Casa do Rio

near Castelo Melhor, Porto, Douro & Minho, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A romantic riverside bolthole with modern furnishings and an intimate vibe
As you rattle along a steep, pot-holed track to get here, Casa do Rio appears on the horizon, seemingly suspended in mid-air. A vast oak and glass cabin stilted on stone over a valley, it is a real feat of architecture, more reminiscent of a spaceship than a boutique hotel. But it is this dramatic positioning that makes the place so special when you finally arrive, with uninterrupted views of the petrol-blue River Douro through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Surrounded by olive trees, wild flowers and hectares of organic vineyards, the cabin's natural facade blends into the landscape, and is enveloped in peace; not a neighbour in sight. Inside, a breezy open-plan living space has a mid-century modern style, with leather sofas, Scandi-chic wooden chairs and A9 Bang & Olufsen speakers. Through bi-fold doors there's a long dining terrace for candlelit dinners and sunny breakfasts. The 6 bedrooms are small but stylish, with pod wood-burners and river views from tiny terraces. If you're looking for somewhere to unwind amongst nature or spend time with someone special, this place will enchant you. It had only been open 3 months when we stayed (Sept 2015), and in that time many guests had extended their stay or booked a return visit, which says it all.

Highs

  • Tasty dinners paired with excellent wines by Quinta do Vallado (their sister hotel, a famed winery estate)
  • Good value
  • A beautiful infinity pool and tranquil riverside deck
  • Friendly staff create an at-home feel
  • Adults only so a tranquil place to chill, but great activities on offer, too: wine tasting, boat trips, SUP, kayaking

Lows

  • Not easy to find, and the 2km dirt track leading from the N22 is rather rough, though they plan to pave it
  • Dinner is only served Mon-Sat (you'll need to drive out to eat on Sundays) and is a set menu, but it changes daily
  • Elements of breakfast were disappointing; packet croissants and watered-down fresh orange juice
  • Mosquitoes at dinner and wasps at breakfast, due to the riverside setting
  • The walk down to the river involves some perilous steps and lots of steep bits; bring good shoes

Best time to go

Northern Portugal is an all-year destination. Springs are glorious, when the vines burst with leaves, and summers can be very hot. Autumn (when we visited) is beautiful, with the vines on the turn and warm days followed by chilly evenings. Winter sees some rain and it does get colder, but each room has a wood-burner. Note that the pool is unheated, so late spring, summer and early autumn will be your best bet if you want to swim.

Our top tips

Ask staff about the nearby river falls, where you can go wild swimming.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Restaurant and bar (open Mon-Sat)
  • Ages 12+ only
  • Closed: 2 Jan 2017 - 25 Feb 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Riverside deck
  • Organised activities
Room:

Rooms

The 6 rooms are identical, 3 either side of the central living space. Although they are narrow and feel rather cabin-y, they make clever use of the space, somehow managing to fit in a kingsize bed, sofa area, shower bathroom, wardrobe and a small deck with seating. There's not much room left over to swing a cat, or even a kitten, but they're fine for a couple of nights, especially if you're a tidy soul who unpacks.

Décor is pristine white and tasteful, with tongue-and-groove panelling, high-quality furnishings and vast photo canvases of the Douro. Sofas are beautifully worn leather, and a silver wood-burner pod dangles from the ceiling for a fire in the colder months. We loved the novelty of the mirror TV, and all the little touches including fragrant toiletries, art books and a coffee machine. Remote-controlled blackout curtains will lull you into a dreamless sleep, and upon waking you can lie in bed and gaze at the river. Sound-proofing isn't great so bring earplugs.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Pool towels
  • Safe box
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wood-burner

Eating

Evening meals are a set 3-course menu, accompanied by Quinta do Vallado wines, which are all superb. We started with delicious Serra da Estrela cheese, served with homemade tomato jam and local meats. Next came veal carpaccio topped with parmesan and rocket. Our main was a hearty monkfish and prawn stew, and a cinnamon crème brûlée rounded things off. Fairly simple but tasty fare.

Breakfast is a generous buffet of meats, cheeses, fruit salads and yummy homemade compotes with yoghurt. Eggs are made to order. We felt it a shame that the fresh OJ was watered down and the croissants tasted like they were from a packet, but it's a hearty spread so you can fill up.

Sandwiches, salads and tapas are available all day, as are coffee and homemade cakes (don't miss the pastéis de nata). Be aware that on Sunday nights dinner is not available, so you'll need to drive into Castelo Melhor (15 mins).

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Light lunches and tapas
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Laze by the infinity pool, drinking in the incredible setting and enjoying the peace
  • Or sit on the main terrace and watch birds wheeling through the air; there's a telescope for guest use
  • Trek down to the river where there's a simple deck area
  • Take a boat trip on the Douro (Casa do Rio have their own boat), or try windsurfing, SUP and kayaking
  • There are electric bikes to borrow; perfect for navigating the hilly terrain
  • There's a free tour of local wineries for tastings and to learn about wine-making. Casa do Rio has 20 hectares of organic vineyards, and hopes to start production next year
  • Faia Brava is a 30-minute drive away, a nature reserve with walks, birding and Unesco cave paintings

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Jeep tours
  • Kayaking
  • Picnics
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Only guests aged 12+ are allowed unless the property is hired exclusively. All beds are kingsize doubles and there are no extra beds/baby cots available, unless the property is hired exclusively.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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