Portugal’s North Atlantic outpost is a deservedly established holiday destination, and to travel to Madeira from Glasgow Airport is to be transported to the kind of lush, unrushed island that traditional breaks in the sun are all about. But don’t fall too quickly into the it’s-just-for-oldies trap – today’s Madeira has a huge amount to offer families and younger groups, evidenced by everything from its camping options to its extreme sports.
Love the levadas
Wondering why Madeira draws so many outdoor types? It has much to do with the levadas (hillside canals) that snake around the slopes of the island, doubling as panoramic walking paths. Constructed primarily for irrigation purposes, they’re now a major tourist draw. Elsewhere in Madeira, you can also try your hand at the likes of canyoning, paragliding and kitesurfing. Coastal spots like Paul do Mar, meanwhile, provide some of the best surf waves in Europe.
Moving with the times
Madeira’s most famous son is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (who recently opened a self-dedicated museum at Rua Princesa Dona Maria Amélia in Funchal), and his ubiquitous presence on the world stage has helped the destination sharpen its image. Part of this fresh appeal is thanks to the classy modern spas and wellness centres found on Madeira and neighbouring island Porto Santo.
Wine and flowers
It may have a changing reputation, but Madeira’s more time-honoured charms remain a big part of the allure. Madeira fortified wine is still a popular draw – take a tour of Blandy’s Wine Lodge (Avenida Arriaga 28, Funchal) for an insight into its long history – while a springtime visit will coincide with the hills becoming carpeted in flowers. If you happen to be here over New Year, capital city Funchal puts on one of the world’s most extensive firework displays.