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A perfect Portuguese playground: Hiding away in the luxurious Algarve holiday village where your every whim is catered for
 
 

As my golf ball ricochets off a pine tree, coach Manuel gives some expert advice: ‘Just don’t think.’ At Pine Cliffs you don’t have to think much at all. Everything is done for you.

Except I am thinking. I’ve been coming to the Algarve for 30 years and, despite it being a mecca for golfers, never once have I been on the greens. Yet here I am being taught how to swing a nine iron.

No, I’ve not finally succumbed to middle age (well, not in that way, at least), but rather to the realisation that a golf course is the perfect backdrop for a holiday — utterly serene and hypnotically green.

Who cares if you can’t play the game?

Sprawling: Pine Cliffs Resort, in the Algarve, boasts multiple pools, a tennis academy and a golf course

Sprawling: Pine Cliffs Resort, in the Algarve, boasts multiple pools, a tennis academy and a golf course

What’s more, this particular course has splendid sea views and the cliffs are fringed with pine trees rich in bird life, from jays and martins to the elusive hoopoe — the official logo of the hotel.

It only comes out at dusk and my two-year-old son Rafael spots one on our first night at dinner much to his delight (and much to my mortification as he shrieks ‘poopoo’ whenever he thinks he sees another one).

Pine Cliffs is a Nineties man-made landscape near Albufeira, but as my wife points out, Capability Brown created artificial landscapes and you don’t hear people complaining about him or his hahas.

The resort is a sprawling village with a newly refurbished 215-bedroom hotel and a mixture of rental apartments and villas surrounded by lush grass lawns.

It is a miracle the grass can grow in such baking heat. More miraculous in this age of skyscrapers is that no building is taller than three storeys.

Because the accommodation is so widely dispersed, there’s a Noddy train (running on wheels and electricity) and the driver will sometimes go off-piste to take you where you want to go.

Time for tee: Villas are set neatly on the edge of the golf course for those keen to play a few quick holes

Time for tee: Villas are set neatly on the edge of the golf course for those keen to play a few quick holes

Of course, the children love it. By day two, ‘Choo choo’ has become an indelible part of my son’s vocabulary and my four-year-old daughter Saskia implores us to take a train ride whenever we venture out from our self-catering apartment.

Our fellow guests are largely British parents with pre-school toddlers beating the summer holiday rush (it’s mid-June), a few inter-generational family gatherings and the odd fitness fanatic in Lycra.

Saskia is often joined for meals by a German girl she’s befriended. It brings a whole new meaning to the term continental breakfast.

After starting the day on an array of fresh fruits and patisseries, we drop our two children off at the children’s club.

It is vast, with two life-size wooden pirate ships, a mini-golf course and swimming pool with friendly staff and, unusually (but thank the Lord), they take children from six months old.

We can’t tear them away from the bouncy castle when we return three hours later.

The other big parental plus of Pine Cliffs is you can dine with your children early — from 6.30 pm. The food is health-conscious, the choice extensive.

Lounging by the pool is the extent of our daytime exertions as the children frolic under the shade of the pine trees and are cooled by an Atlantic breeze.

Fun for all the family: The Shakespeare brood - Rafael, 2, and Saskia, 4 - loved their escape to Portugal

Fun for all the family: The Shakespeare brood - Rafael, 2, and Saskia, 4 - loved their escape to Portugal

Or we visit the fantastic beach (access is via an elevator and a short walk down a gorge). There’s an excellent beach bar, and the sea is warm.

I would love to tell you about Albufeira and the surrounding area, but at no stage do we feel any pull to leave the resort.

However, one afternoon I walk all of 40 yards for an ayurvedic massage at the spa and, at the Annabel Croft tennis academy, I pick up more useful life skills.

Croft’s bronzed legs are nowhere to be seen, but I’m assured she does make an appearance six times a year.

I ask my coach Hugo if he’s ever beaten her. ‘You don’t beat the boss,’ he says. Ah, yes, if only I’d learned that lesson years ago.

It’s hard to imagine anything bad happening here. Even when we get locked out on our second- floor balcony, two jovial handymen break down the apartment door to rescue us after we call for help from passers-by.

The pace of life is as tranquil as a game of bowls.

My wife is so relaxed she reads four books and by our daughter is daily sipping nectar from honeysuckle flowers.

There’s a lot to be said for artificial landscapes.

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Lei nº. 144/2015, de 8 de Setembro
ENTIDADE DE RESOLUÇÃO ALTERNATIVA DE LITÍGIOS NO ALGARVE

Em caso de litígio o consumidor pode recorrer ao:
Centro de Arbitragem de Consumo do Algarve
Tribunal Arbitral
Edifício Ninho de Empresas, Estrada da Penha, 8005-131 FARO
Tel: 289 823 135 Fax: 289 812 213
Email: info@consumoalgarve.pt
www.consumoalgarve.pt