Built in 1891, Reid’s Palace, named after the founder William Reid, immediately attracted a parade of European royalty and aristocracy. Until the 1960s guests would arrive by boat and be carried up the cliffs to the hotel in hammocks on poles strung between the shoulders of two men. These days, you arrive via a modest front hall, which gives on to sober rooms for bridge and billiards.
Bedrooms are stylish and restrained. Best are the Churchill Suite and the George Bernard Shaw Suite, decorated with Portuguese tiles and flooded with light. Their namesakes came here to write their memoirs and learn the tango respectively. The height of luxury, both are decorated with rich woods and Chinese hand-painted wallpapers. Whichever standard of room though, watch the day unfold from old-world wicker chairs and in the evening, settle down beneath beautiful Madeira lace bedspreads.
The hotel is surrounded by subtropical gardens full of plants from all around the world, planted to ensure a kaleidoscope of colour throughout the year. Stroll the gardens. Admire the far-reaching views. There’s an exclusive pool terrace that overlooks, far below you, the sea-level sun decks and tidal pool, which can be reached via a lift or long set of steps. There’s a luxurious but low-key spa; sign up for an aromatherapy massage that uses the fragrances of lemon and bergamot or detox with a mud mask.
Spend your days exploring Madeira. Enjoy a guided botanical tour of the subtropical gardens with an expert horticulturalist. Set out to walk Madeira’s famous levadas (irrigation channels). Take a cable car ride to Monte Palace tropical gardens and hustle back down the hill on traditional wicker toboggans. Borrow one of the hotel’s boats and explore the hidden coves of the coast. Sign up for a dance class led by a seasoned professional and practice your new moves at the weekly dinner dance. Take afternoon tea on the black and white marble terrace of the sophisticated lounge; listen to a pianist play as you choose from more than a dozen teas and blends including the hotel’s own or spoil yourself with a glass of champagne.
As dusk falls, join guests in the glitzy bar for cocktails. For dinner, go all out at William, the hotel’s main, Michelin starred restaurant, which has a creative menu that makes the most of Madeira’s seasonal crops and seafood bounty, from scallop carpaccio to open lobster ravioli. For an intimate evening, arrange to dine just the two of you on your private terrace or balcony, under indigo skies and with the ocean laid out before you. After dining, grab a digestif and be treated to an evening of fado music at the hotel or in Funchal.