North of Estremoz, the narrow but fast N245 thunders across the olive- and cork-lined plains towards ALTER DO CHÃO, 48km away. It’s a handsome small 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 Coudelaria Alter-Real stud farm, signposted 3km north of town. It was founded by royalty in 1748 and Alter-Real Lusitano horses have been sought-after ever since – they’re still the favoured breed of the Portuguese mounted police and the Lisbon Riding School at Queluz. Several guided visits a day (English spoken) show you the cosseted stallions in their vaulted stables, as well as the picadeiro (riding ring), the collection of antique carriages and the associated falconry; some tours start with an impressive falcon-flying demonstration, and there’s also a museum and the possibility of arranging a riding lesson in the picadeiro. The annual stud show and sale is every April 24, a great day for a visit.