Farmland Families: Back to Nature in Portugal

This summer, 200-year-old family run estate São Lourenço do Barrocal is launching a new ‘Farmland Families’ programme for guests of all ages who want to embrace the magic of the great outdoors. Found on a 780-hectare estate in a wild and unspoilt corner of Portugal’s Alentejo region, the four-night programme incorporates an array of outdoor activities, wildlife interactions and learning experiences that celebrate the region’s agricultural heritage.

200 years ago, São Lourenço do Barrocal was a fully working farm estate home to fifty families, and the Alentejo remains Portugal’s most important agricultural region to this day. Encouraging kids to learn about the origins of their food and connect with the land, the hotel will introduce a dedicated children’s vegetable patch, to sit inside the estate’s existing organic kitchen garden.

Barrocal Spring Day 1

children’s gardening class will see young guests collect child-friendly farming tools and plant seedlings and vegetables of their choosing, allowing them to embrace their mucky pup side and get their hands dirty in the earth.They’ll leave a small plaque with their name and the vegetable they planted behind, and take home a gorgeous veggie worksheet / colouring poster, reminding them of a time they were allowed to get covered in mud without ruining mummy and daddy’s furniture!

Budding naturalists will join resident ornithologist Nuno Guégués for a family-friendly birdwatching session, where they’ll learn to build two types of nests and spot different species across the estate. On subsequent days, families can join Nuno for a gentle ethnobotanical hike to learn about local medicinal, aromatic and edible plants, join competitive sport fisher Duarte Cebola at the vast Alqueva Lake, or explore the estate on horseback, with lead-rein, ‘how-to-groom’ lessons and feeding sessions available for younger children. 

Families wanting to learn more about local traditions can join a local master potter for a pottery masterclass, learning how to work with clay and decorate in the traditional Alentejo style; and as night falls, families  are joined by astronomers from the Dark Sky Observatory for a private stargazing session, spotting stars, nebulae and galaxies in startling clarity, thanks to the estate’s location within the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve. Homemade iced tea made with herbs from the organic garden will be served as a refreshment on warm summer nights.

Throughout August and September, families can take part in the annual wine harvest, with children able to join the agricultural team to hand harvest bunches of grapes in the vineyards followed by grape stomping in the winery, while parents enjoy a (well-deserved) wine tasting. Come late autumn when olive harvest season is in full swing, families can also get involved in the production of the estate’s olive oil, learning about the traditional method of beating the tree with a stick, and helping farmers collect the olives that fall to the ground, before joining the hotel’s resident historian Luís Faria for a guided walk through the centuries-old olive trees and a special tasting at the close of the trail.

Beyond the Farmland Families programme, São Lourenço do Barrocal offers a wide range of  activities to keep even the most active of families entertained, from baking classes where families will learn to bake traditional Alentejo regional breads, cakes and biscuits, to treasure hunts, gentle cycling trails and a dedicated children’s pool where families can cool down from the day’s excursions. A large playroom offers a quiet spot for children to play, with a make-believe kitchen, games, books and movies, and whilst children are entertained, the Susanne Kaufmann spa offers a range of results-driven treatments for parents in search of some down time. Private babysitting services are also available upon request.