Once a refuge for the genteel winder sun seeker, Madeira is attracting a younger property buying crowd to its wonderful outdoor sports and scenery
Madeira, the island of eternal spring, is a garden paradise. And it’s a garden that Nature herself designed a kaleidoscope of greens and blues caught between the sapphire waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the steep peaks of Pico Ruivo and Pico do Areeiro to be even more exuberant. ‘It’s the lushest, most colourful island I’ve ever seen and I’ve lived in the Caribbean,’ says Roger Still, project director at the Palheiro estate property development and a Madeiran resident.
This alone is enough to make the island attractive to British buyers with a penchant for plants and gardening. But, lately, there’s an excitement surrounding Madeira that goes beyond the green-fingered fraternity.‘There’s this traditional idea of Madeira as sleepy and genteel, almost colonial, and you can still find this side the afternoon tea, the sherry in the evening,’ says Mr Still. ‘But there’s also a very buzzy Madeira, with trendy boutique hotels and excellent restaurants.’ This new vibe is partly linked to a massive EU-funded improvement to the island’s infrastructure, which has taken place over the past few years. ‘Communications are now much easier, roads are good, there’s broadband, and a new airport terminal, so now there are a lot more direct flights connecting Madeira with other European countries,’ says Mr Still.
Enterprising Madeiran’s have seized this opportunity to widen their island’s appeal. Mark Harvey of estate agents Knight Frank has recently returned from Madeira and was impressed by just how much is on offer. ‘The island is beginning to change its image. It now has plenty of activities that’ll appeal to the young the canoeing is wonderful, for example, and you can even go canyoning, which is going down natural gorges and crevices.’ Madeira’s dramatic, tormented topography has another charm it prevents the excessive development that’s marred other stretches of the southern European coastline. ‘There’s virtually no property development, so you’re not going to be in a situation where everywhere you look there’s a construction crane in sight,’ says estate agent Linda Beaney, who markets Madeiran properties.
This, together with the island’s verdant landscape, new-found buzz, ease of access, perfect subtropical climate, low crime rate and serene quality of life, is likely to draw increasing numbers of international property buyers. ‘The second-home market so far has been fairly untested, but this looks set to change now,’ says Mr Harvey. ‘Because Madeira is part of Portugal, people feel comfortable buying there.’ Price is a great draw, too, he explains. ‘If you look at prices, you can see anywhere from €2,000 for affordable homes to €5,900 per square metre for the most expensive ones. Compare this to Spain or mainland Portugal, where prices start at €3,500 per square metre and go up to €10,000, and you can see why Madeira really has the potential to attract a medium-to high-end market.’
Mr Still confirms this growing international interest, and reports that about 60% of released apartments and villas and 80% of the villa plots at the Palheiro estate the island’s only new luxury development have been sold. ‘I’ve absolutely no doubt that we’ll start to see more interest in Madeiran property from second-home buyers.’ Even better, this rise in demand is likely to drive up capital appreciation for those who move in early at the Palheiro estate, homes have grown in value by 15% over the past 18 months, reports Miss Beaney but won’t turn Madeira into a jungle of concrete.
Parts of the island are UNESCO-designated and, in any case, the Madeirans have a sound grasp of what it takes to protect their natural heritage.
From: Country Life – The Home of Premium Property
In 1807, John Blandy, the first of his family to settle in Madeira, bought a house and adjoining wine stores in the capital Funchal. Following the destruction of the Madeira vineyards by disease in 1852, Blandy’s son, Charles, seized the opportunity to buy all available stocks of the wine, and by 1877, Messrs Blandy Brothers held the largest reserves of Madeira of any shipping house in Funchal. Today, the Blandy Group has wide-ranging interests throughout the island and beyond — from hotels and tourism to media and real estate.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of the wealthy Portuguese count João de Carvalhal took a rather different turn. Having bought the spectacular 800-acre Palheiro domain in the hills overlooking Funchal in about 1800, he set out to create a classic country gentleman’s sporting estate, with no expense spared. A spate of new buildings included a large hunting lodge, a huge stable block and a delightful Baroque chapel. Exotic trees and plants were imported from around the world to stock the extensive gardens. The folly he built on the estate’s highest point—today part of Palheiro‘s challenging golf course—is now its ironic symbol, as, following the count’s untimely death, his nephew squandered his inheritance and, in 1885, John Burden Blandy bought the Palheiro estate. Since then, successive generations of astute Blandy men (and women) have carried on where the count left off.
In 1891, J. B. Blandy built himself a grand new house on a wide terrace overlooking the Deserta Islands, a quarter of a mile up the hill from Carvalhal’s Casa Velha. But Palheiro‘s crowning glory is its 30 acres of glorious gardens, still impeccably maintained by a devoted army of expert Portuguese gardeners.
An article by Mildred Blandy (mother of current patriarch Adam Blandy) in the RHS Journal of September 1955, describes Palheiro with its rich volcanic soil and incredible variety of topography and planting as ‘a gardener’s paradise’— made all the more remarkable by its location, 1,800ft up the eastern slopes of Funchal Bay. Mrs Blandy attributes the ‘phenomenal growth’ of camellias of ‘indescribable’ beauty to Palheiro‘s lime-free soil; the growth of blue cedars from the Atlas mountains to the gardens’ sheltered aspect. Banks of magnolias provide ‘deep drifts of colour’ from December to March; in summer, a ‘blue sea’ of hydrangeas under a canopy of trees matches the blue of the vistas to the sea. A trickling stream in the rocky ravine known as the Inferno provides unlimited moisture for shade-loving tree ferns and rhododendrons.
In Mrs Blandy’s day, the rest of the 800-acre estate was largely farmland, planted to corn, vegetables and fruits instead of the traditional island crops of sugar cane, bananas and vines, because of the altitude. Today, Palheiro has shrunk to about 250 acres, with the focus on leisure, following the creation of a spectacular 18-hole golf course by Cabell Robinson in 1993, and the conversion of the Casa Velha to a five-star Relais & Chateaux hotel some 10 years ago. It seems singularly appropriate that, last month, the Casa Velha was one of only two hotels in the world to win the coveted Relais & Châteaux garden trophy; the other was Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
Neither time nor the Blandys have ever stood still, and, given the dramatic growth in residential tourism in Portugal, the group’s decision to create a series of exclusive private developments around the estate’s perimeter was a logical next step. The first of these is Palhiero Village (00 351 291 795 161), a private development of 32 apartments and 44 villas on the hillside overlooking Funchal Bay. The scheme, due for completion in March 2008 and almost 50% sold, was designed by international architect Michael Brown, who made his name at Quinta do Lago, with Palhiero’s development manager, Roger Still. Prices range from €319,000 for a large one-bedroom apartment to €475,000 for two bedrooms; villas cost from €698,000 for three bedrooms to €1.65 million for four/five bedrooms.
It was the breathtaking views over Funchal Bay and the Deserta Islands that finally ‘did it’ for Chelsea estate agent Linda Beaney, a keen golfer, when she signed on the dotted line for her three-bedroom villa at Palheiro Village. She admits that the generous concessions being offered to property owners at Palheiro golf course, hotel and spa also helped. ‘I wanted something that would be both an investment and a sunshine retreat for frequent short breaks, as I am not very good at taking long holidays and with London only three hours away by air, and Palheiro a mere 15 minutes from Funchal airport, it means that I can make a snap decision to leave on a Thursday and be back in the office on Monday.’
Another winter has now gone by and all of us are looking forward to another game fishing season.
This year the first schools of bigeye tuna showed up in the middle of March. Commercial boats were scoring some good catches and a couple of fish caught on rod and reel were of very good size. This promising start was sadly curtailed by some stormy Atlantic weather which brought on torrential rain and unfishable seas for most of the first three weeks of April, but conditions settled down toward the end of last week and are now looking very fishable.
Balancal has been in the boatyard for the last few weeks undergoing her annual maintenance programme, including the installation of a brand new Furuno chart plotter and fishfinder. She will shortly be back in the water fully ready for this season’s campaign.
In May the island grounds see a gradual transformation as the ocean warms. The end of the spring tuna season normally sees fewer but bigger fish. When the tuna schools are out of range, white marlin and spearfish are often around to take up the slack. The next month or so can often see reasonable numbers of both these species.
The month of May normally also sees the first of Madeira’s legendary blue marlin start to appear on the grounds. By the end of the month we will be directing most of our effort at these most spectacular of all billfish.
Reef and bottom fishing is traditionally carried out in winter but the giant stingrays, groupers, jacks (including some large amberjacks) and the highly coveted pargo or red snapper are year-round residents. Although our main focus during the gamefish season is billfish and tuna, we have had an increasing number of enquiries for deep jigging charters and welcome anglers interested in working the deeper ledges and reefs. The Balancal is currently not equipped with specialist rods and reels for deep jigging, but we have found in the past that many jigging enthusiasts prefer to fish their own personalized tackle. Captain Anibal’s years of experience and the Balancal‘s newly updated electronics package enable us to be as successful putting our anglers on the most productive pieces of bottom structure as in the hunt for giant blue marlin.
CASA VELHA DO PALHEIRO REGISTOU NO ANO PASSADO UMA OCUPAÇÃO MÉDIA DE 65%
A estalagem Casa Velha do Palheiro recebeu ontem o certificado de prata da Cristal que atesta a conclusão com sucesso da primeira fase de implementação de um sistema de gestão de segurança alimentar baseado nos princípios de HACCP, designação internacional da frase ‘Análise de Perigos e Controlo de Pontos Críticos’, aplicada sobretudo nos serviços de restaurantes, bares e cantinas.
A cerimónia decorreu nas instalações daquela unidade de cinco estrelas. Celeste Monteiro Ringertz, directora da estalagem, recebeu das mãos de Teixeira Carneiro, director de operações da
LusoCristal, empresa que presta a consultadoria e acompanha estes processos de certificação, o respectivo diploma. A certificação Cristal confere os procedimentos nas cozinhas de diversas unidades hoteleiras locais.
A estalagem Casa Velha do Palheiro, classificada de cinco estrelas, abriu em 1997. Tem 37 quartos
e uma equipa de 45 colaboradores, que também tem à sua responsabilidade o funcionamento do restaurante do Palheiro Golf.