‘IT’S easy to see why people from Scotland love the Algarve year-round,” smiles my waiter Joao. “Our countries have many connections and you guys hit the beach even in our cooler months.”

I agree on both counts and that is why we are back after a Covid hiatus for our annual family autumn escape to a southern charmer I find is more beguiling than ever.

I first heard the mournful strains of fado in the Algarve. I didn’t need the idea of Portuguese saudade – a profound melancholy for a lost past – explained as a Scot as it courses through our folk culture too.

Scots were instrumental in setting up the port trade in Porto, a city that, like Glasgow, showcased itself to the world as a European City of Culture and refuses to accept the second city tag after Lisbon, the capital. Lisbon has links with Edinburgh through architect Robert Adam – who was in the running to rebuild the city after the 1755 earthquake – and Portugal is, of course, the proud, smaller nation on the Iberian Peninsula.

First up is a return to Pine Cliffs (www.pinecliffs.com) – our favourite resort in Europe when my two daughters were toddlers. Now Tara is 14 and Emma is 11, they’re less easy to please with kids’ clubs. Pine Cliffs steps up with our first-ever game of padel tennis, treatments for teenagers in the spa, and golf. I recommend staying in the newer Ocean Suites as they have loads of space and adults can take turns to enjoy a session in the included thermal suite.

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Pine Cliffs has turned up the dial on its restaurants too. The Piri Piri Steak House still does the Algarve’s best steaks and O Grill is now what hotel buffets should be – a large outdoor terrace and live cooking stations offering a selection of meats and seafood. The star proves Mara, where I meet the waiter Joao. It’s a newer option down on their sweep of sandy beach. Forget frozen fish – boat-fresh bream and sea bass tempt alongside a glass of slightly fizzy vinho verde with the roaring ocean providing the backdrop.

That ocean always draws in the Algarve. A boat trip is an essential. This time, we ease out of Albufeira with Dream Wave on their Benagil caves and dolphins trip. As well as dolphins leaping across our bow, we spot gannets, who could have recently arrived from Scottish waters. The views are epic too, opening up the yellow-hued cliffs and a necklace of beaches spreading across the horizon.

Moving further west I had heard good things about Vila Vita Parc (www.vilavitaparc.com). I stayed a decade ago solo and then it felt more a luxury resort for adults. They couldn’t be more welcoming to my girls, though, treating them like princesses dining at fusion brasserie La Bela Vita and Adega, where the kids try local Algarve seafood. Our Oasis Family Suite has acres of space and the girls love the indoor pool with a wee channel leading to an outdoor pool. They’ve got kids’ clubs to suit all ages.

Just a 15-minute drive away is Guia. It’s on the map for the famous chicken dish that originated here – piri piri. There are a flurry of restaurants specialising in this spicy chicken delight. We return to Ramires, an old-timer and family favourite. It proves a wise choice with bouncingly friendly service and delicious chicken. Don’t expect plump supermarket chicken – here the flavour in the smaller birds is all in the skin and around the bones.

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Turning tail to the east Domes Lakes is a recently branded Vilamoura family hotel reclining on its own lake. I recommend their new Tropical Family Retreats with their inter-connecting rooms and the access they allow to the Haute all-day lounge with its drinks and snacks. We enjoyed kayaking on the lake, swimming in the huge pools and a lunch of freshly grilled fish down on the beach in the brand-new Sora. It’s worth dining at even if you’re not staying. Note they are closing for winter and are re-opening in spring with all rooms revamped.

One thing that I think draws Scots back to the Algarve is that it keeps on upping its game. The water parks shut in winter, but Aquashow just solved that this autumn, opening a new indoor waterpark, with a quintet of slides, a wee wave pool, climbing walls and waterfalls. Continuing the Scottish theme in their 13 and over spa area is a chilly “Scottish Shower”. We spent the whole afternoon bashing around Aquashow.

Chatting to Peter from Kilsyth by the splashing waters, those Scottish links run strong: “We choose the Algarve over Spain as we feel really at home here. Our local pal was telling us some of the history and Portugal is similar to Scotland. We’ll be back next year.”

I second that – we have already booked a return to Iberia’s Scottish cousin, which stacks up brilliantly for a family holiday.

EasyJet (easyjet.com) fly to Faro from Glasgow from £49.73. www.visitalgarve.pt, www.visitportugal.com