We've all got our daydreams. Everyone seeks that special spot where they can leave behind the hectic humdrum of everyday urban existence; that slice of sylvan seclusion or tropical desert island of so many screen savers and fridge-fixed postcards. Enter Pego Ferreiro, an off-grid glamping hideaway in Mid-Portugal's leafy Alentejo region.
Pego Ferreiro is the fruits of owner Richard Robinson's respectful cultivation of this 25 acre patch just north-east of Portalegre. Many sites like to bang the eco-conscious drum these days. But for Richard, this isn't some contrived ploy to pull in green-minded guests – it's a way of life (though thankfully he's not the preachy type). The site is completely off-grid with no mains power and recycled water used throughout, so glampers can enjoy a truly guilt-and-fossil-fuel-free stay. The site sits within the gorgeous Serra de São Mamede Natural Park so guests are kindly requested to use bio-degradable cleaning products (eco-friendly alternatives can be provided), while cotton/canvas bags are free to use for your shopping trips. Food provenance and organic farming are also important parts of life on site, with locally grown/reared veg and meat available in season. Guests who fancy lending a hand with the annual end-of-year olive harvest will even be rewarded with a litre of the season's delicious oil.
There's three unique types of accommodation on offer, each with their own views and character and each absolutely private (you could spend a week here without seeing another soul). The Boar Hide is an ingeniously-crafted cosy cabin set seamlessly into the surrounding woodland from whence it came. And yes, those huge shutters and spacious veranda aren't just to spoil you with views of the park... you'll almost certainly spot more than a sounder of the titular sows that roam wild round this region.
Perhaps the most sought after of the trio, The River Lodge sits enviably elevated above the Rio Sever that meanders its way through the park. This secluded timber shack is perfect for couples, with expertly hand-carved furniture on the decked balcony to enjoy the sunrise. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers and otters, before following by example and cooling off with a spot of wild swimming in your own private stretch.
And for those who prefer the comfort of bricks and mortar... well... sun-baked clay at least... The Goat House is a respectfully refurbed and fragrance-free former milking parlour, which will happily sleep up to four.This isn't the coveted promised land of so many Brit expats with lemon-tinted visions of the fabled Tuscan good life – Donkey Trekking Over Acorns might be a more appropriate memoir for the Alentejan émigré experience. Alentejo has so far evaded the attention of the second-home brigade and its sparsely-populated peoples are among Portugal's poorest. However, this lack of development and tourism means a visit to this region offers an authentic rural Portuguese experience.
Rich in historical significance, the region was the subject of much monarchical tussling with the bigger neighbours to the east in the early 1800s. Long before that The Moors and before them the Romans left their sandalled steps on the area; ask Richard to point out the ancient wine press cut into the stone right outside the front door, a reminder that the these lands have always provided a bounty of produce. For a glimpse of what this land resembled in the 13th century, the spectacularly-located medieval village of Marvão (reputedly Portugal's highest) lies close by. The views from its castle turrets are breathtaking, with the snow-capped peaks of the Estrellas visible to the north. Those seeking yet more antiquated charms can always slip away to the regional capital of Evora. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its whitewashed houses and intricate azulejos are a vestige of the country's mercantile heyday when Evora was the playground of Portuguese royalty.
All three accommodations have private compost loos. The Goat House and Boar Hide have solar showers. The Goat House has a small solar system (only 2 planets) and wind turbine, the River Lodge and Boar Hide use small stand-alone solar lights. A limited satellite internet connection is available on site. Laundry can also be arranged on site.
No restrictions, everyone is welcome (apart from arsonists, it's too hot here). No on-site parking so not suitable for caravans/campavans.
The spectacularly-located 13th-century Marvão Castle lies atop the medieval mountain village straddling the Spanish border. The views from its turrets are breathtaking. The Ancient Roman ruins at Ammaia (00351 245 919 089) offer a fascinating glimpse into the region's history, and there is an museum housed inside the Quinta do Deão. Those seeking more white-knuckle thrills can take up rock climbing, paragliding or... ahem... donkey trekking in Serra de São Mamede Natural Park (00351 245 309 189). Richard can lead guests of all ages on a trek along the old mountain smuggler's routes.
Food & Drink
Organic veg and meat are available in season. Pick your own olives in December or January and for every 10kgs of olives you hand pick and contribute €2 towards pressing, you can take home 1lt of this season's delcious oil. Being on the Spanish border, there's a wealth of traditional Portuguese and Estremaduran cuisine on offer. All restaurants are small, family-run affairs often serving their own produce. Most notable are El Dolmens, O Sever, Casa Emilio, and Djonny's.
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