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By Marie Scott

Port is essentially an English tipple, nurtured from the 17th century on by a succession of English families.

It’s funny, how drinks retain certain associations and reputations. Champagne, for example, is still seen as the special drink of celebration, though it has long since passed into more widespread imbibing, needing no excuse for its consumption.

Sherry was traditionally to be taken with the vicar or a maiden aunt at Christmas time, a respectable aperitif to be consumed sparingly, when in fact it is a splendidly moreish beverage.

Gin was Mother’s Ruin, typified in Hogarth’s famous cartoon of Gin Lane, but long since made respectable by the addition of tonic, and now the base for any number of popular cocktails.

And port, port wine, still conjures up a cartoon figure of an old gentleman having a heavy weight accidentally dropped upon gout-suffering toes, when there is no proof that port was any more responsible for gout than any other rich fare, and is enjoyed by an increasingly discerning youthful fan base.

Port from Portugal is essentially an English tipple, having been very much nurtured from the 17th century on by a succession of English families that shipped it to England from its home port of Porto. Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Gould, Graham, Sandeman, Taylor… these and other names testify to the English connections of this fortified wine.

Early on, English shipping representatives were sent out to the Douro valley to sample good red wines. The practice of fortifying the wine with brandy to preserve it during its shipping to England turned it into a stronger, sweeter drink that found its own favour, and which came to be known as port wine. The English reps eventually began settling in the valley, buying vineyards, and descendants of some of those families remain responsible for much port production today.

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Drifting along the Douro river, rows of vines in serried ranks across steep, rolling hills on either side, on a warm spring day, it is easy to imagine how it might have beguiled those early English merchants. Now a World Heritage site, it combines dramatic scenery with a remote, otherworldly quality that the rigid ranks of vines encourage.

To visit the Quinta de Vargellas estate is a rare treat, whether or not a port aficionado. We happy few of guests, invited by Taylor’s Port which owns Vargellas, travelled alongside the Douro river to arrive at the hilltop estate house, a bastion of elegant comfort that dates back to 1894 and feels for all the world like an English country home. This is at the centre of what is recognised as one of the most prestigious estates in the valley, and where a cavalcade of distinguished guests has stayed over the years. And where they, and we, enjoyed some of the finest port wine to be had.

Tasting Taylor’s Vargellas 2001 Vintage Port in these surroundings is not to be sniffed at, though we did certainly appreciate the ‘nose’ of this one. Deeply rich and fruity, it joins the galaxy of Vargellas vintages that have preceded it.

Their Late Bottled Vintage Port, LBV, was Taylor’s answer to demand for a quality, ready-to-drink variety for everyday consumption. Health & Safety might not approve of everyday, but this has proved very popular since it was introduced in 2009, bottled after being aged in the wood after four to six years, then ready to drink once bottled. Vintage varieties are bottled after two years in the wood and then aged in the bottle.
The First Estate Reserve wine is a reminder of Taylor’s early history, as the first English port shippers to go along the Douro valley to buy wine and the first to purchase a property here in 1744. A good classic port, it is ideal with a good rich cheese, such as Stilton.

And at the end of a splendid dinner at the Quinta de Vargellas, mostly comprised of produce grown on the estate, we savoured the delicious indulgence of a 20 year old Tawny Port. This will go equally well with a pudding or cheese and is intended for immediate drinking. We were happy to oblige.

In Britain, port has long been a traditional after-dinner drink, a favourite at gentlemen’s clubs, and a Christmas special. In recent years, its popularity has been steadily increasing, a younger generation appreciating its nuanced flavours and grown-up sophistication. And now, it has invaded the cocktail circuit, the new-ish pink port proving a popular base. An earlier ‘cocktail’, the port and lemon that ladies might sip in High Street wine lodges or pubs, seems mercifully to have fallen by the wayside.

Adrian Bridges, the ball-of-energy who is CEO of Taylor’s, has been instrumental in fostering this increased interest in port here and in other markets. He flits back and forth between Portugal and the UK, setting up seminars and tastings, encouraging visitors and overseeing Taylor’s commitment to traditional methods as well as bringing in modern ones where desirable.

port_wine_threeThis is one of the estates where not only hand picking of the vines but feet treading is also maintained. All Taylor’s vintage ports are produced in this manner. But moving with the times in order to supply a wider market, the company has developed a special machine to replicate, as near as possible, the effect of the human foot.
“The sensitivity of the human foot makes it ideal for this task,” Bridges points out. “It ensures that extraction is gentle but complete and that the wines have the perfect balance of concentration and finesse.”

The modern fermentation vat they have developed uses mechanical ‘toes’ to gently work the grapes in similar fashion. But the human aspect continues for the premier wines.

An army of pickers descends upon the estate each autumn, and like so many busy ants, they toil across the vineyard slopes, picking the grapes. That’s by day; by night, the same pickers become treaders, indulging in a collective knees-up to music in the wine troughs, the lagares, wide stone tanks from which the precious liquid is drained.

This has been going on since wine production began, generations of pickers returning each year from throughout the region. And to ensure the night-time ‘dance’ goes with a swing, music is supplied, now by an electric organ rather than the traditional accordion and drum – another modernisation.

It may seem a jolly time is had by all, and perhaps may be seen as something of an annual holiday for villagers in much the same way that hop picking was once the holiday for Cockney Londoners. But this is hard work and long hours. Bridges appreciates the labour, having started his love affair with port – and his wife – by working on the vine harvesting when a young man.

This early experience lead on to an encyclopaedic knowledge of port’s production and history, and to a marriage to the boss’s daughter, Natasha. Clearly a marriage made in heaven. She is now Head Taster.
The Douro valley is still largely off the beaten tourist track – so go now, before it becomes more popular. The attractive old town of Porto is the starting point, housing a gaggle of port lodges, so offering the temptation to sample plenty of ports here before exploring the hinterland.

And the best way to appreciate the Douro valley and its stunning scenery is to travel by boat along the winding Douro river. Alas, we didn’t have time for a cruise but a mini trip was enough of a taster to suggest a return visit would be required. That was confirmed by the numbers of quintas and hostelries dotted along the way that provide opportunity for more tasters of the region’s speciality.

It’s just the sort of holiday a red-blooded man with a penchant for full-bodied wine might enjoy. Not to be missed is the delightful Vintage House Hotel on the banks of the river that organises port and food tastings, a small gem of a place from which to tour the countryside and its various vineyards.

A number of companies provide luxury cruises of varying lengths. Some voyagers might get a thrill from sailing on the very barge that took the Queen along the Thames on her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, The Spirit of Chartwell. Others can just enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty as they navigate what was once a most perilous, raging river on which to transport those early pipes of port.

Tamed now by locks, the rapids claimed the lives of many crewmen in the old days, travelling on the traditional rabello, flat-bottomed Douro boats. No wonder the wine needed to be fortified with brandy. Now, all the modern traveller needs to see him through the journey on his luxury cruiser is a nice glass of port.

By Marie Scott Port is essentially an English

By Marie Scott

The city was quiet, too quiet. On the broad streets, there was only the occasional glimpse of a solitary figure. Where was everyone? They were inside of course, out of the glare of the sun and the 40-plus temperature.

In a city where zillionaires are ten a dirham, deluxe-deluxe the norm and bling the watchword, no one walks. Dubai citizens live in an air-conditioned bubble, moving seamlessly from building to car without taking a breath of hot air.

En route to the Maldvies, Dubai is a convenient stopover, a handy break in what otherwise is a very long flight. And let’s face it, though it hardly has the appeal of Paris, Bali or even Brighton, its phenomenal rise and thrusting success make it a place worth visiting, if only once.

And indeed it lived up to expectations. The buildings are amazing, the opulence overpowering, the sheer determination of the place not to be gainsaid. To create this out of what was barren desert but a few short years ago is testament to the drive and far-sightedness of ruler, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Other countries in the region look to the success of this city with some envy. It has managed to combine being a world class financial centre, with phenomenal property expansion, and also in attracting increasing numbers of tourists.

In the two short days we were there, we went on an evening cruise around the harbour, visited the much vaunted Dubai Shopping Mall, toured the Palm, and went dune bashing.

The cruise showed off the untrammelled riches, with skyscrapers that copy others around the world – only bigger. A Big Ben lookalike is considerably taller, the New York Chrysler tower not only bigger but with a twin. With more space between them than other cities can accommodate, all these towers can be appreciated, especially lit up around the harbour at night.

dubai_twoThe shopping mall is a shopping mall writ large, and though it boasts more shops and more footfall than any other shopping mall in the world, it just doesn’t have the cachet of London, nor Paris, Milan or New York. We retreated to the calm of Fortnum & Mason’s adjoining establishment for ice cream.
It isn’t possible to see the Palm, of course, when on it, as that can only be done from the air, but the scale of the buildings bears witness to the scope of this development. Not a tempting place to live maybe, but impressive.

To cater for tourists, all kinds of entertainment has been laid on, from camel riding to skiing. We opted for the dune bashing escapade, a trip into the desert in a four-by-four, driven by a would-be Formula 1 maniac. This cheery chap revved the vehicle up and down dunes with heart-stopping speeds and manoeuvres, teetering on the brink of precipitous declines, in imminent danger of somersaulting down. It was quite splendid.

It is an amazing place to visit and has more deluxe hotels than anywhere else, boasting the only 7-star on the planet. Go to www.definitelydubai.com for more information.

The buildings are amazing, the opulence overpowering, the sheer determination of the place not to be gainsaid…

Here & There

Qatar could be the next popular choice on the Gulf now that other countries in the region are seen as somewhat risky. Like Egypt, it offers year-round sunshine on its 500km coastline of sandy beaches, plenty of architectural and cultural attractions, cruises on the traditional dhow fishing boats, and with a six and a half hour direct flight, is not too long-haul. There are not many holiday packages as yet, but promotion by Qatar is stepping up, so expect more for next year. Meantime, there are plenty of 5-star luxury hotels and direct flights to Doha from the UK. Go to www.qatartourism.gov.qa.

Looking ahead to Christmas and fancy a family or group get-together somewhere but home? Unique Home Stays has a portfolio of luxury pads throughout the UK that can accommodate up to 14 guests. By the sea, in the country, near town, these are high quality properties for self-catering rentals. Go to www.uniquehomestays.com.

With the average cost of a wedding in the UK now put at a tidy £20,000, a special wedding package for Barbados should seem a snip. With ceremony, flowers, cake, live band, coordinator, hair and make-up etc all included, plus luxury accommodation for from 12 to 16 people, it may be the answer to a bride’s prayers – and, given the saving, to fathers’ too. The Bellevue Plantation House, with all the wedding arrangements, may be booked for £8,900 for a dozen, £10,140 for 16. See more details at www.bellevuebarbados.co.uk.

Those keen to go off the beaten tourist track can head for the remote parts of Bhutan, tiny country in the Himalayas that promises a variety of experiences for the intrepid traveller. The Takstand Monastery, cliff-hanging in the Paro Valley, is famed as the Tiger’s Nest; there is much rare wildlife; medicinal springs; and traditional events in the summer months. Bhutan Tourism Council says tourism is flourishing, so don’t expect to be the only visitors in town. www.tourism.gov.bt

Tahiti – the ultimate paradise island. It may be far away in the Pacific Ocean but nowhere is beyond the reach of British holidaymakers, and as a new drive to attract them gets underway, this promises to be the destination for next year. A number of companies offer package deals to the islands, including www.turquoiseholidays.co.uk and www.luxuryholidaysdirect.com from as little as around £2,500 including flights.

By Marie Scott The city was quiet, too

By Marie Scott

Whizzing along on the crest of a wave, wind in hair, sun and seaspray on face, aboard a gleaming speedboat must rank as one of the better ways to start a holiday, perhaps only bettered by that seaplane whizzing overhead.

The boat was how we approached the desert island, one of very many tiny coral atolls scattered across the Indian Ocean that make up the Maldives, and though the boat was great, the seaplane has old Hollywood appeal for the next time. Both options are open to those choosing to holiday on one of these idyllic islands. The Maldives has only recently started to become a tourist destination, being a particularly far-flung faraway place that entails lengthy flights. Arriving finally at the islands’ capital, Malé, it is but a few steps to the waiting speedboat or moored seaplane in the harbour for the final lap of the journey. However jet-lagged, this provides exhilarating stimulation to all but the most aquaphobic – who presumably won’t choose to go here on holiday anyway.

A few years back, the Maldives acquired sudden international attention when its government took drastic action to draw notice to a major problem. It staged a cabinet meeting beneath the waves, to emphasise the danger to the islands from rising sea levels.

We may have had soaked politicians in the past, but this provides a new level of immersion from which our own dear leaders might benefit.

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The Maldivian ministers donned wet suits and oxygen tanks and entered the pristine waters, clutching their documents in waterproof holders, and communicated by hand signals and white boards. The aim was to draw world attention to the very real threat the rising waters have for the low-lying Maldivian islands, and to give extra urgency to the need for all nations to reduce their carbon emissions.

Whether it has had any effect is a moot point, perhaps the minutes got water-logged, but meantime the islands are thankfully keeping their heads above water.

Which is more than can be said for most visitors. They can’t wait to pull on snorkels, strap on tanks, and join the shoals of fish performing waterobics in the lagoon.

The waters around the islands – all 1,190 of them still there at the last count – teem with fish and coral, so that snorkelling and scuba diving are the main activities for holidaymakers. There is, in truth, little else to do, other than enjoy nice food, cocktails on the jetties, lazing by the sea and sauntering round the island – which may take all of 10 minutes. It suited us down to the nearest sun lounger but is clearly not the place for those who wish to be busy at museums, discos, karaoke bars or suchlike.

But recognising that some visitors may pall of this surfeit of lazing, the Bandos Island Resort, where we were staying, has laid on some diversions. Live evening entertainment in the main palm-roofed reception area included a Western pop singer, who had clearly been so affected by the laid-back atmosphere that his somnolent style drove us to drink – again; while a young, all-male local dance team gave a fantastically strong, riveting performance that should see them signed up by some visiting agent and appearing at the O2 any time soon.

“There were some Japanese visitors with us, equally delighted and admiring
and nearly dropping cameras into the sea in their enthusiasm”

Known as something of a honeymoon resort, we could only sympathise with the many young brides, and old ones too, who must have thought that this remote outpost would remove their spouses from the temptation to watch World Cup football. Was there a corner of the planet where the histrionics and accompanying hysterical commentaries did not reach? Happily, there were plenty of such spots from which to watch the ocean, while sipping a daiquiri, out of ear and eye-shot of the action.

Other activities on offer for those who can’t sit still include nocturnal fishing, island-hopping, and, best of all, a boat trip out to see dolphins. There could be no guarantee, of course, that the fish would appear on cue to perform for us, but boy, did they. The delight and excitement of seeing these wonderful creatures swooping and diving right alongside the boat, beneath the prow, and then executing spins and turns and nose-stands in a shameless display of showing-off was quite magical.

There were some Japanese visitors with us, equally delighted and admiring and nearly dropping cameras into the sea in their enthusiasm. It was tempting to ask how their own government could allow the regular mass slaughter of dolphins each year, but English reserve prevailed.

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The Maldives was a British Protectorate up until the mid-1960s and is the country with the lowest natural highest point in the world – a somewhat baffling combination of extremes – at just 7ft 10in. Though waves within the lagoon are usually of the gentle sort, it is easy to understand native concerns about the possibility of being swamped, and indeed, this happened calamitously in the 2004 tsunami. The human toll was mercifully limited by comparison with other areas that were devastated, but the infrastructure was largely destroyed.

Hard to imagine that now, cocktail in hand, watching sharks on the prowl beneath us in spotlights from the jetty. They are, we were assured, of the friendly sort but even a flick from a tail might give a bit of a nasty jolt in passing, but otherwise they are no more dangerous than the sharks in downtown Soho.

For the tourist, this does indeed seem like Heaven-on-sea. The climate is balmy all year round, the sea as warm as a bath, there were no signs of bothersome insects and the small lizards that were everywhere soon scuttled out of sight.

With just under 200 of the islands inhabited, and some of those very sparsely, there is clearly plenty of potential to extend the tourist facilities they have, if they can keep the waves at bay. At present, resort hotels are limited to one per island, apart from Malé, home to the capital. And they are of a deluxe variety. Testament to the sophistication of one, the Shangri-La on Villingili, is that it has been included in the Wine Spectator’s Awards for the second year running for its outstanding wines.

That in turn is testament to the somewhat relaxed attitude the Maldivian government has adopted towards tourists. This is an Islamic country, no other religions allowed, but alcohol, bikinis and shorts are tolerated – yet there are signs warning against holding hands, public displays of affection, and topless bathing is strictly forbidden. The Maldives is not going to become an Eastern Magaluf.

We witnessed a few cuddles and kisses – must have been honeymooners – while some of the older guests did sedately hold hands, without anyone emerging from the bushes to arrest them. Like trade, tourism is great for breaking down barriers and softening rules, in the interests of the local economy. For the Maldives, where the government is not yet showing greater tolerance towards its indigenous population, this must be a good thing.

 

By Marie Scott Whizzing along on the crest

By Marie Scott

Also described as the Golden Land, Burma positively sparkles with the precious stuff, pagodas dominating the landscape and covered, ornamented, and filled with it, including solid gold statues of the Buddha.

As the traveller flies in to Rangoon, or Yangon as it is now known, this preponderance of large and small pagodas is all too visible from the air, glittering peaks emerging from the countryside in all directions. And once in the city, more are to be seen, and dominating them all, the huge Shwedagon pagoda and complex, a quite stunning manifestation of the Buddhist faith that informs the Burmese way of life.

We arrived in this teeming city, in the vanguard of what is sure to become a tidal wave of visitors, as the country begins to open up after a half century of isolation. Leaving chilly, wintery London and arriving to find welcoming temperatures in the 80s, we were immediately enveloped into a colourful, congested, and cheerful ambience. It is at once foreign but friendly, and the natives, male and female, are all elegantly attired in the traditional longhi skirt, with nary a fat figure to be seen.

A backdrop of old colonial buildings, largely gone to seed, is a reminder of Britain’s colonial rule here. The British left in 1948 and after a brief few years of democracy, the country came under the iron rule of the generals, who have effectively kept the country poor and cut-off since 1953. Now, still there but relaxing their grip slightly since 2011, the future for Burma may not yet look golden but improvements are on the way.

Tourism is helping. Cruising down the Irrawaddy River on the de luxe ‘Road to Mandalay’ ship, it was clear to see the benefits it brings to locals along the way. With few hotels, as yet, outside of Yangon, this vessel takes travellers to villages eager for visitors and the money they bring. And particularly impressive was the hospital that the ship’s owners, the Orient Express, has helped to fund, the ship’s doctor and assistants seeing some 500 patients a day during the three days the ship is moored at Mandalay.

Ah, Mandalay, that fabled city made famous by Kipling, with some help from Sinatra. Now a pretty dusty town with frantic motorcycles and heavy lorries along the infamous Burma Road, its harbour still lives up to Kipling’s evocative poem – though he never actually visited here. Sitting on deck and watching the rays of the setting sun light upon all the golden pagodas on the hillside is magical, especially with a suitably exotic cocktail to hand. Such was taken almost – almost – for recuperative reasons, after a long day out exploring.

An early start took us up through the Highlands to Maymyo, founded by a Colonel May in colonial days as a retreat from the heat of Mandalay. A mini replica of a British country town, its neat villas and bungalows are now largely occupied by rich Chinese and Indians, its town clock, a testament to its British clockmaker, Purcell, still keeping time.

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The journey up was spectacular and a reminder of how lush this country is. Everything thrives, flowers, vegetables, fruit in abundance. The country is also rich in oil, minerals and rice, all of which are exported – but with little benefit to the Burmese people. The stark poverty of most makes their elegance, charm and friendliness all the more remarkable, with little pressure on visitors to buy their wares. Women often have faces painted with taneko, a white cream substance; while some of the more fashion-conscious young men sport the tufted hairdos of popular Asian footballers.

Football is a national obsession, the poorest villages sporting satellite dishes to ensure TV reception of international games. It was introduced into the country by a buccaneering British adventurer-turned-colonial-official, one George Scott, in the 1870s. He was responsible for opening up and mapping much of the country, a fearless fellow out of a Boys Own adventure story, who used football to engage with some of the country’s most savage natives, including head hunters. (It’s claimed that this practice only finally died out in the 1970s.)

There is still conflict going on, between the Burma army and the Kachin and Shan ethnic minorities in the north east of the country, and the terrain has changed little since Scott’s time. Here, various warlords reign over an international drugs trade that crosses the border into China, and the region is certainly off-limits to tourists, a pretty lawless place for any visitor.

Back on board our floating hotel, we enjoyed the tranquility of the Irrawaddy, or more properly the Ayawady as the Burmans call it. Drifting gently along, we passed villages and temples, scattered dwellings along the banks, villagers washing and playing in the water, the occasional giant Buddha a reminder of the important place this religion occupies in Burmese life. At one village we visited, a pagoda had recently been renovated with gold, and the £40,000-plus expense was largely covered by nearby residents, who might well be thought to be rather more in need themselves.

But if we had seen many pagodas along the way, Pagan provided a positively wanton abundance of them. Big ones, small ones, some as large as pyramids, some solid, some hollow, some plain, some lavishly ornamented, glittering of gold or mellow of stone, they sprouted across the plain like a forest of fairytale creations. We scrambled up the largest, a pyramid-type giant that became a teaming mass of tourists over its many ledges, there to witness and, more specifically, to photograph the view as the sun set.

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Burma is much more than the sum of its many pagodas (Pagan alone boasts over 2,000). It has had a long and turbulent history, and encompasses a rich mix of ethnic races, providing a variety of skills and crafts. In Yangon, the street stalls sell all manner of produce, the indoor markets rich pickings of textiles, apparel and handicrafts. There is fine art as well as local paintings, wonderful gems, traditional lacquer ware, tempting antiques. And all engagingly presented by these delightful people.

Returning to Yangon, we visited a war graves cemetery, where some 27,000 British and allied servicemen are buried at just one of the three sites in the city. Beautifully mantained, the row upon row of marble head stones testified to the youth of so many buried here, and the inscribed messages from loved ones conveyed their anguish all too movingly.

And from one sad experience to another, we were taken to view three ‘ceremonial’ elephants, their confinement something of a metaphor for the lives of the Burman people. Perhaps they too may soon enjoy greater freedom.

Marie Scott travelled with Audley Travel, on Qatar Airways, staying at the Traders Hotel in Rangon, and sailing on the ‘Road to Mandalay’ ship, with a single cabin. Over 12 days, the trip costs around £6,000.

By Marie Scott Also described as the Golden

By Diana Butler

There is one sport which should come with a government health warning – polo. It has been said that the only way to cure a passion for this fast paced and thrilling game, the oldest team sport in the world, is death or bankruptcy! The players think nothing of flying along a beautifully manicured grass lawn at 40mph, while using just their weight and the speed of their pony to keep their opponent off the ball. This goes by the mild term of ride off, but in the heat of battle it is anything but!

The perfect place to see player and pony in perfect harmony is at Guards Polo Club, situated in the heart of the magnificent Windsor Great Park. The Club first opened its doors 59 years ago and continues to boast an impressive list of playing members, including leading members of the Royal Family. Other key names include the World’s Number One Adolfo Cambiaso. Now in his late 30s, Cambiaso has been a 10-goaler – the highest handicap possible in this sport of kings – for some 20 years and brings much South American flair and panache to every game.

To complement such a world-class list of playing members, Guards Polo Club has created a fixtures list that is the envy of clubs around the world. The polo season may not be that long – games are played on grass in England from April to September – but the club offers more than 600 games in these five action-packed months. Matches range from tough, competitive high-goal games for tournaments such as The Cartier Queen’s Cup – with team sheets reading like a Who’s Who of polo – to smaller low-key games for the Club’s patrons, which successfully combine rivalry on the field with friendship off it.

Key fixtures for 2014 include the prestigious Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup; Jack Wills Varsity Day featuring Oxford v Cambridge; Pommery Polo for the Archie David Cup; the Inter Regimental and the Duke of Wellington Trophy, plus the world-famous Audi International Polo for the Coronation Cup, which this year will see the England team play an impressive Argentine side for one of the most magnificent cups to be won in this most stylish of sports. To be held on a Saturday for the first time in its history this summer – 26 July – this great day of sport combines perfect polo on the field with excellent entertainment off it.

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Not surprisingly Guards Polo Club is hugely proud of its unrivalled relationship with The Royal Family. HM The Queen historically attends several matches each season and is regularly accompanied by her husband, HRH Prince Philip, who as Club President takes a keen interest in all developments at the Club. It was the Prince who originally suggested creating a Club in Windsor Great Park as he wanted to play closer to home (Windsor Castle) and although HRH retired from the game in the early 1970s, he continues to watch the matches with an experienced eye and remains an expert on this tough and challenging sport. Princes Charles, William and Harry have followed in Prince Philip’s footsteps, not only discovering a passion for polo but also playing many a game on the Club’s main grounds.

Guards Polo Club is not just for the experienced player though. The Club welcomes non-players and their guests and everyone receives a warm welcome in the Club’s elegant Clubhouse regardless of their handicap. The Clubhouse team, headed up by TV chef Merrilees Parker, creates delicious menus to suit every occasion, be it a relaxing Sunday lunch before a game, a celebratory end-of-season dinner or a traditional, post match afternoon tea. Of course, with 11 grounds at the Club, plus two further grounds at neighbouring Coworth Park, which Guards Polo Club manages on behalf of the Dorchester Collection, there is always plenty of polo to accompany such menus.

Thanks to the Club’s extensive global reciprocal agreements, Guards Polo Club can offer all of its members the chance to watch, and often play, polo almost anywhere in the world. So even when the covers are pulled over the manicured lawns of Smith’s Lawn, the Club’s elegant metal badge keeps on working, offering polo in places such as Brazil, Barbados, Thailand, USA, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, membership of this great club offers so much more than polo – although there is nowhere better in the UK to see this great sport of kings and princes.

Readers of Savile Row magazine are invited to sample this great sport for themselves. Please contact Guards Polo Club membership team on 01784 434212, quoting Savile Row Magazine, and a member of our events team will be delighted to arrange complimentary day guest badges for you and a guest to enjoy some great polo at the most famous polo club in the world.

For more details on matches and membership please go to www.guardspoloclub.com

By Diana Butler There is one sport which