Discover Madeira on a magical trail and learn about Cristiano Ronaldo’s beautiful island

Aside from the local golden boy, dessert wine and cake, all I knew about Portugal’s Atlantic outpost was its reputation as an OAPs’ paradise.

Gorgeous bays and panoramic views will leave you breathless on your trip to Maderia

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Gorgeous bays and panoramic views will leave you breathless on your trip to Maderia

Or “God’s waiting room”, as the elderly couple sitting next to me on the plane playfully put it.

Notwithstanding the rape allegation facing the Juventus footballer, which he denies, CR7 has been at the heart of a drive to put this beautiful volcanic island near Africa on the map.

He was born on a mountain-side overlooking capital Funchal and is like a deity to the city’s 120,000 inhabitants.

He grins out over the runway from the terminal building, while people queue excitedly for a selfie with a dodgy bust outside arrivals. His face is even on my taxi to the hotel.

Cristiano Ronaldo can be seen everywhere you go in his home country of Madeira

Getty – Contributor

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Cristiano Ronaldo can be seen everywhere you go in his home country of Madeira

But that is nothing compared to the Pestana CR7 Funchal, a joint venture between the former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar and Portugal’s biggest hotel chain.

The footie-themed boutique hotel brings a dash of vibrancy to the sleepy marina.

Guests are welcomed into a chic lobby adorned with signed Ronaldo shirts, framed news-paper clippings and snaps of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

He is even in the toilets, beaming down from the wall as his designer sunglasses double as mirrors.

Soak up the Madeira heat by the hotel's rooftop pool

Tiago Sousa_NO WORDS productions

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Soak up the Madeira heat by the hotel’s rooftop pool

Corridors are lined with artificial grass and LEDs that light up with your step as if you are walking down the tunnel on matchday.

My room is sleek and modern, with a comfortable bed, 48in smart-TV and wardrobe designed to look like a football dressing room.

Guests wanting to step further into Cristiano’s shoes can make the most of the open-air gym or visit the CR7 Museum to practise their goal celebrations next to another statue.

Instead, I spend the evening enjoying the ocean views from the rooftop pool.

Enjoy the fresh black scabbard-fish for lunch

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Enjoy the fresh black scabbard-fish for lunch

By morning I decide to take the ten-minute walk to Funchal’s Old Town.

At the end of the incredible Rua Santa Maria lies a bustling market that has supplied Madeirans with exotic fruit, veg and fish for the past 80 years.

A standout is the passion-fruit that looks like a long and knobbly pineapple but tastes just like a banana.

Less easy on the eye is the black scabbard-fish I am about to eat for lunch.

Crystal-clear Atlantic sea views when you take a ride on a catamaran

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Crystal-clear Atlantic sea views when you take a ride on a catamaran

These toothy monsters are a local delicacy but look like something from a horror movie.

In a modern twist, they are combined with banana and glazed in honey. The result tastes amazing.

In the afternoon, I cruise the crystal-clear Atlantic on a catamaran and catch a glimpse of sperm whales — a must-add to anyone’s itinerary.

The next day I get the chance to witness Madeira’s dramatic mountain scenery on a jeep tour with driver Nuno.

There are even posters of the footie ace in the loo

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There are even posters of the footie ace in the loo

He tells me: “I just don’t understand the Ronaldo hype, he’s only a footballer. I prefer rallying.”

And that proves just as well, as we climb a helterskelter of narrow roads to enjoy the panoramic views at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s second-highest peak. Next is Nuno’s favourite stop on the tour — the rum factory, where he thrusts shot after shot of his top tipples into my hand.

For the evening, he points me in the direction of the lively Zona Velha for a “poncha”, a Madeiran speciality containing a worrying amount of rum mixed with honey, oranges and lemons.

I try to keep up as locals down gallons of the stuff into the early hours, accompanied by live bands and DJs.
As I stumble back to bed with the party still raging, I realise maybe I’m not hip enough for Madeira after all.

Go: Madeira

GETTING THERE: Flights from Manchester are from £27.20pp one-way, including a full-size cabin bag. See easyjet.com.

STAYING THERE: A night’s B&B in a double room at the 4* Pestana CR7 is from £35.65pp based on two sharing. See pestanacr7.com.

OUT & ABOUT: A full-day 4×4 jeep tour with Green Devil Safari is from £41.75pp. See madeiraallyear.com.