North of Estremoz, the narrow but fast N245 thunders across the olive- and cork-lined plains to ALTER DO CHÃO, 48km away. It’s a handsome town, with the rounded towers of its castle facing directly onto a shaded central square, though the chief reason for a visit – well worth the drive – is to see the royal stud farm.
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The Coudelaria Alter-Real stud farm was founded by royalty in 1748 and Alter-Real Lusitano horses have been greatly sought after ever since – the Lisbon Riding School at Queluz and the Portuguese mounted police both use them. Guided visits show you the cosseted stallions in their vaulted stables, as well as the picadeiro (riding ring) and a collection of antique carriages. Some tours start with an impressive falcon-flying demonstration, and there’s also a small museum and the possibility of arranging a riding lesson in the picadeiro (from €25). The annual stud show and sale is every April 24, a great day for a visit.