Portugal’s Cascais region has golf, coast, history and a link with James Bond
- Credit: Archant
Think Portugal. Think golfing holiday. Think the Algarve? Think again.
Tee up once more and realign your aim left and higher looking to land your sunshine break ball on the greens of Cascais - a region close to the capital, Lisbon.
Never heard of it before? Me neither, but you will know its neighbour Estoril, because of the motor racing circuit.
And we can also thank it for creating James Bond. The riviera's wartime neutrality, which made it a hotbed for spies, combined with grand hotels and a vast gambling palace provided Ian Fleming's inspiration for 007 and Casino Royale.
The coastline and wooded hills beyond are jewelled with real palaces showcasing the area's popularity with royals over the centuries.
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But authentic everyday Portugal is also around the corner. For every monument and plush golf club there is a characterful colour-washed village with lazy dogs scratching in the sun and old men watching the world go by.
Golf is the hook that draws many tourists to Cascais - pronounced Cash-ki-ees.
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It has seven courses ranging from the lush woodland of the historic Sports Club of Lisbon with its colonial-feel clubhouse to the wild windy links of Oitavos, our base and former home of the Portuguese open, where the modern architecture contrasts with its sand-soft setting.
However the local motto is Come for one reason. Stay for many.
And the area, just 25km from Lisbon airport, also has sea for surfing and sailing, and beaches ranging from busy parasol parades to quiet sandy coves.
The coast also has rocky outcrops include Cabo da Roca which is the westernmost point of Europe.
An off-road Land Rover trip into the Sintra Natural Park revealed giant rounded boulders sitting among forests and provided stunning panoramic views of the coastline. The National Palace there dates back to Arab occupation and has two landmark cone-shaped chimneys.
Cascais is rich in history - its coast barnacled with battlements of forts from the days of sailing warships as well as those palaces and places of worship.
Its mother ship Lisbon - ideal for a day trip - offers culture, heritage, shopping and shipping in a broad river straddled by a Golden Gate-style bridge and overlooked by a Rio-like Jesus statue. We viewed it from a gentle catamaran trip along the river and coast, which was punctuated with the chance of speedboat rides for the thrill-seekers.
Food and drink are a joy with fresh fish figuring large on the menu, and locally-made wine, which you can taste and even 'bottle your own' at the atmospheric Adega Viuva Gomes winery in Colares.
Cascais is one of those best-kept-secret destinations, which shares many of Norfolk's qualities: a fascinating coast, heritage, nature, good cuisine, sports, a blend of city and country, royal patronage, as well as hospitality as warm as the year-round sun.
Portugal is famous for its explorers and a giant statue on the Lisbon waterside is a monument to their discoveries.
It was also a place of discovery for me - not just in the nooks and crannies of some great golf courses looking for errant balls - but also introducing me to an area easily missed as people head to better-known golf holiday spots.
Whether you are a golfer, surfer, sailor, history buff, nature enthusiast, beach fan or a general tourist, Cascais - the birthplace of Bond - has licence to thrill with a cocktail of activities to leave you stirred not shaken.