If you can pull yourself away from the south coast of the Algarve and travel to the wilder Atlantic coast; you will see equally beautiful towns, beaches and bays along its more rugged coastline. A world famous long distance coastal trail runs from the south west tip of Portugal for 140 miles north towards Lisbon. The Fisherman’s Trail is a series of connected paths that the locals have used to access the beaches and fishing places. It is now a clearly marked long distance path; that has been highly rated by such publications as Conde Nast.
Not having the time or energy to walk 140 miles; I chose to do a day hike from the town of Aljezur. Taking in: a castle, old town, river estuary, beach and then returning on a short section of the Fisherman’s Trail.
I arrived to the town of Aljezur by car; descending from the high hills of the hinterland. For mile after mile; I passed orange groves laden with their juicy fruit.
Using google maps; I soon found somewhere to park for free behind a small supermarket. Filling my water bottle to the brim; I crossed the river and the main road. Then climbed through the narrow cobbled streets towards the castle that overlooks the town.
Being a natural vantage point in a otherwise flat river estuary; the site of the castle has been inhabited since the bronze age.
The Lusitanians, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors have all used this hill down through the centuries. The Moors built the first substantial castle; with the water cistern still remaining to this day. In medieval times it was destroyed through abandonment as much as attack. Then in 1755, the castle along with most of the town was reduced to rubble by a large earthquake. The castle you see today was mostly reconstructed in the 20th century for benefits of tourism in the area.
Retracing my steps, I walked down into the old village. All the houses were painted in bright vivid colours, with some placing pots filled with flowers outside. The streets were immaculately clean too; which made the place all the more attractive. Realising I had a long walk ahead of me; I walked on through the town and over a bridge crossing the river.
To the sea
Crossing the river here is necessary; for this is the last bridge before the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. There was sadly no path that followed the river; yet there was a quiet dead-end road that led to the beach of Amoreira.
The road reflected the heat of the midday sun; up onto my legs. The few passing cars sped by, without lifting off the throttle; yet this meant I could hear the roar of the engines from quite a distance. I passed large salt beds; with some being turned into fish farms to cope with the demand for fish.
Halfway along the road; I passed a small white chapel. My Portuguese is not good; yet I think the plaque explained it was to remember a local gentleman that was robbed and killed on this spot. Taking a moment to consider the terrible scene all those years ago; I ended by thinking how relatively safe and peaceful life is in modern Europe.
Praia de Amoreira
Soon the scrubland turned into sand dunes; the meandering river now opened up and the road finished in a car park. My feet were now in agony; I was wearing poorly fitting shoes made with synthetic materials. I had completed fairly long walks in the last few days; so blisters reminded me of the pain with every step.
Passing the overpriced campervans and the more humble local surfers; I walked down another beautifully crafted boardwalk to the beach. The wooden boardwalk was made with a gentle gradient; so not only pushchairs but wheelchair users too, could access this sandy sunny spot.
Avoiding the crowds on the main beach; I turned to the right and walked over sharp and rough stone outcrops. Here, I found a smaller, quieter beach; with just one surfer and his lady for company. They bid me good afternoon and explained how they had passed me on the road in their car. Impressed with me walking under the hot midday sun; so I explained it is natural for a Englishman.
The couple both laughed before walking out into the surf with their boards. To give my feet a well earned rest; I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the water.
Instantly, the nerves in my feet sent signals of comfort and calm; with the blisters having no pressure against me now. The wet warm sand and the break water massaged my feet and calves; as a gentle breeze cooled my face and back as I looked out to sea. It had been a tough walk along that hot road; yet the reward of this beach was worth it. I had truly found a route to relax.
The Fisherman’s Trail
When my feet had cooled enough in the sea; I knew it was time to leave. It was early evening now, and I still had five miles to walk over unfamiliar terrain. Passing back through the car park; I saw an old lorry from the 1960’s. This truck however, was not packed with commercial wares but filled with all the worldly possessions of a bohemian travelling couple. I admired their bravery in escaping the modern life; with its commitments and debts. They seemed happy and content as they made dinner al fresco.
As the asphalt road began; I turned off to the left along a dirt track. Marked by a blue sign for European network of cycle routes. It is amazing to think, that from here on south west extremities of Portugal; it is possible to ride all the way to Norway on quiet roads and tracks.
After a short distance another path denoted by a yellow and red post; led off to the right. I climbed a long but gentle hill that led to a wide plateaux covered in wild flowers. It had been a hot day and my feet were now being reminded of the blisters. Yet I still felt strong enough to gently jog on the loamy soil. I was on the home straight now and felt happy for making the most of a beautiful spring day in Portugal.
Return to my hotel on Faro beach
I was soon descending a hill that brought me back to the river bridge at the end of Aljezur. I walked back through the town in the now cool evening light. The wise locals that avoided the midday sun; now appeared to tend their vegetable gardens, promenade or just sit and natter with neighbours.
I returned to my car and then began the two hour drive across the Algarve to my hotel near Faro. I avoided the expensive toll motorway; so I had to concentrate on sometimes narrow and winding roads. Yet I was happy and relaxed; so enjoyed watching the evening life as I passed through small towns and villages. Check out my other routes in Portugal; such as: The Ludo Trail and the beaches of Faro and the Douro Valley Vineyard Walk. Yet better still; come and see for yourself.
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