What makes the Algarve so special?
It’s not one thing, or even two or three – it’s a combination. We have the most exceptional climate. I’ve got a client who’s just moved here from the south of Spain and they can’t believe how different it is. We have drier, more pleasant summers and warmer winters. You can go out and eat the most wonderful beach lunch, with lots of wine and gorgeous fresh fish – the standard of living is high, the cost of living is not. It’s charming here, rather than glamorous, and very health- and fitness-orientated. We have incredible sports facilities and bike lanes everywhere. And anybody who has travelled to Portugal will know that the wines from the Douro Valley and the Alentejo are exceptional.
How does it compare to other places in Europe for golf?
You can’t swing a cat here without it landing on a golf course. There’s so much choice, at every level, and you’ve got the climate for it all year. Although I don’t play – I’m too busy walking my dogs – the Quinta do Lago South course is stunning and has always been a favourite with our clients. Plus, it has just had a cash injection and is looking spectacular.
Apart from golf, what else can you do?
Padel courts – indoor and outdoor – are popping up left, right and centre. Cycling is massive, with lots of road and mountain-biking options. And in Quinta do Lago we have an all-weather football field. Professional teams come and train, especially in the winter – a big German side is here at the moment. Everybody here is active.
What kind of houses are available?
The best properties are in Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. This year we have already agreed the sale of two residential properties in Quinta in excess of €20m (£17.7m) – a first not only for us, but for Portugal. These are spectacular homes in every way, with spas, indoor and outdoor pools, gyms, wine cellars, bars, cinemas – everything.
Driving down the avenues in Quinta do Lago, you don’t see the houses because they’re set back off the road – they’re slightly more elegant and quieter than in many places. The plots are half an acre and the houses about 6,000 sq ft – the environment is beautiful. The Campus, which is a sports hub, has a fun restaurant-bar; plus, you can do exercise classes and there are tennis and padel courts. On the other side of Quinta do Lago are miles of the most unspoilt beach, with no high-rise buildings in sight.
Tell us about some of your favourite beaches
I love the beach here. You can walk and walk and walk and not see anyone, especially at this time of year. It’s stunningly beautiful. I also love the beaches on the other side of Albufeira: there are some beautiful coves with little fish restaurants serving traditional food. You can eat right on the waterfront. In the other direction, you have the islands. A lot of the Algarve has an intercoastal waterway, a tidal ocean that comes in and creates lots of little islands. Ilha da Culatra is my favourite: it has lovely restaurants. The water is glass clear and it’s a fun day out.
Which are your favourite restaurants?
In the old town of Loulé is 11 da Villa, which I love. It’s cute: vaulted ceilings and great Portuguese tapas. On the other side of Albufeira, right on the beach, A Sardinha is another of my favourites. Locally, one of the best fish places would be 2 Passos. And the most iconic restaurant in Quinta do Lago, especially if you want to see and be seen, is Gigi. The food is very good and it’s been run by the same couple for decades. They have a fantastic selection of wines and you’re likely to see a famous face or two.
From a cultural standpoint, what else is there to do?
We have a growing art scene and great galleries are popping up, especially if you head into Tavira or Faro. In Loulé, a photography gallery called In the Pink has just opened in one of the beautiful old buildings on the main avenue. And a classical-music association called the Amigos de Música has been performing world-class chamber music here for 30 or 40 years. Mainly, though, it’s about food and wine here. And sports.
What’s your favourite thing about the Algarve?
It’s the light. I’m looking out right now and, though it’s a relatively dull day for the Algarve, I can still see blue sky. The light here is honestly quite extraordinary.
A 15-minute speedboat ride from Faro is Ilha Deserta, the only uninhabited island in the Ria Formosa, where you can dine on lobster, clams and baby prawns at a solar-powered eco-restaurant, Estaminé. Tours of the Quinta dos Vales vineyard in Lagoa provide excellent tasting opportunities and a chance to admire a vibrant collection of sculptures set amid the vines. And watch the sun go down at the waterside Boneca Bar in pretty Carvoeiro – a delicious spot for grilled sardines.
CO-OWNER QP SAVILLS
firstname.lastname@example.org +351 912 176 945
Pictures from top: Kerstin Buechner; a traditional lighthouse (Getty); the colours of Portugal (Alamy); fish restaurant 2 Passos serves the freshest clams; one of the Algarve’s wonderful coves (unsplash)