Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Adore the Flora; LOWDOWN ON MADEIRA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Adore the Flora; LOWDOWN ON MADEIRA

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHY HAWKER

THE Portuguese discovered the uninhabited, volcanic island of Madeira in 1418 and named it after the trees that covered the mountainous interior - Madeira means wood. Madeira is in the northern half of the Atlantic and measures 35 miles by 14, though driving around the island involves negotiating steep hillsides.

Climate and geography: Madeira has a subtropical climate, which means temperatures rarely fall below 11 degrees Celsius.

Summer temperatures average 23 degrees and winter, the most popular time for tourists to visit, averages 17 degrees.

Humidity is low and the sea temperature, warmed by the Gulf Stream, remains mild all year round.

Madeira's volcanic past has produced lush green mountains with fertile soil.

The sheltered south coast is where most development is, while the north coast is a mecca for experienced surfers, who have to negotiate strong currents and sharp rocks to ride the big breakers. The Laurissilva, Madeira's primeval laurel forest, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.

Getting there: BA partner GB Airways flies from Gatwick to Funchal three times a week in summer and eight times a week in winter. TAP, Portugal's national carrier, flies seven times a week from Gatwick and Heathrow to Funchal all year round.

Hotels: A good sign that Madeira is getting funkier is the hotels that are thriving on the island. The Spa and swimming pool at Reid's Palace has had a [pounds sterling]5.78 million facelift. Ten minutes from Funchal on the Palheiro Estate, owned by the British Blandy family since the 19th century, is Casa Velha, a restored hunting lodge with superb gardens visited by 50,000 people every year. But perhaps the funkiest of all is the Asian styled Choupana Hills Hotel, which has a slick spa and very groovy restaurant that overlooks Funchal and the sea.

Buying property: Timeshare has dominated the second-home market in Madeira for many years and there is only a very limited supply of purpose-built apartments and houses. "Palheiro Village is unique in Madeira as it offers freehold property in a serviced resort, which comes with full management services," says development manager Roger Still. …

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