Back on the 'mainland' you will find yourself in one of Western Europe's last best-kept secrets (some call it Portugal's Tuscany): amazingly lush and diverse countryside, unspoiled by mass tourism (yet English and French are widely spoken), with empty roads, ridiculously cheap restaurants (and wine!), friendly locals who are not forever trying to rip you off.

A seven-minute drive takes you to town, which has good supermarkets, restaurants etc, and one of Portugal's most enchanting beauty spots.

25 minutes down a beautiful gorge brings you to the university city of Coimbra, regional capital and Portugal's third city. Its winding medieval streets and little squares are redolent of Italy, but it also has modern shopping malls and excellent train service to Lisbon and Porto. We like to take an exotic ice cream in the riverside gardens. Children love the 'Pequinitos' park opposite, where they (and only they) can wander around exquisite miniatures of Portugal's great buildings and typical humbler houses.

Also within an easy drive are riding stables, a zoo, lidos, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, and warm lakes for swimming. Some have beaches with café/restaurant, others you might have all to yourself, even in summer.

The vast golden beaches of the Silver Coast (Costa de Prata) are about one hour by car. If you are prepared to drive a bit further, there is so much to do and see, but our guess is that you won't be in any hurry to leave our little Shangri-La.

We want you to leave all the troubles of the world at the bridge and rediscover the child in yourself - there's nothing quite like horsing around in water for that. We have done our best to make this a soft, kindly environment, through plump pillows to fluffy towels, pot plants, romantic prints and gentle gardens.

To understand our inspiration and aspiration you might care to read our favourite short story: 'Door in the Wall', by H.G.Wells

Come and share in our love for River Island. The world will seem a magical place again.

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