I’m no OAP but OMG I loved my trip to the isle of Madeira favoured by golden oldies

AS an island that’s closer to the shores of Morocco than mainland Portugal, Madeira is misunderstood.

To many, it’s a land favoured by the over-65s looking for a drop of fortified wine and a gentle climate for their later years.
And of course, there’s the cake.

Beautiful Madeira is loved by an older crowd but Will found plenty of fun for the young and adventurous too

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Beautiful Madeira is loved by an older crowd but Will found plenty of fun for the young and adventurous tooCredit: Getty – Contributor
Will enjoyed walks in the forested mountains peppered with levadas

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Will enjoyed walks in the forested mountains peppered with levadas
The sea views were just as good at Socalco.

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The sea views were just as good at Socalco.
Quinta Da Serra was a high-altitude treat

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Quinta Da Serra was a high-altitude treat

But its dramatic scenery, balmy seas and dense rainforest make it a brilliant base for adventure. A 4×4 safari sees you wind your way towards the island’s peaks.

And what’s more startling is the ease at which you can ascend the mountains whether by foot — or a slightly easier means.

For drivers, the island has the sort of hair pin bends that beg for a low-slung sports car.

There are some 180 tunnels cut deep through the island’s mountainous terrain, many of which weren’t created until post-2000 — meaning what is now a quick 10 minute drive could have once taken 90 minutes on winding roads.

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However, we wanted to experience the island’s sustainable travel and, of course, its natural beauty. The highest peak, Pico Ruiva, the central point on the island, stands at some 6,105ft — almost 2,000ft higher than Ben Nevis.

The scenery is spectacular and despite the island being 1c from tropical , it has lush rainforest. Taking a levada walk is the ideal way of getting up close with the local wildlife.

The levadas are channels which carry fresh water from the mountains to homes dotted around the island. The unique irrigation systems still work and have some of the best, if vertigo inducing, views on the islands.

Bizarrely, dandelion plants stand as tall as trees, while heather — in the UK effectively a hardy shrub — can tower alongside a mighty oak.
It’s worth pointing out — if heights aren’t for you, then Madeira could be a struggle.

Even the airport’s infamously tight runway could prove too much for some of our more faint-hearted friends. But once you’ve touched down reward yourself with the local tipple, poncha.

A mix of rum, not the Carribbean style but a local brew known as Agua ardente or quite literally burning water, sugar (or honey), and either orange or lemon juice.

A couple of those could set even the most timid of characters up for repeat landings at Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

The beauty of the island is hard to overstate. The views are frequently dramatic — the rugged, unforgiving coast is surrounded by turquoise seas and benefits from the thermals of the gulf stream.

I stayed in the fantastic Socalco for two nights. The hotel is a relatively new development which focuses on sustainability. The restaurant serves up a daily tasting menu which changes according to what ingredients are in abundance.

For breakfast the eggs are bought from a neighbour who keeps chickens, making the food miles possibly some of the lowest in Europe.

The hotel has rooms with a sea view, as well as a couple of villas, and even a private apartment complete with dining facilities. Its location overlooks a small bay at the southernmost tip of the island. And the sleek designs make it a destination in itself.

We were also treated to a night in Quinta da Serra, a traditional hotel nestled a couple of thousand feet above sea level.

The hotel, housed in a standout pink villa, focuses on traditional Madeiran fare, from the menu, heavy on seafood, to traditional performances from Madeiran folk dancers.

The UK has historically been the biggest exporter of madeira — for the uninitiated think sherry — but the island also produces an abundance of fresh whites, which grow well on the mountainous terrain.

GO: MADEIRA

GETTING THERE: Various airlines fly to Madeira from Scotland. For best fares see skyscanner.net
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the Socalco hotel from £103 a night B&B. See socalconature.com or call +351 291 146 910. And rooms at the Quinta da Serra hotel start from £150 a night B&B. See hotelquintadaserra.com or call +351 291 640 120.
MORE INFO: For more on visiting the island and things to do see madeiraallyear.com

Given its climate, Madeira is a year-round destination. Winter sun, summer sun . . . you get the idea. There are two key ways to see the island in all its majesty — from a height, or from the sea.

Myself, and my travel companions were fortunate enough to be treated to both. Even if that reduced one poor fellow to a quivering wreck as we descended 1,200ft down a cliff in a cable car to Fajã dos Padres for lunch beside the sea.

Cuisine on Madeira is relatively simple but nonetheless delicious. A solid mix of seafood and meat sits alongside amazing fruit and vegetables.

Traditional Madeirans typically have a small plot of land, fed by the previously mentioned levada, where they’ll grow potatoes, mangos, avocados, tomatoes.

The climate is almost perfect for year round crops. Our lunch-time spot specialises in tuna steak — which on my visit was as fresh as can be.

Then it was time for Happy Hour. Perhaps as a Brit I was expecting something a little different, but thankfully this was not the usual booze-cruise.

The 30ft yacht is a superb way to see the island. The coast is a miss-mash of rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, and craggy bays — and the harbours around Funchal were once heavily fortified after the island became a favoured spot for pirates.

Tours can last from a few hours to an all-day affair and can be arranged directly with the firm. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of the local fizz and we zipped by Reid’s Palace, where Churchill spent two weeks writing his memoirs in the early 1950s.

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Despite the green credentials, if you are staying outside one of the main centres you will need transport.

Madeira may have been miss-typecast as a pensioner’s playground but it is far from it. It’s an adventure capital, a sustainable paradise, and one of the most-affordable and best kept secrets in Europe.

Beautiful landscape over Porto Moniz region with natural swimming pools on Madeira island, Portugal

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Beautiful landscape over Porto Moniz region with natural swimming pools on Madeira island, PortugalCredit: Getty
Madeira is known for it's cake, drink and Cristiano Ronaldo

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Madeira is known for it’s cake, drink and Cristiano RonaldoCredit: Getty

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