Fore site: Claudia Winkleman gets active in Portugal's Penha Longa resort

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

'I think we should go away and do something different and I think it should include some sort of sport," said my husband one morning. I know. I know. Different? Sport? Has he met me?

After I persuaded him that it was a little too soon to start teaching our two-year-old how to surf and that I would be absolutely no fun on a camping and kayaking week (these holidays exist, I'm not making it up), we settled on a golf resort near Sintra in Portugal.

It's only a short flight and the weather's really good there in early summer, when we travelled. Well, let me re-phrase that. It's usually really good. You've got to feel bad for a big pink hotel that is awash with outside space – endless terraces, an outdoor pool, horses to ride, tennis courts to play on, woods and fields to explore and a championship golf course – when it's also awash with rain.

We had packed only bottles of sunscreen and sundresses and sunglasses and sandals and just as we arrived Portugal decided to throw off its predictable good-weather image. It poured.

I'll be honest. I considered going back to the airport and trying to get us on the surfing holiday in Cornwall where it was freakishly sunny. But that would have been insane and really, our daughter is just too little to get on a board. So we unpacked and settled in.

The Penha Longa is vast. It's not just big. The lobby alone is the size of Luton. It's all set amid a properly beautiful landscape; there are mountains and trees and the views are breathtaking. It's also divided into sections. The main hotel with the guest rooms is pink, just off it there's a yellow spa (later in our stay, I cried when they told me my massage was over) and there's also an old monastery just next to the main house. There are courtyards with small fountains and gorgeous vegetable gardens. There are stables and a whole tennis club.

Basically, it's big. If you came here with people you didn't want to see all the time then the Penha Longa is the place for you. One of you could be looking at the fresh lemons being picked off the trees while someone was in the pool and someone else could be playing golf. You'd all be about a mile away from each other.

The rooms are great. Just as the hotel is big, so are the bedrooms. Most are designed so that whole walls are made of glass, which means you have great views all the time.

Anyway, back to the weather. "What are we going to do on a golf holiday in the rain?" I wailed and slumped on the bed. I looked at the children, all hopeful, carrying buckets and spades and asking if they could swim or just go outside. "We can't," I told them. "It's wetter than Bournemouth in February."

To be frank, they didn't know what I was talking about. But when I had to make sort of shawl cardigans out of cushion covers so they didn't get cold, they got the picture.

Happily for all concerned I didn't stay livid for long. Turns out the Penha Longa golf resort is set in a microclimate. The nice man who had picked us up from the airport called to tell us: "Do not panic, it will get sunnier. In the meantime can I interest you in the indoor heated pool and the kid's club and maybe an afternoon movie? Have you had a chance to look at the TV menu yet?"

People, things were looking up. The indoor pool is, yes, spacious and warm. It is surrounded by lovely, massive (you could say there's a theme) teak sun loungers that a family of four could tumble on to. We splashed around for hours before heading to the kid's club which was busy with stressed parents.

Someone very clever from the hotel and kids' club had got together and it was time to make cookies. This wasn't just a "here's some dough, turn it into a duck and then we're done" sort of thing. This was a tour of the kitchens (beyond fascinating) and a conversation with the pastry chef. (I say "conversation", but there was a lot of sign language involving rolling out the biscuit mix. It seems that "yum yum" is a universal expression.)

Then it was back to kids' club for decorating the treats. I soon realised that anything done at the Penha Longa is done thoroughly. There was pink icing and blue icing and orange icing and about a thousand different cookie-cutters and pots and pots of assorted sprinkles.

When the kids were done it was time for the movie and the TV menu moment. (Yes, I know we could have done Plasticine figures or read books but I'm a terrible mother, and you need to know about the menu.)

To begin we had strips of locally caught fish that had been breaded, plus buckets of carrots and chips (delicious). Then came the good stuff. We had a platter crammed with pistachios and dried papaya and seriously good local cheeses. And if that wasn't good enough we had what the TV menu calls a "popcorn party". Not a bag of Butterkist but freshly popped caramel popcorn, nutty popcorn, chocolate popcorn, spicy popcorn (my advice – don't give this to a two-year-old if you don't want her eyes to water). The finale comprised popcorn with truffle salt. By the end of the first day I was delighted it had rained.

I was rather looking forward to another 24 hours spent poking in the hotel's kitchen and ordering Portuguese spiced almonds. So the next day, of course, it decided to be less rainy. And that's where the sport came in. My son had a tennis lesson with Juan, whom he fell in love with. He was a brilliant teacher and since we've come back all my six-year-old can do is talk about tennis. And I had a golf lesson. It was (and I am embarrassed to say this) surprisingly good fun.

Robert Judd came on holiday to the Penha Longa six years ago and hasn't left since. He is now one of their golf coaches. At this point, I should explain that I am allergic to any form of exercise. Sweating makes me actually cry, so it was with trepidation that I got into his golf buggy. He gave me a tour of the course. I don't know much about golf but it's a beautiful course. Created by a designer called Robert Trent Jones Jr, it's where they hold the Portuguese Open. Happy groups of men and women in shorts ambled about shouting "fore", so it's evidently an extremely nice place to play. That is if you can see the ball. Very bad eyesight and golf is a slightly tricky mix. All I can tell you is that during a one-hour lesson I think I made contact with the golf ball only eight times.

It was less hectic than any other sport I've encountered and if I was going to embrace moving around rather than lying down on holiday, then my sport of choice would now be golf. Plus you get to ride a buggy (fun) and the clubhouse at Penha Longa has a brilliant restaurant.

The restaurant is called Arola and it's part LA cool and part continental Europe. I know that's a weird description but I promise that's what it's like. It's very modern in its design and is all white apart from the odd very beautiful hanging light that's either green or violet. Big sweeping sofas are dotted around and I imagine it's a great place for a late-night drink. The menu is full of Portuguese specialities and if you go you must have the patatas bravas. They are not, um, brave potatoes but they are small baked new potatoes topped in sour cream and spices.

It's also worth mentioning a couple of other places to eat. There's a Japanese restaurant, the Midori, that has a fantastic buffet – and the sashimi is still a little bit wriggly, which I think is a good thing. The breakfast buffet at AssaMassa has a fantastic array of good things. There's very crispy bacon and a nice man who will make any kind of egg dish you fancy, and there are kind waiters who will fetch you anything you want.

If you ever want to leave the resort I'd aim for a walk around the old town of Sintra, three miles to the north. Despite being only 20 miles west of Lisbon (to which it is connected by a sweet little train), it is one of those rare places where you feel that the 20th century, let alone the 21st, has yet to intervene. Grand palaces and churches are interspersed with a labyrinth of little restaurants and shops selling local ceramics. For the ideal lunch, though, you need to head further west to the port of Furnas, which has the best bacalhau (salt cod) I've ever tasted.

So, the Penha Longa: big and pink and good even in the rain. And the best news is that I didn't have to sit in a kayak.

Getting there

The nearest airport is Lisbon, which is served by easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com ) from Bristol, Gatwick, Liverpool and Luton. TAP (0845 601 0932; flytap.com ) flies from Gatwick and Heathrow; British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) from Heathrow; and bmibaby (0871 224 0224; bmibaby.com ) from Birmingham. To reduce the impact on the environment, you can buy an "offset" through Abta's Reduce my Footprint initiative (020-3117 0500; www.reducemyfootprint.travel ).

Staying there

Penha Longa Hotel, Estrada da Lagoa Azul, Linhó, Sintra, Portugal (bookings: 0800 234 000; resort: 00 351 21 924 9011; ritzcarlton.com ). Rates start at €350, in a deluxe room with breakfast.

More information

0845 355 1212; visitportugal.com

Suggested Topics
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture