Monte da Fornalha

near Borba, Alentejo, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
200-year-old rural guesthouse surrounded by vines and olive groves, with gorgeous gardens and elegant pool
This is another of those stylish country retreats the Portuguese do so well: a whitewashed house with smart interiors standing in 4 acres of blissful silence. Best of all is the succulent courtyard jungle that Orlanda has coaxed from the dry soil. Palms soar, an old oak throws out its shade, wisteria, ivy and bougainvillea all roam the walls. There’s a small fountain in a water trough, deck chairs scattered about the terrace. Forage further and find a glistening pool flanked by sun loungers and 2 terraces – one for the sun, one for the shade. Raid the honesty bar, then fall asleep to the sound of goats’ bells floating over the walls from the surrounding vineyards.

The house dates to the late 1700s. Breakfast is served in an exceedingly pretty open-plan sitting room/dining room. Bedrooms are scattered about the garden; expect terracotta-tiled floors, colour-washed walls, pretty furniture, some with a terrace. There are bikes to borrow, vineyards to visit, the gorgeous Alentejo towns to discover (Vila Viçoca is on the doorstep) and horse riding in the hills.


  • We revisited in 2015 and the property remains utterly peaceful and beautiful - a perfect place to unwind
  • Great value for money, considering the big rooms and excellent breakfast
  • Wandering through the garden from your room to the pool - a tough commute
  • The Alentejo is one of Portugal's pretties regions, and right on the doorstep


  • Dinner is not available, so you'll have to drive to Borba, Estremoz or further afield
  • Only 3 rooms have air con, but thick walls and shutters keep them all cool, and we didn't actually use ours

Best time to go

The feast of the grape is celebrated in the second week of November. If you like your wine, don’t miss it. Borba has a Cheese Fair in April, a herb fair in May, and a processional festival on the 3rd Sunday in August - but July and August can be excessively hot. As with many small hotels around the world, weekends are busier than weekdays.

Our top tips

Pack plenty of suncream - we visited in June, and it was hot. We especially loved lazing by the pool in the late afternoon sun playing games, so if that's your thing, pack Scrabble or cards.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 6
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available


A row of converted workers’ cottages house 6 wonderfully big (or enormous) suites, each with classy interiors straight out of the sort of glossy magazine you drool over. Expect country rugs on cool slate floors, shuttered windows and candles everywhere. Beds are smartly dressed in white linen and warmed with cosy duvets in winter. Raw wood ceilings preside over alcoves decorated with clay pots.

All are great value for money, but if you intend to be lazy and stay put all day, splash out on first-floor Suite 488 which has a private balcony. It’s cool and shady in the heat of the day, blissfully quiet but for birds, and enormous for 2 people. The other suites each have seating outside their doors on the communal terrace. On our most recent visit we stayed in pink colour-washed Junior Suite 82 - we slept brilliantly and left restored.

Most bathrooms have tubs with overhead showers, plus you get thick towelling robes, slippers and a fragrant shower gel and body lotion. Usefully, each room has a mini fridge, and a kettle to make herbal teas. Three rooms have air con.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


Breakfast is served in the main house; there are 2 fireplaces for winter mornings, thick walls and shuttered windows to keep you cool in high summer. Help yourself from the vast, immaculate buffet: fresh peaches and melon, seeds and cereals, big ham and cheese platters, freshly-squeezed orange juice, vine tomatoes and olive oil. Also, a Nespresso coffee machine, and the most important element of a fine Portuguese breakfast: cake. Orlanda whips up a fresh one every day - coconut, chocolate, orange - and all are delicious.

If you exclusively hire the whole property, you get the run of Orlanda's gorgeous kitchen, which has anything and everything you could need, including basics like oil, herbs, washing up liquid, bin bags...

Expect to eat well if you dine out. Just a 5-minute drive away, we enjoyed an enormous plate of traditional Portuguese Bacalhau (salt cod with potatoes and onions) at O Espalha Brasas - rustic, great value and front-row seats to the evening’s sun set. If you want the best in the area, head to the old town of Estremoz; try friendly São Rosas (smart tables, delicious meat and fish dishes, and an impressive wine list) or Cadeia Quinhentista (exceptional upmarket cuisine and great cocktails). Orlanda will advise on what’s hot and what's not.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge


  • Borrow the guesthouse’s bikes to explore Borba or follow tracks into the hills and forest. There’s also horse riding (just ask) and vineyards nearby
  • Known chiefly for its wine and antiques shops, lively Borba is one of the great marble towns (5-minute drive). Just south, Vila Viçosa was the country seat of the Dukes of Bragança, the last ruling family of Portugal
  • The towns and villages of the Alentejo are on your doorstep: Alandroal, Terena, Reguengos, then glorious Monsaraz. This is one of Portugal’s loveliest areas and little has changed in 150 years
  • Roman Evora, a world Heritage site, is a must (50km west). It has a graceful temple and lots of history
  • Beautiful Estremoz (10km west), is a fine example of a provincial country garrison town. Estramoz marble is extremely pretty, thus a stroll about the Rossio, the town’s square, is quite a grand affair
  • Head south to Redondo and you pass over the Serra d'Ossa. You crest a eucalyptus forest high in the hills, then drop down into vineyards
  • Head south from Borba to Alqueva, Europe’s largest, and newest, man-made lake. It was created recently to provide water for the Alentejo. You can canoe, sail, ski, swim
  • You are also close to Spain; day trips to Seville, Trujillo and Merida are all possible

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming


Children are welcome and will enjoy the pool, but this is a quiet rural area and may not be ideal for kids with short attention spans. Most guests are couples in search of a peaceful break.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Suite 480 is the best option for families, with space for 3 children's beds. All rooms can hold a baby cot; Junior Suites and Suites can also hold at least 1 extra bed.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

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