A remote, riverside retreat in Portugal’s Douro Valley, Quinta dos Murças is a oenophile’s paradise. The vineyard-flanked estate makes its own wine and olive oil; checking in to your room should be an afterthought when there’s liquid this good to get tasting in the cellar. But the decor doesn’t disappoint: the family-run farmhouse is full of Fifties flourishes, with sepia prints showcasing the grape-related history of both the building and the surroundings. And nearby, there are near-countless other quintas to visit and a handily located railway station to help you hop along between them (without a second thought for unit intake).
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability (depending on if an exclusive-use booking is arriving). Earliest check-in, 10am.
Double rooms from £161.75 (€180), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
The boutique sells trinkets to take home, whether you’re after leather-bound notebooks or a handcrafted vase. In the same space, you’ll find a sofa, small library and wine selection to take notes.
From 22 December until 3 January.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, winery, gardens. In rooms: tea and coffee kit, free bottled water, speaker, and under-floor heating; one Double–Twin Room also has air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
The pared-back design in the rooms lets the views (both garden or river) do the talking, but we do love the flash of millennial pink in the colonial-style bathrooms. The Family Suite is perfect for (you’ve guessed it) families, as there’s a door that seals off the corridor leading to both rooms.
There’s a lawn-lined pool on the riverbank. It’s family-friendly, but there are no lifeguards or fences.
Read up on vinification so you can wax lyrical sommelier-style at the Douro’s many quintas; add a bunch-of-grapes brooch if you’re qualified.
The house hasn’t been specially adapted but there is step-free access for wheelchair users in the communal areas and some of the rooms. There's only air-conditioning in one Double–Twin room.
All ages are welcome, but Little Smith’s aren’t especially catered to. Baby cots (free) can be added to three of the Double–Twin rooms and the Family Suite, which has space for an extra bed. There are highchairs to borrow.
Quinta dos Murças has an organic vegetable garden and works with local producers to source what they don’t grow on-site. Plus, the hotel has solar panels and even a solar-powered boat.
Food is served in the dining room, in the garden by the pool and on the river-facing terrace; the latter has the best views.
Breakfast is a spread of homemade bread, traditional smoked meats and cheese, orange juice made with the hotel’s organic oranges, and seasonal fruits. The kitchen is always open for you to come and go as you please, and you can stock up the fridge with your own groceries and self-cater. If you’d like lunch or dinner at the hotel, you’ll need to let them know before you arrive – the family-style meals are served in the dining room or out by the pool. The food is traditional for the region, with some European classics thrown in – expect lots of octopus, lamb, codfish, locally grown vegetables and salads plucked straight from the garden. The heavenly lemon cheesecake continues this theme: the lemons come courtesy of the poolside tree.
An honesty bar is set up in the communal kitchen, where you can help yourself to wines (obviously) and also some beers.
Breakfast is served between 9am and 12pm, but you can order it for earlier if you like. Lunch is at 1pm and dinner at 7.30pm, but you'll need to book these before you arrive.
Quinta dos Murças is on the banks of the Douro River, in the heart of the namesake wine-producing region, east of Porto.
The airport in Porto is the most convenient; allow 90 minutes for the drive. Domestic flights land at Vila Real, a 30-minute drive north of the hotel; the hotel can arrange taxis for you from either airport.
The station at Covelinhas is on the quinta’s doorstep, which is handy for delving deeper into the Douro by rail. The journey from Porto will take around two hours.
The closest town is Peso da Régua, 25 minutes away by car. There’s free parking at the hotel and your own wheels will come in handy if you want to explore Portuguese wine country – though the railways will come to the rescue if you fancy freely imbibing the wineries’ wares.
The hotel’s boat can fetch you from the other side of the river between April and November.
Worth getting out of bed for
Did someone say wine o’clock? Here in the Douro Valley that’s always the time – and you can start early since you’re staying in a working winery. The quinta also produces its own olive oil – visit the mill to see how it’s made and then have a taste.The conveniently close train station (directly in front of the quinta) makes journeys into the centre of the Douro Valley easy (and safe, even if you’re over the limit). The wine produced at each estate varies hugely, so it’s worth checking a few of the others out. And if you’d prefer something more sedate, the hotel can also arrange boat trips along the river and guide you to the best walking trails.
A 30-minute drive from the hotel, the riverside Writers Place in Pinhao is a lovely lunch spot with a trainspotter-pleasing history – the houses here were built for the railroad workers – as well as great views. There’s a whole lot of fish on the menu, including braised octopus and seafood risotto. The Douro Valley’s Six Senses outpost is a 25-minute drive west; head to its Vale de Abraão restaurant for produce picked straight from the hotel’s gardens and sublime vineyard views. Cozinha da Clara, a 40-minute drive away at Quinta de la Rosa, serves up hearty local fare such as slow-cooked quail with liver and polenta, and kid with roast potatoes and broccoli – in a setting that was once a warehouse, until someone twigged that those river views were wasted on the grapes. For first-class lunch or dinner – with an excellent wine list, of course – try DOC, stretching out on a deck over a river between Régua and Pinhão.
This valley is all about the wine – head to Quinta do Popa for a tasting on the terrace.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Portugal and unpacked their port and full-bodied reds, a full account of their vineyard break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Quinta dos Murças in the Douro Valley…
Welcome to Portugal’s Douro Valley, a wine-soaked wonderland of vineyards, hillsides and a rolling river that flows all the way from Porto to this remote, rugged region. Wine is the currency in these parts, with the first vines thought to have been planted back in the Bronze Age. Over the years, the output has got better and better; today, some of the finest wines in Portugal are made at these domaines (and Quinta dos Murças doesn’t stop at the grapes: the family-run farmhouse has a sideline in olive oil, too). On your estate home-from-home, tastings are held in the cellar, and there’s a very handy train right on your doorstep that’ll whisk you to neighbouring quintas, each with its own wares to sample. Back at Quinta dos Murças, your fellow guests are likely to be oenophiles… or hire out the hotel a whole and play lord and lady of the Portuguese manor with your nearest and dearest. Either way, you’ll all get together for convivial suppers and lunches. Welcome to the family.