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A hotel in the mountains

by Paulo Santos



A kind of chalet in the middle of the forest, where greenery, tranquillity and comfort are the hallmarks.

A flute of sparkling wine whets your appetite! It's five o'clock in the afternoon, teatime. After a while an infusion is served, accompanied by scones, jams, and cucumber, salmon or cheese sandwiches, as well as cakes. Afternoon tea is the oldest institution at the PortoBay Serra Golf. It has been served since at least the 1930s, when this family farm in Santo da Serra was transformed into a Tea House.


The Casa de Chá do Santo da Serra was the main food establishment in the area. It was originally a family farm where the owners spent their summers, as did many Madeira families who had properties in the parish.


From 1937 onwards, with the creation of the golf course, the importance of the property increased. It became the headquarters of the golf club, as well as continuing to serve meals. Golf had been played here since the 1920s, on a rather improvised course, right next to the tea house. At that time, there were only 9 holes.

In 2001, after years of neglect, the property was given a new lease of life, when it reopened as a hotel with 21 rooms and one suite. A modern wing was built to provide extra accommodation and a swimming pool, and the Serra Golf hotel was born, a boutique establishment, which was later added to the PortoBay portfolio.


The recently refurbished rooms and decor follow the PortoBay tradition of comfortable materials and sturdy fixtures and fittings, with a focus on pastel tones and an organic feel. The small details have not been neglected, such as a good Internet signal, TV or amenities designed for travellers who are increasingly carrying smaller suitcases. The free toiletries include products from the Rituals brand.

The hotel serves breakfast and dinner at the Avó Micas restaurant, a name chosen in honour of the matriarch of the former owners. Fresh fruit, healthy foods and a variety of bread, cereals or yoghurts are just some of the fare available to start your day.


At dinner the menu is comprehensive, with a focus on comfort food. It includes a variety of starters, soups, vegetarian, meat and fish dishes and desserts. There are slow-cooked options and more traditional fare, such as typical Madeiran kebabs, octopus carpaccio, scabbard fish fillet or duck thigh confit. The wine list includes Portuguese vintages.

The pool is indoor and heated. It can be enjoyed on a hot summer afternoon while sunbathing in the gardens, or on a wet autumn day with the raindrops falling outside.

The hotel makes a great base for exploring this area of Madeira, with its healthy rural atmosphere. It is warm during the summer and cooler, but cosy, during the winter.

Golf is one of the main activities. The course is the oldest in Madeira and has had 27 holes since 1991, with three different circuits. The work was carried out by prestigious architect Robert Trent Jones Sr., who used the landscape to his advantage and designed a course with magnificent views and a level of competitiveness that everyone considers challenging.

The landscape around PortoBay Serra Golf can also be explored on foot. One of the trails is called the Alvoredo, which runs through the interior of the parish, with small farms hidden away in the landscape, animal shelters and abundant forestry.


There are several other recommended trails in the area, such as the Levada da Serra do Faial, or the connection to Ribeiro Frio. These footpaths plunge into the forest and follow the meanderings of the typical Madeiran irrigation channels, the levadas.


You can also explore Quinta do Santo da Serra, a public park with free entry, which is a showcase for Madeira's native and exotic plants, and some of its wildlife. It is also possible to play tennis or mini golf, or admire the scenery from various viewpoints. It is an ideal place for a walk or a picnic.

Quinta do Santo da Serra is the summer residence of the President of the Regional Government of Madeira. Until 1975 it was a private property belonging to the Blandys, one of the most prominent British families in Madeira. The house they built is a fine example of 19th-century British colonial style architecture.

On Sunday, a visit to the fair and Agricultural Market of Santo da Serra is a must. Traders and farmers come together to offer a range of authentic local produce, all grown in this area of Madeira. There are also plants and some traditional craft products, which make wonderful souvenirs, as well as other typical fair items.

Sundays at the market are always festive and various stalls serve food and drinks, including the traditional Madeiran poncha.

In addition to this drink, Santo da Serra is a cider zone. It is an area of apple orchards; the famous “apple wine” has always been made here. This drink is being modernised throughout Madeira, but here in Santo da Serra, it is produced in the traditional way. It is a dry cider, often served with sugar or lemon peel. It may seem strange to many, but sampling it is to experience a piece of traditional Madeira from bygone times.

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