Published on Monday, February 26, 2018

A resort fit for a king...and a naughty Duke

Bev Fearis ventured north of Lisbon to discover a charming, rural region that's home to a resort with royal connections.

Location: Around 30 minutes' drive north of Lisbon in the Socorro and Archeira Mountains, this was once the summer retreat and hunting lodge of the Portuguese royal family but these days you're more likely to see strangely-dressed gents driving around in carts hunting for small white balls than on horseback hunting wildlife. The 150-room Dolce Campo Real is in the centre of a pristine golf course and villa complex, surrounded by rolling farmland, vineyards, windmills (old and new) and sleepy little villages. It's a very pretty and also historic part of Portugal and the hotel has launched an initiative designed to encourage guests - particularly corporate groups - to not only explore the hotel and its facilities but also the area around it. Guests are handed a map and clues to various points of interest. Without giving too much away, it means you'll get to try a range of fun on-site activities, see a pretty neighbouring village and get up high for spectacular views. It's one of five hotels in the group currently offering the Dolce's Trails of Discovery programme.

Facilities: The resort is dominated by the 18-hole golf course, which undoubtedly draws a large chunk of guests, particularly in March, April, September and October when it's warmer and sunnier here than in other parts of Europe. If golf isn't your thing, there are also two tennis courts, a football pitch, an enormous outdoor pool, open all year round but not heated, and a fabulous spa.The Mandalay Spa offers excellent Asia-inspired treatments, a heated indoor lap pool, oversize Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. This hotel is also popular with the MICE market and has a flexible array of events and meetings rooms and a permanently catered break-out room for delegates serving more tasty sweet and savoury treats than just the usual luke warm coffees and dry biscuits. Who out there wouldn't be more productive and motivated after digging into jars of chocolate buttons, honeycomb chunks, mixed nuts and cream-filled pastries? 

Wining and dining: The fine dining Grande Escolha serves up seasonal top quality nosh and excellent local wines overseen by chef Rui Fernandes and overlooked by a large painting of the Duke of Wellington in a rather compromising position with a 'lady friend'. For something less formal, join the golfers for a quick lunch in the Garden Room, which enjoys the best views of the resort, or order bar food in the Wellington Bar, named after the naughty Duke who, when he wasn't fooling around with ladies of the night, helped the locals construct a line of defence along the nearby mountain ridge to protect Lisbon from French invasion.

Accommodation: Choose from Deluxe, Superior Deluxe or Premium Rooms and suites in the hotel, or self-catering accommodation in one of the 41 villas and apartments which are managed by the hotel. The rest of the villas are privately owned. Half are lived in year-round and the rest are holiday homes. My hotel bedroom had a balcony overlooking the pool, a super king bed and a spacious bathroom with a double sink and a huge walk-in shower. There was a tea and coffee machine, a proper hairdryer (not the usual miniature version attached to the wall where you have to keep the button pressed down), a decent sized safe (big enough for my laptop), and an LCD TV. A slatted screen meant I could open up the bathroom to see the telly and let in sunlight from the doors to the balcony.

Highlights: I'm no golfer but I can still appreciate a fine golf course when I see one.

Lowlights: A few small things. The free wi-fi was a bit slow and sporadic and bath-time was disappointing. If, like me, you like your baths nice and hot, the water just wasn't hot enough. I've been noticing that more and more in hotels recently, particularly with US-owned hotels, and wonder if it's for safety reasons and to prevent the risk of being sued if the water is scorching. 

The verdict: More than just your regular golf resort. The royal connections, blissful rural setting, and friendly, energetic staff give the Dolce Campo Real the edge. Great for corporate gatherings, golfers, and golf widows. 


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