There are direct flights from 12 UK airports to Madeira?s capital, Funchal, which makes getting there incredibly easy. Among those offering the service are British Airways (www.ba.com, 0870 8509850) and TAP Portugal (www.flytap.com, 0845 6010932).
WHERE TO PLAY
There are two great golf courses on Madeira island (there are actually two inhabited islands in the Madeira archipelago ? Madeira and Porto Santo), both of which are within striking distance of Funchal.
The more famous is at the Santo da Serra Golf Club which holds a perennial position on the European Tour schedule as host of the Madeira Open.
Located about 20 minutes? drive east of Funchal, the course was opened in 1937 before being comprehensively redesigned by Robert Trent Jones in 1991.
The club now boasts a challenging 27 holes, laid out in a beautiful setting with excellent facilities. Its unique clubhouse has been described by Severiano Ballesteros as one of the most beautiful in the world. The 2nd and 4th holes offer views that you will struggle to match anywhere on the planet.
Palheiro is more than a match for Santo da Serra in terms of aesthetics, having been designed around the famous gardens at Quinto do Palheiro.
Each of the 18 holes runs through pine forest and thick vegetation, and the stunning views of the coastline prompted 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell to refer to it as one of the most perfect places on earth to play golf. Here there is also a link to Robert Trent Jones ? the course was designed by one of his former assistants, Cabell Robinson.
WHERE TO STAY
The five-star Reid?s Palace in Funchal is one of Europe?s most famous hotels
and was a favourite haunt of none other than Winston Churchill, who adored the warm year-round weather. £8.5 million was spent on refurbishment at the start of 2006 – as a result, there is now that rare mix of old-world charm coupled with high-class modern facilities. The restaurant is widely regarded as one of the finest on the island.
At the cheaper end of the scale is the very comfortable three-star Hotel Orquidea. Situated right in the centre of Funchal, it is just a short walk away from the main attractions. It represents excellent value for those travellers on a strict budget.
Madeira is perhaps most famous for its gardens and vegetation, which combine the Mediterranean and the tropical. Make sure you take a trip to the Laurisilva Forest, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Due to the geographical positioning of the Madeira islands, most of the voyages
of discovery to the Americas passed through in the 15th and 16th centuries. As a result
of this, Madeira has a rich and colourful history reflected in the numerous museums and places of interest found. Walking is a popular pursuit. Try the Levada of 25 Fontes, with its 25 natural springs cascading down into a lake.
Santo da Serra Golf Club
T: 00 351 291 550 100
Palheiro Golf Club
T: 00 351 291 790120
T: 00 351 291 717171
www.madeiratourism.org, www.madeira-portugal.com and www.visitportugal.com