Quinta das Estrelas
This is an absolute gem of a property; one hectare (2.5 acres) of south facing terraces with panoramic views of the Açor and Estrela mountain ranges, the latter being Portugal’s highest. The quinta (small farm) is covered in fruit trees, grape vines, olive trees and vegetable gardens and is dotted with imposing granite walls and huge boulders, with its own water sources and pine forest.
The original farm buildings were converted by the present owners, she an architect, he a professional builder, on the existing footprint, keeping the granite walls, handmade roof tiles and many of the traditional features, so that although newly constructed, it has the feel of an old farmhouse, blending well with the vernacular. As we rebuilt for ourselves, we maintained a high quality throughout, with some extra special details. The roof is well insulated. We have been committed to ecological sustainability, natural materials and recycling wherever possible.
There is mains electricity. Water comes from a well on the bottom terrace, with a solar pump to tanks on the top terrace, from which it gravity feeds to the house and gardens and has never run low, even in dry summers. It’s pumped by a solar pump from the bottom terrace to the top one, with a separate mains pump for emergencies or grey weather, then gravity feeds to the house and gardens through buried pipes feeding to taps in most areas. There’s a central wood-burner feeding radiators and the hot water tank (thermo syphon, pump free system). Hot water also supplied from solar panels, so all water, hot and cold, is free.
The aluminium doors and windows of the house are double glazed and maintenance free.
The tiled kitchen has upper and lower wooden cupboards, wooden worktop, a stainless-steel double sink with granite surround, gas cooker, fridge and washing machine.
The large living/dining room has two rustic granite walls (treated to be impervious) a carpeted floor and long tiled hearth with wood-burner. There’s an extensive cave at the back of the living room, originally a root store, cutting into the terrace behind, and internal access to the wood-store of the adjoining shed. Double French windows. Semi open-plan to the kitchen. Open staircase to bedrooms and bathroom above.
Downstairs stays cool throughout the summer because it backs on to the terrace.
Outside, attached to the kitchen, there is a traditional pizza/bread oven that functions very well.
Storage shed adjacent to the house, for garden tools and wood-store.
Porch/cloakroom with solar panel roof for hot water when wood stove not in use. The big windows of the porch act as a radiator to the house on sunny mornings.
Tiled and mosaic bathroom with handbasin, wc, bidet and large sunken corner bath with shower.
There is a septic tank for the wc waste, also drainage to the gardens for filtered grey water.
2 large bedrooms or one very large one with beautiful wooden sliding doors to make the change-over. Built-in wooden wardrobes. Lots of light.
Door from landing to the outside.
Large workshop at the end of the house with double garage doors and work bench.
5 section sheds/stores on separate terrace, with two lock-ups and three alcoves for wood storage, in all 7.50 metres x 2.50.
Two caravans with superb views on the top terrace for guests or volunteers, one fully equipped with shower, kitchenette, gas heater, two single or one double bed. It is camouflaged and shaded by an extra trellis roof of growth. The other has storage and double bed, is well insulated, plus gas heater. There is a terrace just below for outdoor cooking, eating or simply hanging out enjoying the view.
* You may wonder why we chose mains electricity rather than being off-grid with solar. For the green minded conscience, Portugal electricity is 80% renewables – the highest in Europe – from wind, wave, hydro and solar. There is no nuclear power. Last year the whole country ran on renewables for 6 days. We put in a solar water pump to guarantee water in the event of a power cut and to keep our water free.
The land is gently terraced with ramps to them all. As far as we know it has never been sprayed with chemicals. It was in local hands till we bought it and we were assured they had never used any. Certainly in the 23 years we have been here it has only been organically farmed, with regular composting and mulching. There are three terraces close to the house which have been cultivated with herbs and vegetables and are all drip-irrigated, and some of the younger fruit trees are served with drip irrigation. One large beautiful terrace below the house with dipping pool where we have held events. The rest of the land harbours a wealth of fruit, vines and olive trees, providing year round fruit; over 40 olive trees yield up to 50 litres of olive oil on a good year, grapevines lining most terraces yield up to 250 litres of wine, port and/or juice.
6 orange trees (3 mature, 2 young and one wild bitter)
3 persimmon (two young)
2 young nashi
7 apple trees (6 mature, 1 young)
3 pear trees (2 mature, 1 young)
18 peach trees (7 mature, 11 young)
6 nectarines (2 mature, 4 young)
7 cherry (4 mature, 3 young)
1 Cornelian cherry
3 figs producing, plus 3 young ones
3 mulberry, 2 not producing yet
2 nespera – loquats
3 strawberry guava (1 mature, 2 young)
1 guava (young)
lots of plums – 9 varieties
6 kiwis (4 females, 2 males)
5 feijoa bushes – pineapple guava
2 passion fruit (1 mature, 1 young)
physalis – Chinese lanterns
1 young avocado not yet fruiting
9 almond trees (8 mature, 1 young)
4 hazel (1 mature, 3 young)
1 young pecan
2 goji berries
medronha in the forest – strawberry trees
1 young chestnut
1 young avocado
2 prickly pear
We are both keen gardeners and over the years have worked to make the quinta both more beautiful and more productive, to leave it better than we found it – ageing has now got the better of us! The traditional fruit has been augmented by some more exotic ones, in all over 35 different fruits. Flowers and shrubs have been planted all over the quinta, to add to the wealth of wild flowers that carpet the terraces in springtime. The house has passion fruit, wisteria, bouganvillia, roses and jasmine climbers and a shading trellis of honeysuckle.
There is the well plus two water mines for irrigation, with 4 large holding tanks, and two smaller ones; the largest is beautifully sculpted in granite, with a pumped water-fall where we enjoy our summer dips.
There is a bamboo grove, plus cane, both useful for stakes.
The north and west of the property are bordered by forest giving ample firewood each year. It has been mainly pine and some mimosa, but as we have cut over the years we have encouraged the indigenous trees of medronha, oak and cork oak to re-emerge, and have planted new broad-leaf varieties.
Until recent times this quinta gave self-sufficiency to a whole family – which is still perfectly feasible – with its own water and fuel and potential for more gardens or grain crops.
There is easy access to the quinta down two tracks, both just over 100 metres from the surfaced road, yet the quinta itself is very quiet and private.
This is a working farm, so there will be some equipment to work the farm that we won’t be taking with us.
The quinta is walking distance from the village of Póvoa de Midões with a shop, 4 bars, a kindergarten, playground, church and community centre. Schools are in the next village, Midōes. It is close to the tarmac road, down a council-maintained track, but still very quiet and private. The nearest neighbours are out of sight.
The nearest town Tabua is 8 minutes drive away with a variety of shops, an excellent builders’ merchant, 3 supermarkets, community centre with cinema, and the best farmer’s market in the region on Sunday mornings. There is a well-stocked organic wholefood shop.There are regular markets most days of the week in other local towns and big market in Tabua once a month.
The quinta is very close to the river Mondego which is virtually a lake below us as it is dammed further down river; good for swimming and canoeing. We will leave our canoe here.
One hour away you can go skiing in the winter months at the nicely low-key ski station of the Serra d’Estrela. 3/4 of an hour’s drive in the opposite direction takes you to the beautiful old university city of Coimbra.
The coast is just over an hour away with endless stretches of golden sand and good surfing.
The main-line railway is only 15 minutes from us at Santa Comba Dão, with direct trains to Lisbon and the airport. Similarly main highways are just 5 minutes away.
There’s a thriving community of ex-pats, with a wide range of weekly activities. Local people are very friendly, kind and helpful, many still immersed in the farming tradition, with a wealth of husbandry knowledge and experience.
71.5 sq m