“A perfectly formed bijou B&B with great rates, set in an enchanting Unesco-listed town between Lisbon and the coast”
Continuing the honey-related theme, the 5 rooms are named after different pollen-producing flowers, with patterns and colour schemes to match. They’re all calming and uncluttered, with brushed-wood floors, silky fabrics that reflect the light pouring in through shuttered windows, and a smattering of well-chosen furniture (some new, some vintage). Bathrooms are open-plan, with in-room sinks, plus toilets and powerful showers hidden behind sheets of frosted glass. You also get flat-screen TVs, hairdryers and big bottles of shampoo and shower gel.
We stayed in Jasmine, one of the 3 double-bedded Standard Rooms, which are nestled under the eaves at the top of the house and feature unusual textured wallpaper in delicate shades of grey, cream and aquamarine. Ours was the most spacious of the trio, with a bank of sleek white wardrobes and a Scandi-style chair in one corner; Wildflower and Rosemary are a little smaller, with beds pushed up against one wall, but they’re fine for a night or two. The air-con wasn’t quite powerful enough to deal with the heatwave that swept Portugal during our stay, but comfy mattresses and wonderfully soft linens meant we slept well nevertheless.
If you can, we’d recommend paying a bit more for one of the 2 Superior Rooms on the floor beneath. These are larger, with kingsize beds and French doors opening onto a shared balcony dotted with tables, chairs and flower-filled pots - the perfect spot to sit back, drink up your free port and drink in the view. Heather is decked out in masculine greys and tartans, with a working fireplace for chilly evenings, while Orange Blossom - our favourite - comes in elegant blue and orange with mid-century modern pieces. Both rooms can be set up as twins if required.
Wander downstairs each morning and you’ll find an extensive buffet spread laid out in the breakfast room, which is decorated in soft-but-striking greys and yellows, with jazzy gold pendant lights hanging low over marble-topped tables. There are cereals and pastries, cold cuts and cheeses, jams and membrillo, fruits and yoghurts (including soya-based options), a daily changing juice (pineapple and strawberry when we stayed), and freshly brewed tea and coffee. The highlight for us was the range of local herb-infused honeys - delicious when drizzled over a chunk of still-warm bread. Sink into an easy chair as scented candles glow around you, or take your plate out to the patio and eat under the sun; either way, it’s a lovely start to the day.
No other meals are served at Aguamel, but free homemade cake is provided every afternoon (the signature honey cake is particularly tempting), and complimentary tea and coffee is always available. You can also help yourself to soft drinks from the fridge (there's an honesty system in place), and you're welcome to store your own wine and snacks here, too.
When it comes to eating out, Sintra is packed with choices. We headed a couple of doors along to Restaurante Dona Maria, where tables spill out from frescoed dining rooms onto a pretty terrace strung with fairylights. Here, we tucked into bacalhau, crisp vinho verde and a local version of fondue made from herb-laden cheese, and watched the sun dip behind the rooftops into the distant sea - an unforgettable evening.