Luxury Quintas of Madeira

Travel through time with a stay at an historic Madeiran Quinta

by Edel Cassidy

When holidaying in Madeira, most visitors will like to base themselves in the capital, Funchal, a picturesque and welcoming city that overlooks the main harbour and is close to all the historic and natural attractions of the island. However, to get a real feel for the cultural heritage, by far the best option is to stay one of the island’s Quintas, spectacular manor houses surrounded by luscious gardens and built in a style of architecture unique to Madeira. Each one is part of the history of the island and tells its own unique story. These Quintas are former stately homes of wealthy families, often English merchants, who settled in Madeira to capitalise on the flourishing wine trade.

Quinta Jardins do Lago

This beautiful Quinta is located on one of the hills surrounding the city of Funchal. Although the existing property was built in the 18th century, the history behind the estate goes back to the early 15th century when the lands were used as vineyards and the growing of wheat and sugar cane.

It is thought that the first house was built around 1620 but the estate, then known as Quinta da Achada, was severely damaged by the earthquake in 1748. The property changed hands several times and was the home of wine merchants, a summer residence for the bishops of Funchal and during the Napoleonic wars General Beresford, Commander of the British forces on the island, chose it as his residence. His magnificent sideboard, a reminder of his stay, still adorns the dining room. More recently it has been the home of well-known French and British families before opening as a five-star hotel in 2000 when the name was changed to Quinta Jardins do Lago.

All of the luxury rooms and suites face south to the gardens and the sea and are designed to offer the best in modern functionality and traditional comfort and style.

A first-class breakfast with a wide choice is served at the elegant Pink Room or outside on the veranda. The Colombo Bistro, named after the giant tortoise who has lived in the gardens for over sixty years, is adjacent to the swimming pool and offers refreshing drinks and snacks – ideal for lunch or a sunset cocktail.

The Beresford Restaurant is a must-visit for those who have a taste for fine art and exquisite food. A unique feast for the senses, a fine dining experience can be enjoyed indoors or al fresco, with impeccable service and formality – a nod to the Quinta’s past grandeur. Both traditional Madeiran and classic international cuisine, along with an excellent wine list, are offered. There is no better way to finish the evening than to enjoy a little Madeira wine in the O Visconde Piano Bar. 

The hotel has a variety of pleasant and relaxing areas including a freshwater heated swimming pool, a well-equipped gym, sauna, Turkish bath, and Jacuzzi, along with croquet and table tennis facilities.

The Villa at Quinta Jardin do Lago

Situated on the grounds of the Quinta, overlooking the mountains and the sea, this well-appointed four-bedroom villa is the perfect venue for a special get-together where guests can relax in total privacy while enjoying the amenities of a luxury resort. 

The villa is fully serviced with a daily housekeeping service and breakfast at the hotel (just 100 metres walking distance) is included. Dedicated personal cooks and servers and a personal bar can be arranged on request.

Quinta Jardin do Lago is a truly unique and romantic wedding venue and the villa makes an ideal home away from home for the family for the duration of the event.

Quinta da Casa Branca

A member of the ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’, the property consists of two buildings set apart. There are five elegant and luxurious suites in the 19th-century Quinta that was once the family home of the Leacock family, a name synonymous with the finest Madeira wine. Each suite is individually designed and beautifully furnished with antique Portuguese furniture.

In contrast, a separate, very modern design hotel nestles beautifully into the surrounding gardens. Large glass windows take full advantage of the spectacular grounds and offer uninterrupted views of the ocean and the hills above the city.

A buffet breakfast is served at the Garden Pavilion Restaurant which is situated next to the main swimming pool. This restaurant also serves as a day-time and evening restaurant with a laid-back atmosphere serving everything from light snacks to set dinner menus. For those who prefer a fine dining experience in a more formal setting, the manor house features a distinctive dining room in a classic ambience serving the finest gastronomic, inventive and contemporary cuisine.

Other amenities include a second, adult-only private swimming pool, a health club equipped with a fitness training room, sauna, steam bath, hot tub and a relaxation room and two libraries.  

The beautiful tropical gardens are quite spectacular and have three main areas of interest: the arboretum which occupies a strip to the north and presents a selection of large tropical and subtropical trees; the agricultural area consists of a banana plantation interspersed with avocado, mango trees and passion fruit vines; the garden slopes south of the main hotel  building, with a host of trees that grip attention for their spectacular array of colours.

The Beautiful Botanical Gardens at Quinta Jardins Do Lago

Blessed with fertile volcanic soil, a balmy subtropical climate and gentle rainfalls, Madeira is home to a vast collection of exotic plants and trees. Many of the historical manor houses are surrounded by beautifully maintained tropical gardens and parks with a wide variety of plant species that have originated from all over the world.

The luxurious Quinta Jardins Do Lago boutique hotel in Funchal, Madeira, is highly acclaimed for its spectacular botanical gardens with more than 600 different species of plants, including old trees and many colourful and delicate flowers that are unique in their variety and natural beauty. The gardens were developed in the 19th century, a time when wealthy vineyard owners competed with each other to create stately homes with magnificent grounds. Most of the owners of these homes were involved in Madeira’s wine trade and as trade routes between Europe and distant lands were established, they brought rare and exotic trees, shrubs, plants and flowers from all over the world.

The garden has a fantastic collection of trees, some that are more than a hundred years old such as a native dragon tree, a Syncarpia glomulifera, commonly known as the turpentine tree from Australia, and a very large and imposing camphor tree native to South East Asia. Other varieties from around the world include the blue jacaranda from Brazil and Ravenala madagascariensis, commonly known as traveller’s palm from Madagascar.

The pathways that meander through the gardens allow everything to be seen up close and all of the shrubs, trees and plants are labelled with their common and botanical names as well as their place of origin.

The colours and scents of the magnificent array of vines have to be one of the main attractions of this garden. A very special spot is the walkway where the Indian clock vine (also known as lady’s slipper vine) in wonderful shades of deep red and bright yellow that appear so vibrant in the tropical sunshine, cascades through a pergola. 

Any report on the gardens would not be complete without reference to Columbo, the Galapagos tortoise that has lived in the garden since 1969 and continues to stroll around the lawn and mingle with the guests. 

  • ‘Luxury Quintas of Maderia’ is published in Anthology Volume 13. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
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