From old forts to former hospital ships, ex convents to renovated theatres, Portugal has countless memorable places to stay. Matthew Hancock picks his favourites.
1) Forte de São João da Barra, Cabanas, Algarve
If you thought the Algarve was overdeveloped, this stylishly-renovated seventeenth-century sea fort will make you think again. Sitting in an olive grove, it is just minutes away from the pretty fishing village of Cabanas. Once through the imposing castle gates, you find yourself in a tranquil – and very secure – hideaway. Traditional rooms in the castle itself and designer rooms in a modern extension look onto a large grassy courtyard, and service is second to none. A pool is innovatively built into the ramparts, where you can also take a home-made breakfast of local jams, pastries and cheeses overlooking the Ria Formosa nature reserve.
2) Pousada São Felipe, Setúbal
Continuing the castle theme, but on a grander scale, this spectacular hilltop fort was built by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. You’d be hard pushed to find a better view than the one from its highly-rated restaurant and terrace, which gaze out across the Sado estuary. Rooms have all mod cons, though you won’t forget you’re inside a castle: walls are several feet thick and some rooms are even in the former prisoner’s cells. It’s a short drive to the dramatic hills of the Parque Natural da Arrábida, which has some of Portugal’s most idyllic beaches.
3) Residencial Santos, Guarda, Beiras
A simple and inexpensive guesthouse built into a slice of the medieval city walls, this has character by the bucket load. At over 1,000m in altitude, the historic border town of Guarda is the highest town in Portugal, which you can appreciate from Residencial Santos’s little roof terrace. From here, you can peer out across the plains towards Spain in one direction and the wild mountains of the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela in the other.