Vale do Lobo scores a hat trick with England football team preparing for World Cup

The Algarve’s combination of world-class sporting facilities, relaxing scenery, balmy climate and healthy living made it the ideal place for the England football team to prepare for the World Cup between 19th and 23rd May.

The Three Lions squad, including manager Roy Hodgson, could be seen warm-weather training at the upmarket Vale do Lobo resort this month. And like most visitors to this part of Portugal, when England’s football stars were given the odd hour or two of down time, a number of them headed to the golf course. This included Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, both keen golfers.

Many of the squad will have felt immediately at home in Portugal, as both Vale do Lobo and neighbouring Quinta do Lago are popular spots for holidays with British sports personalities, with a handful of footballers, including Rooney, Gerrard and Owen, said to have second homes in the one of the smart, tree-lined boulevards.

Roy Hodgson said: “Since the start of the training camp there has been a tremendous feeling of energy. It has been a very good three days. This is an excellent place to have a training camp and we have been very well looked after here. We wanted the facilities and a chance to get away together.” He added: “We are very happy with the facilities, the pitch and the place. Portugal remains one of our favourite places to come to.”

Player Leighton Baines added: “It’s a nice set up we have here and it is great for the lads to be able to go and get a game of golf after training hard.”

Exclusive Vale do Lobo is just 20 minutes from Faro airport and boasts two of the most popular golf courses in the Algarve, the Royal and the Ocean.

England’s first World Cup match is against Italy on 14th June, but before then they have a friendly against Peru.

Algarve named top holiday destination – and Vilamoura, Lagos and Albufeira rental hot spots

The Algarve has been ranked fifth best holiday destination for 2014 by a leading holiday rentals agency, which said the region’s unrivalled mix of natural beauty, hospitality, sun-kissed climate and fabulous beaches has cemented its favour as one of the Med’s foremost destinations for visitors from Britain and across Europe.

To help property-buyers looking for a lettable holiday home, the agency has highlighted three hot spots and property rentals in the Algarve.

One of the Algarve’s most prestigious and popular resorts, Vilamoura is perfect for golfers, families and couples. Beyond its two excellent beaches and stunning marina, Vilamoura offers sufficient entertainment, activities, shops, bars and restaurants to provide the perfect holiday. A fully-equipped private villa with pool (sleeps 8), just minutes away from the marina, beach and town, rents from £859 to £1,612 per week.

A former fishing port turned lively and popular resort, picturesque Albufeira is a charming blend of historic cobbled streets and traditional architecture and all of the attractions and facilities expected of a thoroughly modern and enjoyable family holiday resort. A family apartment (sleeps 6) on a popular resort complex with pools and entertainments a short distance from Albufeira’s shopping centre, restaurants and beaches, rents from £210 to £690 per week.

Within its sixteenth-century town walls, this historic and beautiful town is renowned for its restaurants, modern marina, fabulous beaches and vibrant nightlife. Suitable for holidaymakers of all ages, Lagos offers relaxation and plentiful entertainment for everyone. A luxury apartment (sleeps 4) with every modern amenity on a secure complex located minutes from the town centre, beaches, marina and one of the Algarve’s finest golf courses, rents from £340 to £695 per week.

Portugal remains a key driver in the international golf tourism sector

Portugal is the second most important destination for golf tour operators around the world, according to the most recent survey by the global trade organisation of the golf tourism industry, IAGTO.

The IAGTO survey, which ranked Spain number one for golf tourism, also highlighted how Portugal and the USA stand out for attracting more golf tourists from a widening global market. This is good news for property-owners in golf resorts in the Algarve, where the majority of Portugal’s golf courses are located, including the famous Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo resorts near Faro.

Overall, sales in the golf tourism sector increased year-on-year in 2013, and things are looking rosy for 2014 too.

Speaking at the inaugural HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi, IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “Not only has the cumulative growth in golf holiday sales exceeded, on average, 21 per cent in two years, but 2014 is set to be the third consecutive year of growth, with bookings taken in January being 14.5 per cent ahead of bookings taken in the same month a year earlier. Even allowing for variations in the relative growth of different outbound markets, golf tour operators on all continents will be handling over 20 per cent more golf holiday sales in 2014 than they were in 2011.”

For anyone wanting to experience some of the best golf in the Algarve, Vale do Lobo is holding a Golf Open Day on 15th May, when Club Members can invite guests to play in the Vale do Lobo Saturday Tournament and Non-Members can benefit from a promotional green fee price of just €50.

Albufeira restaurant rated a ‘world best’ and puts Portugal on the foodie map

Great news for foodies looking for a property in the Algarve – Portugal’s only restaurant in the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list has climbed to 22nd place in the 2014 rankings, up from 37th in 2013.

The Michelin-star restaurant, called Vila Joya and part of a luxury spa and beach resort in Albufeira, is run by chef Dieter Koschina. Originally from Austria, Koschina honed his skills in leading establishments in Vienna and Germany before settling in his adopted country of Portugal more than two decades ago. This is the third year it has featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Overlooking the picturesque Atlantic coastline, the dining room at Vila Joya plays host to artfully arranged plates of guinea fowl stuffed with black truffles and artichokes, and roasted goose liver with tamarind and salted caramel. However, it’s the chef’s skill with local seafood that is most impressive. Stand-out dishes include ‘cataplana’ – a modern take on a traditional Portuguese stew with pork, cockles and lobster – and confit ‘bacalhau’ (salt cod) with beetroot coulis and yoghurt.

Vila Joya has also become a destination for international chefs, who attend its annual International Gourmet Festival. Top names, including Joan Roca, Björn Frantzén and Nuno Mendes, joined Koschina at last year’s event.

Homeowners planning a trip to their property in the Algarve should treat themselves to a meal at Vila Joya – just be quick to book though, as tables are highly sought after.