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Gone fishing

Gone fishing

Hideaway Lakes is a retreat for anglers and nature lovers alike

Many people living in the Algarve claim to have their own little piece of paradise, but when John Campbell found 100 or so hectares of land in the foothills of Monchique in 2006, he really struck gold. With four fully functional lakes – and another two under development – purposely adapted for sports fishing, the aptly named Hideaway Lakes near Rasmalho has already captured the imagination of visitors since it opened in May last year, and it’s no surprise that John and his family not only made a business of it, but also their home.

A gamekeeper from the age of 15, John has since worked in various businesses and travelled the world before coming back full circle and putting his heart and soul into his most recent project. Born in the Wirral, England, but raised in Scotland, he explains: “The idea was to recreate some of the British sporting estates that I’d worked on throughout the UK, but taking full advantage of the Algarve climate.”

Initially planning on creating a hunting destination, circumstances meant that John developed the fishing side of things first, but future plans include outdoor pursuits, archery, simulated hunting, falconry, clay pigeon shooting and even 4×4 off-road driving lessons. The possibilities, he says, are endless.

Leading the landscaping work himself in what he calls phase one of the project, John has managed to transform these long-forgotten lakes into a haven for fishing and nature lovers alike. With a catch-and-release agreement using barbless hooks, the lakes are inhabited by carp and large-mouth bass (stocking is ongoing), and there are plans to experiment with introducing trout in the summer months. According to the gamekeeper, Hideaway Lakes will cater for two distinct markets: the day-ticket market and the holiday market, a more exclusive fish-and-stay experience that’s “almost like rustic tourism but done in a more managed and conservation-minded way”.

Nestled within countryside teeming with wildlife and surrounded by landscaped roads, the 2.5-hectare day-ticket lake is perfect for experienced anglers and families alike, with John and fishing bailiff Bart genuinely interested in helping visitors make the most of their day. With 25 pegs surrounding the main day-ticket lake, there are also plans to develop a package for inexperienced anglers, holidaymakers and children who want to enjoy a day’s fishing, with plenty of areas perfect for family picnics. As well as a parking lot, facilities also include the newly built lakeside bar which serves snacks and beverages throughout the day.

Directly accessible from the main road, a palm tree-lined road leads to the Hideaway Lakes lodge, which sits at the highest point of the private estate. With three en-suite studios and a two-bedroom cottage, the renovated lodge accommodates 10 people and is one of the key pieces for John’s exclusive fishing holiday concept. The other, of course, is the specimen lake. Or as John calls it, “the jewel in the crown”. Spring-fed and with its own ‘beach’ , the specimen lake is home to fish exceeding 5 to 10kg. “They’re not oversized but they’re healthy, fit, hard-fighting fish. And everyone comments on their fantastic condition,” says the Brit.

Further facilities like a bar, toilets and showers will be added for visitors to this exclusive lake. Although there are still finishing touches to be made – the lack of rain this means that some of the lakes are yet to be filled –, there is much more to Hideaway Lakes than the fishing alone.
Despite being just a stone’s throw from the A22 and 15 minutes or so from the beaches of Praia da Rocha and Alvor, the estate is a reflection of the Algarvean countryside at its best. Wildlife abounds here: with wild boar, pole cats and many other species at home in these foothills, as well as the family of wild ducks John and his young daughter Jasmine feed on the lakes, the estate is home to superb bird life, especially in the spring and summer.

In fact, many of those visiting Hideaway Lakes are simply looking to get away from it all, and if peace and quiet is what you’re looking for, this is the place to be. Picnics are popular here, and John has further plans to create outdoor dining areas inspired by his travels to the Far East. An area also in development is a small hilltop retreat where his wife, Nick, will do Pilates and a number of alternative treatments that complement these relaxing surroundings to perfection. “It’s a work in progress,” says John, who admits that the response so far has been amazing.

There’s no doubt that the project is a unique one, but much of its success so far is down to John and Nick themselves, who provide genuine warmth to visitors who will no doubt return again and again. “There’s stunning beauty, peace and tranquility here and there’s a special magic about it. Everyone who has come here has fallen in love with the place.” | Tel: 933 677 988 / 969 187 019