Travel: Romancing the Stone

  • Mike Nolan

In the evening, on the moonlit terrace of the Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort’s Imperial Suite, your gaze becomes inextricably fixed upon the silvery slab of granite rising from the earth below. Indeed, the imposing outcropping has demanded attention since the Stone Age, when early inhabitants of what is now western Portugal performed their pagan rituals in this land they named Sintra, after the goddess of the moon. The surrounding mountains and forest have been protected for hundreds of years—first by church, then crown, and now the Portuguese government. Penha Longa, which translates to “long rock,” presents a magnificent perch from which to admire the 545-acre national park and its starring attraction, the resort’s namesake stone.

Daylight does nothing to diminish the luster of Penha Longa, a 12-year-old resort that recently underwent a $25 million restoration overseen by the present management, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. Take a short walk around the Penha Longa grounds, which are located a half hour west of Lisbon, and you understand why the poet Lord Byron called this part of Portugal “a glorious Eden.” The resort’s Garden of Nuncio is an exquisite example of Renaissance-era landscape architecture. Near the garden is a 16th-century church that was built on the ruins of a monastery dating to 1373. Formed in the shape of a Latin cross, with a dome surmounted by a statue of the archangel Michael, the church sits within a palace complex that was constructed a decade later by order of the Portuguese king Manuel. The palace rooms, which were restored after a devastating earthquake in 1755, retain the Manueline style’s celebration of Portugal’s relationship with the sea. Elaborate stone carvings of shells, coral, and anchors decorate the walls, and high Gothic arches provide for royal entrances into the 19th-century grand ballroom.

Ritz-Carlton’s restoration included refurbishing the grand ballroom and each of the resort’s 177 guest rooms. All of the rooms include generous terraces with views of Penha Longa’s golf course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that has hosted several Portuguese Opens. The course—which, appropriately enough, Trent Jones Jr. had to blast through rock to create—runs over gently sloping terrain shaded by cork oak, olive, and eucalyptus trees. The terrain becomes steeper on holes six through 13, as they lead to a high, rambling plateau where spectacular views of the Sintra Mountain range and Cabo da Roca on the Atlantic shore alleviate any anguish over errant shots.

The views from and of the golf course are among the many perspectives—both visual and historical—afforded by the Penha Longa resort. None, however, supplants the vista of the Stone Age icon outside your suite.

Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort
+351.219.249011
www.penhalonga.com

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