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Seven brilliant reasons you have to visit the Algarve

Portugal’s sun drenched Algarve has long been popular with Scottish travellers and it’s easy to see why. The sun shines here year round, there are some brilliant resorts, a flurry of family friendly attractions, superb seafood and a glitter of offshore islands.

We head down every year as it’s an oasis that constantly offers up new things to see and do. There are also always some undiscovered corners to explore. Join me now whether you have never been yet, or go every year, as I reveal 7 brilliant reasons you have to visit the Algarve. These ring true whether you are a family, a couple looking for a romantic break or someone just seeking a sunny getaway.

Cacela Velha – Every year I try to unearth a wee village I haven’t visited before. This time it was Cacela Velha, which a taxi driver in Faro tipped me off about. This wee village has a deeply dramatic hilltop setting and a castle that enjoys epic views over the beaches and wetlands of the Rio Formosa National Park. Bar a sleepy square and a brace of restaurants there is little here to do except let the centuries drift back. I like that non-local cars are banned so it’s safe for walking around. For lunch or dinner if you prefer to dine down on the waterfront I recommend nipping five minutes along the road to Fabrica do Costa.<

Be Robinson Crusoe! – We’ve all dreamed of being marooned on our own desert island. The Algarve’s Ilha Deserta offers just that. This gorgeous white sand island ripples just a few miles offshore of Faro, but feels like another world. You can be there within a couple of hours of touching down at Faro! Take plenty of sunscreen and a hat as there is little shade, just mile upon mile of beach. Handily the people that run the ferry also operate the island’s only restaurant, the superb seafood temple, Estamine.

Ultimate Dolphin Experience – I’ve been to Zoomarine a number of times over the years and what always impresses me is that they keep adding new things and improving others to keep people coming back for more. This year I took my wee girls along to try Dolphin Emotions . This is the unique chance to spend time in the water with our marine mammal cousins. After a full briefing on the dolphins and how to treat them properly, it was into the water in our wet suits to stroke them (avoiding blowholes and eyes) and enjoy witnessing their athletic manoeuvres at close hand. My wife and kids still smile talking about it!

Grab a Great Villa – We opt for a villa every year as it gives us plenty of space. This year we went for one of the rarer villas that come with a heated swimming pool, which made a massive difference. We used the pool every day and a couple of nights too for a moonlit swim. Handily it was also the most palatial villa we have ever stayed at in the Algarve. We booked Casa Idalina through the slick and efficient Vintage Travel , who we’ve used before and never had any issues.

World Class Sand Sculptures – Every year from March to October the world’s largest exhibition of sand sculptures is painstakingly created in the Algarve. Fiesa has to be seen to be believed. The stats give you some idea with sand sculptors from all over the world descending on Pera to forge their works with 40,000 tonnes of sand, covering an area of 15,000sq m. The sculptures come in all shapes and sizes, the highest of them, vaulting up to 12m high.

Pine Cliffs – The Algarve boasts an endless array of hotels and it can be hard to choose one. On this visit I squeezed in a couple of nights at my favourite hotel in the region, the Pine Cliffs. I say hotel, but it’s more a resort with its own sandy beach, epic kids play areas (think a massive pirate ship as a kids club) and a flurry of superb restaurants. They have just revamped many of their rooms and brought in the ace new Ocean Suites. They are the sort of slick, minimalist efforts that attract the rich and famous, adding another level to an already excellent hotel.

Octopus! – If you love eating octopus then there is only one place in the Algarve for you and that is glorious Santa Luzia! This attractive wee village rests right on the water, its flotilla of little boats and octopus pots giving away its mainstay. There are a flurry of octopus restaurants lining the waterfront. My tip is Restaurante Polvo & Companhia, which edges it over their main rival next door. The octopus here comes in myriad guises – the spicy paprika starter is a lip-smacking treat. Any of the traditional cataplana octopus dishes work well too. Handily you can catch a wee train or walk across the lagoon nearby to the gorgeous sandy beach of Praia do Barril – ideal for a post lunch or pre dinner dip.

For further tourist information see the local tourist office website .

A number of airlines operate flights from Edinburgh Airport to Faro in the Algarve including Ryanair and Jet2.

About Robin

Robin McKelvie has been a travel writer, broadcaster and photographer since 1997. He has written thousands of travel articles for magazines and newspapers across five continents. In recent years he has also moved heavily into online writing, social media and blogging.