The hotel as statement – those small, independent one-offs that reflect not just their owners’ style but also, to some degree, their world view – remains among the most gratifying of travel discoveries. Portugal is rich in these; in June I stayed at two such places – lenses on a country that’s recapturing its heritage with world-beating results. At Santa Clara 1728 (silentliving.pt; from €400) in Lisbon’s Alfama district, owner João Rodrigues has taken a grand old palace and carved out striking, contemporary volumes of calm and quietude, without excising even a modicum of its soul; my suite here was one of the most subtly beautiful and peaceful I’ve ever stayed in. And in the hilly heart of the Alentejo, José António Uva worked with Pritzker Prize-winner Eduardo Souto de Moura to bring São Lourenço do Barrocal (barrocal.pt; from €241), his family’s derelict 780-hectare estate, into the 21st century with stunning architecture and eight generations’ worth of community ties remade. There are 10,000sq m of kitchen gardens, a knockout restaurant in the former kennels, a Susanne Kaufmann spa, stargazing in the old bullring and abundant estate olive oil and wines. But again, soul is the prime commodity here.