"How do you choose your wine list?" I ask my host Frank McClintock as I peer at the extraordinarily eclectic range of wines on offer at his charming hotel, Barranco da Estrada in southern Portugal. I know he is an old Etonian but I was still surprised to find such a range of wines I'd never heard of.
"It's the labels," he explained. "If they've got a bird on, I add them to the list."
That just about sums up this place. Eccentrically run, but full of charm and humour and fun, and an incredibly cheap way to have a really remote escape just an hour or so from the budget airline hub of Faro.
Frank McClintock and his Austrian partner Daniela also run bird watching tours, as this part of Portugal is a twitcher's paradise, a stopping off point as well as a destination for a wide variety of migrating species from as far afield as west Africa and northern Scandinavia.
Unusually for this time of year it's been pouring with rain, but the views from this hideaway through its vast picture window across the lake (it's the only property for miles, with loads of water to sail unimpeded on) is still spectacular. If you make it out here (rates from 110 EUR per double room B+B), ask Frank to show you the paintings and watercolours by his grandmother, Maidle McClintock. He's recently inherited an intriguing collection of paintings and heirlooms, - letters from Lord Elphonstone relating to the relief of Ladysmith, medals won by a great uncle in the early 1900's in northern Nigeria, and so on - so the place has the feel of a hill station in a remote part of northern India.
With kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, wood-fired sauna and shiatsu massage, you will have no excuse not to totally unwind - birds or no birds.
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