Monte da Palhagueira Features once more in The Times' "Villas In then Sun" investigation report
Villas in sun where the help is cheaper and more cheerful
Alice Thomson, Rachel Sylvester
Monte da Palhaguiera, on the Algarve in Portugal, has 33 villas and a nursing home providing 24-hour care
Monte da Palhagueira is a small, sleepy stone-walled village on a hillside near Faro in Portugal’s Algarve overlooking the sea with an Anglican church, restaurant, swimming pools and a lake. It is only when you look closely that you realise that almost everyone is over 55 and this is actually a retirement hamlet.
Residents zip around the 22 acres on golf buggies, join the book club, enjoy concerts and barbecues and catch the bus to shops in Almancil.
Developed by Mary Cornelius-Reid, a retired British nurse who transformed a dilapidated farmhouse and stables, it now has 33 villas as well as a care home, with qualified nurses and 24-hour medical assistance.
Mary died in 2014, but her three children are still running the village 25 years after it opened. They also run retirement homes in Hampshire and Wiltshire, but it is Monte da Palhagueira that has become known as “the Eton of care homes”, because of the level of care from the Portuguese and British staff. Fiona Hutton has been visiting the village for years. “A friend’s husband who had dementia came here first. He was looked after impeccably, he was always busy and his hair was always brushed. So when my mother had a stroke and developed dementia she came too.
“It’s cheaper than some British homes and there’s a really happy atmosphere, staff seem to love their jobs and residents integrate really quickly. It’s absolutely where I would want to go.”
There is an unusual ownership system at Palhagueira. Properties are neither rented nor sold outright. Instead, a “loan and accommodation” agreement system is operated. A two-bedroom villa could cost up to £175,000 but once the property is vacated, it reverts back to the ownership of the company, eliminating the estate agent and lawyer fees, Portuguese transfer tax, stamp duty and notary fees. They also guarantee to repay the same amount paid for the property. Anyone living in the village has access to the clubs, gardens, pools, medical facilities and transport.
There is also a hairdresser, physiotherapy unit and doctor’s surgery. One of the pools has wheelchair access, there is a tennis court for visiting grandchildren and a putting green, petanque pitch and village hall.
Staff maintain the properties, all electrical equipment and the gardens. Every pathway has street lighting.
Alan Dobson, a resident, says, “My first impression was that it was Portmeirion in a much warmer climate. Our house has stunning views over the countryside. The staff provide discreet, very friendly support. When we are unloading the car with the shopping, the gardeners seem to emerge from nowhere and insist on carrying the bags indoors.”