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Nature-based family experiences in Portugal

sunbeds by pool Credit: Ash JamesThis summer, 200-year-old family run estate São Lourenço do Barrocal will launch a new 'Farmland Families' programme for guests of all ages who want to embrace the magic of the great outdoors. Located on a 780-hectare estate in a wild and unspoilt corner of Portugal's Alentejo region, the four-night programme incorporates an array of outdoor activities, wildlife interactions and learning experiences that celebrate the region's agricultural heritage.

São Lourenço do Barrocal began life over two hundred years ago as a fully working farm estate home to fifty families, and today the Alentejo remains Portugal's most important agricultural region. Encouraging children to learn about the origins of their food and connect with the land, São Lourenço do Barrocal will introduce a dedicated children's vegetable patch, to sit inside the estate's existing organic kitchen garden. A children's gardening class will see young guests collect child-friendly farming tools and plant seedlings and vegetables of their choosing, leaving a small plaque with their name and the vegetable they planted. An illustrated worksheet that introduces each vegetable doubles up as a colouring poster for children to take home as a reminder of their time in the garden.

child on horse in ground of accomodation Credit: Filipe Lucas FrazaoA host of wildlife encounters await, and budding naturalists can join resident ornithologist Nuno Guégués for a family-friendly birdwatching session. Children will start with a birdhouse and feeder's workshop, where they'll build two kinds of nests whilst learning about the bird species that will visit them. Families will then come together for a birding session, where they'll have the chance to spot the European bee eater, booted eagle, the corn bunting and other birds that migrate through the estate every summer. Subsequent days will see families join Nuno for a gentle ethnobotanical hike to learn about local medicinal, aromatic and edible plants, including gum rockrose, wild-carrots and umbrella milkwort that grow at the estate every summer; and join competitive sport fisher Duarte Cebola at the vast Alqueva Lake to learn about how to prepare the rod and search for the best spots to catch black bass and pike-perch, before returning the animals to their natural habitat. Families can also explore the estate on horseback, with lead-rein, 'how-to-groom' lessons and feeding sessions available for younger children.

Families wanting to learn more about local traditions can join a local master potter for a pottery masterclass, where guests with all ages will learn how to work with clay on the wheel, before decorating their final pieces to leave with a relic of their time in the region.

property at night stars in sky Credit: Nelson GarridoAs warm summer night falls, families are treated to a private stargazing session with fresh iced tea made with herbs from the organic garden, as astronomers from the Dark Sky Observatoryhelp them spot stars, nebulae and galaxies in startling clarity, thanks to the estate's location within the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve.

Throughout August and September, families can take part in the annual wine harvest, with children able to join the agricultural team to hand harvest bunches of grapes in the vineyards followed by grape stomping in the winery, while parents enjoy a wine tasting. Come late autumn when olive harvest season is in full swing, families can also get involved in the production of the estate's olive oil, learning about the traditional method of beating the tree with a stick, and helping farmers collect the olives that fall to the ground, before joining the hotel's resident historian Luís Faria for a guided walk through the centuries-old olive trees and a special tasting at the close of the trail.

Beyond the Farmland Families programme, São Lourenço do Barrocal offers a plethora of activities to keep even the most active of families entertained, from baking classes where families will learn to bake traditional Alentejo regional breads, cakes and biscuits, to treasure hunts, gentle cycling trails and a dedicated children's pool where families can cool down from the day's excursions. A large playroom offers a quiet spot for children to play, with a make-believe kitchen, games, books and movies, and whilst children are entertained, the Susanne Kaufmann spa offers a range of results-driven treatments for parents in search of some down time. Private babysitting services are also available upon request.

To book: The ‘Farmland Families’ programme starts from €4,356 in low season and €6,128 in high season for a family of four in a two-bedroom Yard Cottage. This includes four nights’ accommodation on a full board basis, a children’s gardening class, a bird watching workshop, a birdhouse and feeder’s workshop for children, ethnobotanical hike, sport fishing masterclass, pottery class and stargazing session. Visit www.barrocal.pt

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