“Blissful peace and relaxation at this beguiling 300-year-old Minho manor house, with boutique B&B apartments for 2-4 set in its lush green grounds”
There are 2 very different types of living space: one traditional, the other contemporary. Fans of innovative design will love the raised pod-style apartments, Jacaranda and Acer (each sleeping 2, double or twin). These break radically with the mould of the adjacent manor: floor-to-ceiling, sliding-glass windows bring the outside in, whilst wooden slats on the sunnier walls ensure that glass house isn't synonymous with greenhouse; they also create beautiful plays of light.
On the inside, doors slide across to define living and sleeping spaces; cupboards slide out to reveal kitchen paraphernalia (all you need for preparing meals in-house). It's an exceptionally ingenious use of space. Full-length curtains match the name of your pod - pale blue for Jacaranda, and coral for Acer (which means maple) - whilst antique tables and chairs remind you that you're still part of a traditional quinta. Spoiling extras include kingsize beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, bathrobes, piles of snowy white towels and Damana goodies. Every mod con is in place, too: air-conditioning, WiFi, flat-screen TV and DVD player, as well as a functional shower room.
If you're of more conservative bent, choose one of the 4 traditional apartments that wrap around the clipped lawns behind the main house, all with kitchenettes. Three of them sleep 2, and can be set up as doubles or twins. Of these, our favourite is Casa da Fonte, whose huge private terrace has a spring-fed granite basin that doubles as a private plunge pool in summer. Buganvília and Magnolia sit alongside together, each with a living room and kitchen; perfect if you're travelling with another couple or older kids. Magnolia also has a large private terrace.
Set slightly apart from the rest of the apartments, Lavanda is the only 2-bedroom apartment, with a twin and a double, making it the obvious choice for families.
The apartments' interiors have been decorated with panache by Ana, who hand-painted much of the furniture and has colour-coded them to perfection. The feeling is warm and welcoming: wooden beams, antique beds and floral fabrics impart a much cosier feel than the 2 pods, but equally pleasing.
In the main house there's one suite, Vinha, the only room without a kitchenette. The decoration is in the same cosy-rustic style as the courtyard apartments; breakfast is served in the family home.
The makings of a wonderful breakfast are delivered to your room in 2 or 3 forays at the time of your choice. Expect several types of freshly baked bread, various cakes, a plate of local cheese and quince jelly, charcuterie or ham, homemade jams or honey and a bowl of seasonal fruit along with yoghurt and cereal. There's a big flask of freshly ground coffee and a choice of a dozen teas: the Portuguese like the stuff almost as much as the Brits. And, joy of breakfast joys, a whole jug of freshly squeezed orange juice.
No other meals are served, but all apartments (save the Casa da Vinha Suite) have been conceived with light self-catering in mind. Each has a kitchenette or (in Casa Buganvília) a full kitchen, as well as indoor and outdoor dining areas. You get a few things to start you off - bottled water, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, milk, sugar - plus a bottle of wine for booking through i-escape. Shopping locally is a breeze: you'll pick up produce to rival that of any farmer's market, or there's a supermarket 1km away. And don't miss out on the chance of buying fish fresh from the slab at the port at Viana. If you're staying in one of the traditional apartments grouped around the lawn, you may find yourself getting together with other guests at mealtimes, especially if you're using the communal barbecue: the relaxed vibe of this place seems to foster sociability.
If you fancy a break from cooking, there are first class restaurants galore within a 20-minute radius. We had one of our most memorable meals in Portugal down by the quayside in Viana at the wonderful Tasca da Linda, whose ocean-fresh fish is sublime. A little further into town, Taberna do Valentím is a local institution: when the fresh fish runs out, Valentím simply closes shop. Following the good counsel of our hosts we also tried 2 simpler eateries: Darque Villa, a modern restaurant close to a busy road, whose food and friendly service more than compensated; and O Espigueiro, even closer, whose indoor and outdoor dining, modest prices and really tasty regional food earned a big thumbs up from us.
We can vouch for the fact that families love this place, having witnessed an Argentinan family whoop it up during our stay. There's that big sweep of flat lawn for toddling, running and outdoor games, there are the woods to explore, the pool, a secret wooden house and easy interaction with other bambinos as well as with those of João and Ana. They recommend it for families with children aged 4-12, and we'd add that it's good for under 4s too (but watch the pool!).
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
All the apartments and both pods are a great option for families. The suite doesn't have a kitchenette but they all do.
For those travelling with 2 or more kids, Casa da Lavanda is the best option as it's huge (90m2) and has 2 bedrooms (one twin, one double). The price quoted also includes 4 guests (ie 2 parents and 2 kids). You could otherwise book both Casa Buganvília and Casa Magnolia as they are adjacent. Their prices don't include extra beds (children 4 and up are charged, see Rates). Cots incur a small fee. There are 3 extra cots and 8 extra beds overall.
English-speaking available, arrange in advance. See Rates.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
No meals apart from breakfast; picnic lunch by arrangement. Kitchenettes have a microwave but no blender. You can hire a chef for your stay and there are takeaways nearby. Evenings see a communal BBQ. Supermarket and farmers' market within a short drive. Joao and Ana recommend Restaurant Espigueiro for family meals out and it is a 5 minute drive away.
It's not particularly pushchair friendly and the main hazards are steep stairs and the unfenced pool. You can get a mobile signal everywhere in the property.