“A chic, tranquil and cosy mountain hotel with glorious views, excellent hiking and a heated pool and spa”
It was a leap of faith by P.D.'s architect to design such an innovative building in a deeply traditional region. Waving goodbye to local mores, he chose gleaming epoxy floors, laquered pannelling and a seamless union of glass and wood. The resulting rooms are light and uplifting with a Scandinavian feel. In the upper wing, the Cork rooms feature original pieces of 60s furniture by Nordic designers.
Floor-to-ceiling windows, flat TV screens with DVD players and sliding doors leading to bathrooms ensure that all available space is put to good use. Beds are dressed with bright Burel wool textiles, and comfy spa mattresses guarantee a great night's sleep. You also get iPod docks and writing desks.
Ensuite bathrooms have massage showers or baths with translucent glass panels. Expect towelling bathrobes, slippers, a hairdryer and a big pile of towels as well as locally sourced toiletries made from indigenous Beiras plants.
There are 18 rooms, spread through the upper and lower wings of the hotel. Most of these are Cork or Veranda rooms. When we revisited in 2011, we spent a night in each, and loved them both. The Veranda rooms on the lower level are smaller, but have private terraces where you can drink in the extraordinary views from the comfort of armchairs. The Cork rooms in the upper wing are bigger, with bigger bathrooms; these rooms can fit a rollaway bed and can interlink, so they're best for families.
The biggest room is hoisted high above the dining room - an airy Suite, which was once João's private apartment. With sofas, glass walls, a separate bath and shower and heaps of space, this is a great option for families.
The cheapest Mansard rooms are tucked into the eaves of the lower wing; they are small, so it is well worth the upgrade to the Mansard Superior, which has more light, and a sitting area.
The buffet breakfast is designed to give walkers energy for the day ahead - in other words, it's huge! Served in the wood-clad dining room with its panoramic views, you can expect fruit salad, homemade breads and cakes, local honey, fruit marmalades, freshly squeezed juices and cheeses. Groups can sit around the big dining table or there are smaller tables set next to windows so you can gaze out as you eat.
A 3-course lunch can be served in the dinng room if requested in advance, and picnics can be made up for those going on a full-day hike (a sandwich, cookies, piece of chocolate, fruit, water, juice, hot coffee or tea).
Light snacks are available throughout the day, there's an honesty bar in each wing of the house, and tea and cake is served in the dining room at 4pm - a sweet treat for those who've worn themselves out walking.
The evening meals are also a reward for tired bodies, kicking off with a cocktail and nibbles in the lounge at 8pm; we had Port wine with tonic (surprisingly nice) and a gazpacho in a shot glass (delicious). Dinner is then a 5-course feast. We started with a yummy Serra herbed goat's cheese salad, followed by a heavenly roast pumpkin soup with garlic bread. Next up was a beef steak wrapped in mushroom pate and filo pastry (sublime), followed by a yoghurt, honey and egg yolk dessert (sweet and rich). You later help yourself to cheeses, digestivs and coffee which are laid out along the counter. The price of your meal includes an excellent red or white house wine; your glass will be frequently replenished.
And if you can walk to your room after all that, you're doing well!
Chic, remote mountain hideaways usually sound more Bond-villain than family fun, but PD is an exception. The atmosphere is very child-friendly, with a special kids' menu, baby equipment and free food for under 4s (which impressed us a lot). Feedback from families who have booked through us suggests that it's a great place for teenagers too; outdoorsy kids will enjoy the varied terrain for hide and seek and other fresh air games. Take Joao up on the offer to tailormake a hike for your family, with the option of a jeep pick-up if it's too far for little legs.
The Cork rooms can accommodate an extra bed, and can interconnect. The Mansard Superior room also has space for a rollaway bed, and all rooms can fit a baby cot. If you're travelling with 2 or more children, book the Suite, which sleeps 2 adults and 3 children (or 2 adults, 2 children and a baby cot). There's a small extra cost for the extra beds for children - cheaper for 4-10 year olds than for those 11-15. See Rates).
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids' menu; those under 4 eat for free. Breakfast is huge, picnics can be made up for the day and there's a high tea (tea and cakes) at 4pm. You can get snacks through the day in the hotel.
It rains a lot - so bring children's DVDs with you, although there are a few here. There are no nearby supermarkets so stock up on essentials before you get here.