The small village of Santa Margarida is usually overlooked by visitors to its neighbour, the popular village of Alte, sitting up the hill to the west of Alte.
In truth, the village has very little kerb appeal, but it is an honest village, untainted by the trappings of tourism where local village life just potters along.
In the centre of the village (Largo das Lojas), there is a small corner café where locals meet every day and where you will be met with a warm greeting. The café is nothing fancy and the glasses may be a little dusty but that adds to the charm.
Next door is a general store where inside you will be taken back in time, and across the road a mechanics workshop. Not really a lot to grab your attention, however, from here, you can take a 7km walk that will show you the best of the area. The walk is not flat, but there are no steep climbs either and is suitable for anyone of average fitness.
Assuming that you arrived on the road from Alte, park where you can on the main road near the village centre. From your car, walk back down the road, passing the renovated washhouse down on your right and, after about 500m, you come to a small road off to your right with signs for the Via Algarviana (red and white flashes). You turn here and now follow these markings.
Your route will take you down the road, keeping straight ahead at a junction and then, when the road goes off to the left, continue ahead on a good track. Either side, you have a mixture of carob and olive trees. Follow the markings and remember X means ‘not this way’. When the track bends to the right to head downhill, you go straight ahead on a narrow path with fields down to your right.
After dropping down to cross by a field, your path bears left and, as you continue along, you will have tremendous views over the valley and countryside to your left all the way to the sea. The path passes by old limestone walls before you climb very gently up to meet a wider track – turn right. Continue along for about 300m before the signs indicate a turn to the left. Turn and the track gently rises to the hamlet of Torre.
After passing between houses, you come to the old schoolhouse which is now home to ‘Da Torre’ – a workshop making wooden toys and jewellery. This is part of the TASA Project offering ‘ancestral techniques to current solutions’ and here three women from Alte create and invent their wooden products. Ana, Silvina and Arliete are the ‘Da Torre ladies’ and, during the week, you will receive a wide smile and welcome if you call in to the workshop – opening hours are from 7am to 1pm.
From the schoolhouse, the road drops down to a wider road where you turn left. Walk along the road for about 150m when you turn right – again it will be signed.
The road climbs up between houses before the surfaced road changes to a track and heads gently downhill. Just before the track levels out, you will see a signpost on your left, marked by yellow triangles and circles. You turn right on to the track just beyond the sign. Ignore a red and white cross.
The track wends its way between trees laden with citrus fruits. Locals tell me that the fruit is never picked and, while I do not advocate filling up bags, you can at least sample the fruit. The walking here is now flat and easy and, besides citrus fruits, there are plenty of olive trees which have recently been vigorously pruned. You keep walking on this almost straight track, ignoring other tracks off to both left and right, and, after 20 minutes or so, you will start to head gently uphill to come out in the centre of Margarida.
Turn left and you will see the small corner café. Go and have a drink (I am all in favour of supporting the local economy) and enjoy that Santa Margarida welcome!
How to find Santa Margarida
First, find your way to Alte which is on the N124 between SB Messines and Salir. At the roundabout by the cemetery, turn into the village and, after 200m, take a road off to the left, signed ‘Santa Margarida’. Follow the road uphill for 2km when you will arrive at the village, and Largo das Lojas is a further 160m along the road on your left.
Julie and her team lead walks every Tuesday morning and every other Friday. All are welcome. There is a nominal charge of €5 per person and this includes a donation to charity. Full details www.portugalwalks.com or in the diary section of the Portugal Resident.
|| Coming up
Tuesday, April 19 – Let’s walk from Santa Margarida
Friday, April 22 – Let’s walk from Barragem do Arade
Tuesday, April 26 – Let’s walk from Estoi
Julie Statham has been walking throughout Portugal for more than 20 years and now acts as a walking advisor and guide for various companies in both Portugal and Europe. She has a background in earthsciences and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from Bristol University, UK.