitchens are better equipped than any house we’ve ever rented. Not just masses of plates and bowls and glasses in all sizes, but also tons of cutlery, salad bowls, every cooking utensil imaginable, pots and trays, even a paella pan, a dishwasher, washing machine, and, most thoughtfully, a little pack of washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, matches, tea towels and dishcloths. The mini mart then has everything else you might need. Bedrooms are large, bright, with white linen curtains, blackout blinds, little balconies, pops of colour from mustard and teal cushions on the beds, and wallpaper inspired by traditional Portuguese patterned tiles. Bathrooms are still quite old school but classic. There are fireplaces for the winter. And for those that care, full BBC channels (including CBeebies) on the TV.
How about the food and drink?
Amara, which opened in 2018, has a trump card in chef Nelson Candeias, who creates very pretty plates of oysters, seared sea bass and twists on local dishes such as catshark stew. Vivo, by the pool, is much more relaxed for breakfast, smoothies, iced coffee, gazpacho or clams for lunch and live music in the evenings.
Anything to say about the service?
Staff are particularly delightful with children. From the lifeguard by the pool who’s been here for 30 years and taught most of the members’ children to swim, to the bright young team at the kids’ club. The childcare space opened in 2018 and last winter they added a crèche for babies from six months, with cots and a ball pond and a gorgeous light-filled play space. The charges for the club are ludicrously reasonable: 10 euros for half a day, 15 for the whole day and 50 for the full week (Monday to Friday). There’s messy play, yoga and cooking for the little ones, go karting, football and water sports for the older ones.
What sort of person comes here?
Golfers of course, though mostly from autumn through to spring. The summer months have a stalwart gathering of members who buy in weeks (they don’t call it timeshare any more, but the gist is the same), multi-gen families and low-key first timers. Brits and Portuguese make up the relaxed crowd, and the general vibe is peaceful and quiet. During the day the only sound you’ll hear over a cooing wood pigeon and the hum of cicadas is the spray of sprinklers and the faint splash and shriek of children leaping into a far-off pool.
What’s the neighbourhood scene like?
This is Quinta do Lago, pristine and Truman-show-tidy. The beaches nearby are terrific. And the beach restaurants are too.
Anything you didn’t love?
The currents in the sea mean that swimming with small children or weak swimmers can be quite unrelaxing.
A final note: is it worth it?
Seriously good value actually. And Portugal is still much better on the wallet than France or Spain.
Address: Four Seasons Fairways, Quinta do Lago, Apartado 2132, 8135-024, Almancil, Portugal
Telephone: +351 289 357 500
Price: Two-bed apartments from about £1,100 for the week, but look out for deals, which can start from £665.
Book your stay
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, CN Traveller reports