When half my extended family decided to travel from Scotland to Portugal via Dublin, I realised that we here in Ireland are on to A Very Good Thing.
With great weather, direct and affordable flights and the same currency, Portugal is a brilliant holiday destination for the Irish – and an ideal spot for a couple’s getaway, or relaxing spa break with the girls.
I made this happy discovery while away for my sister’s wedding. The hotel we booked, with few expectations and for €70 a night*, turned out to be one of the loveliest places we’ve stayed.
Dolce Campo Real Lisboa is a luxurious and tranquil gem of a resort in the Torres Vedras district of western Portugal, just outside Gradil village. Perfect for relaxation, it’s surrounded by lush green hills, vineyards and charming medieval towns – and yet, it’s only half an hour’s drive from the charming capital, Lisbon.
With an indoor and outdoor pool, a golf course, equestrian centre and spa, there’s absolutely buckets to do; there’s even a little shop on site for the basics. The staff were lovely, service levels were high and the food was amazing – I still miss the tiny custard tarts served at breakfast.
Most evenings, we ate at the more economical Garden Terrace, but we did enjoy one meal prepared by Chef Rui Fernandes in the Grande Escolha restaurant: perfect salmon gravadlax, served with dill, pickles and a peppery, horseradish sauce, followed by melt-in-the-mouth venison - and all washed down with delicious local wines. Dinner here was a treat.
And while himself tried the golf course, of course I sampled the spa: in fact, I went twice; once to avail of a well-priced special offer - two mini treatments for €70 - and once, for a full body rubdown before my sister’s big day. Prices were comparative with Ireland, the therapists were skilful and professional, and the setting was second to none. Sadly, the thermal suite was out of commission for the week we visited, but the pools were delightful and on both occasions, I had them all to myself. Blissful just about covers it.
We flew with Ryanair for the best prices (€190 pp plus €40 for a checked in case); don’t forget to check out the latest golf and spa offers on the hotel website. For airport transfers and tours, we used the company Fabrica Das Viagens throughout and would highly recommend. Want more travel tips? Check out my posts on Paris, Italy or Vienna!
*it was off peak, in April, but the sun still had its hat on!