Until recently, the wild fields of Portugal’s Alentejo region – studded with cork trees, Neolithic dolmens, olive groves and pampas-style plains – were an enclave of Lisbon’s old-money set, interested in making wine, raising the local breed of Alter Real horses and communing with their version of the outback. But now, a stylishly international horsey crew have fallen in love with the location (which offers some of the best riding in Europe), at the recently opened São Lourenço do Barrocal estate.
The long, low-lying, white-washed farmhouse (and working winery) has a collection of chic cottages and loft-style suites developed by José António Uva, a former investment banker and keen horseman. After envisioning the hotel as a riding destination, Uva introduced the illustrious Lusitano thoroughbred horses to the area. Happily falling into single file for a comfortable canter, they are gentle enough for beginners, yet wild enough to take experienced riders galloping on a moonlit ride up to the fortified hilltop village of Monsaraz. You’ll also find a riding ring next to the stables, which has eight boxes for the estate’s horses (though you can bring your own, too).
The vibe of São Lourenço do Barrocal is a mix of sun-bleached rusticity and contemporary minimalism. Live out bucolic fantasies at wooden trestle tables piled high with the farm’s olives, cheeses and the hotel’s reserve red, or enjoy a watermelon martini overlooking the kitchen gardens and pool. Of course, the peace that pervades the place can especially be felt during a post-ride massage at the hotel’s spa, a temple of cool monastic calm.
Admire the local vineyards, the tiny nearby parish of Monsaraz and gentle rolling plains on a bike ride through the extensive grounds.
Take a hamper filled with partridge salad, Alentejo black pork, cheese and honey for a chilled-out picnic on a boat around the Alqueva lake.
Spend the evening with the hotel’s resident astronomer; with minimal light pollution and low-level latitude, this is a perfect place to stargaze.
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