Escape to Madeira

LOOKING for holiday destinations away from the Kiss Me Quick brigade? ELVIN KING finds out about a growing scheme which is based in Suffolk.IPSWICH Town supporters will be sure of a special welcome if they sign up for a new holiday experience.

LOOKING for holiday destinations away from the Kiss Me Quick brigade? ELVIN KING finds out about a growing scheme which is based in Suffolk.

IPSWICH Town supporters will be sure of a special welcome if they sign up for a new holiday experience.

The flourishing Holiday Property Bond is run by director James Boyce and chief executive Geoffrey Baber who are both season ticket holders at Portman Road. And aside from the football alliance, there are a few extra incentives to be part of HPB - which is based in Newmarket hence the Ipswich Town connection - as it owns more than 1,000 luxurious properties in 30 European locations.

Bond holders in the scheme have been enjoying luxury holidays all over Great Britain and Europe for 23 years, with the opening of the £17 million complex at Encosta Cabo Girao overlooking the cosmopolitan Madeira capital of Funchal adding a new dimension.

For those who have never been to Madeira, set in the Atlantic north of the Canary Islands and west of Morocco, a sunshine treat awaits whatever time of year you travel. It is a place for the more discerning, and not a holiday isle that appeals or caters for the 'Kiss me Quick' brigade.

Sophistication oozes from every pore of this part of Portugal, that produced Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, and is a bastion for fine food and drink.

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With many of the hotels on the island situated in a rather concrete jungle on the outskirts of the capital, the best experience is to stay up in hills on this rocky oasis in the Atlantic.

Encosta Cabo Girao may be described as a 'camp', but it is certainly no holiday camp in the accepted use of the phrase - and it is not a holiday rental, timeshare or villa sales scheme.

Details of how the scheme works are explained below - suffice it to say that the complex was important and impressive enough to be officially opened by no less a person than the island's president in a blaze of local publicity.

The site has 121 luxury apartments and villas with no expense spared, and the balconies all face the sea and are bigger than some hotel rooms. There's a clubhouse, restaurant, billiards room, Turkish bath, sauna, large outdoor and indoor pools, children's pool and playground area, short tennis, bowls green, mini golf and table tennis.

From experiencing the best in fish restaurants in the 'old town' of Funchal - Restaurante Gavião Novo - to drinking in the splendid views from the mountain region from atop the impressive Pico do Areeiro, the is plenty to interest tourists for an island that boasts two clubs in the top Portuguese Football League.

It also has teams in Division One and Two, with a local derby being a match against a side that plays in the Azores, which is even further out into the Atlantic!

Funchal Airport is a masterpiece of engineering, half cut into a cliff and half on pillars stretching out over the sea. It has been extended to take large jets and charter companies are showing an interest in cashing in on the Madeira boom.

Currently the airport is served from England by daily flights by British Airways and TAP Air Portugal, with transfers to your destination helped considerably by an impressive motorway that is a mix of tunnels and bridges.

It's rewarding to venture out on day trips, but a site as beautiful and well-appointed as Encosta Cabo Girao can make it a wrench to leave your base.

Special attention is given to landscaping on every HPB site and many have won international gardening awards. Encosta Cabo Girao's landscape gardener Francesca Shrapnel - daughter of actress Deborah Kerr and flying ace Anthony Bartley - and actor husband John Shrapnel have a house at Wetherden, Suffolk.

There is a 75m difference in the levels between the top and bottom of the 83,000m site, which is on the edge of a nature reserve. The edges of the site have been planted with species from ancient laurel forests - including Wax Myrtle and Bay Tree Laurus Azorica.

The southern most part of the site has been retained as arable farming set out in traditional terraces.

By making a lump sum investment and paying a modest quarterly charge, bondholders enjoy rent-free holiday accommodation for life. The minimum investment is £4,000.

Bondholders are allocated annual holiday points, which can be used to book holiday accommodation.

When occupying a property, bondholders pay a minimal non profit 'user' charge, which covers items like electricity and a maid service.

Almost half (48pc) of bond holders have added to their original investment and every year less than 0.6pc cash them in.

HPB now has 35,000 investors with assets worth over £200 million.

Where: The brand new Encosta Cabo Girao site in Madeira has 121 luxury apartments and villas.

How to get there: British Airways and TAP Air Portugal fly daily to Madeira from Gatwick.

What to do: The site boasts a clubhouse, restaurant, billiards room, Turkish bath, sauna, large outdoor and indoor pools, children's pool and playground area, short tennis, bowls green, mini golf and table tennis. A well-known attraction is the descent from Monte to Funchal in a wickerwork sledge. Outstanding scenery in the mountain region, plus a host of top quality fish restaurants in down town Funchal.

Contact: www.hpb.co.uk. Telephone 01638 660066 or write to HPB House, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EH.

www.madeiraislands.travel

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