Dramatic views of the West

By Paul McKay [email protected]

In his new bimonthly column, Paul McKay will be taking readers along some of the routes less travelled in the Algarve as well as well-trodden but still enjoyable paths.

This is another west coast walk, but well worth the trek. If you prefer a longer walk then Walking the Algarve by Julie Statham has other more strenuous walks in the same area.

Getting there

Half the fun of a walk on the west coast is the journey there and back. The roads are sleepy, windy and traffic-free, each bend reveals another dramatic view.

There are many eccentric little cafés en route and lots of picnic points, each with their equally eccentric picnickers.

The west coast still has the charm of being undeveloped, untouristy and unpopulated, reminiscent of the Algarve 20 years ago. Carrapateira is on the EN 268 between Aljezur and Vila do Bispo. On the edge of Carrapateira is a signposted road to Praia do Amado.  

Amazing sunset.
Amazing sunset.

The walk

As you arrive at Praia do Amado, the first shock will be the huge car parking area. This is to cater for the camper-vanners who congregate here and the surfers who descend on this beach during the winter months.

As we arrived, there was a surreal carnival atmosphere, a sense of tranquillity within business, spoiled only by Ela, our dog, stretching out of the back window and barking furiously at anyone who dared look in our direction.

As we exited the car, with Ela spinning like a crazed dervish on the end of her lead, I noticed at least seven placid dogs calmly waiting by their cars for owners squeezing into wet-suits, buffing-up body-boards, tending prima-stoves and the like.

The car park was not unlike a mini-conference of the United Nations with a multiplicity of languages being spoken; the couple parked next to us were from Australia and the proud owners of two scarily obedient Rhodesian Ridge-backs.

These dogs had the ability to look both haughty and aghast as the wild mongrel attached to the end of my arm flayed in all directions.

In front of the car park is a path to a café (in a van) which looks down on the beach, itself quite stunning (the beach not the van), even without the surfers.

Praia do Amado.
Praia do Amado.

On this particular day (the last Sunday in November), the beach was teeming with activity, there were people everywhere enjoying the sunny weather – all this activity jolted the senses somewhat, after the solitude of the surrounding countryside.

If you look out to sea, then turn right, you are heading north along a small tarmac road which climbs gently towards a restaurant at the top of a cliff, passing yet another car park.

This is where we made the mistake of letting Ela off the lead, only to discover she is a ‘chaser’. Living where we do, cars are quite a rarity and as the dog wanders wherever she pleases, we seldom see her encounter a car. It would appear that the engine has to be at a certain pitch to engage the chasing instinct and within a flash she is off.

Every third car seems to be within this ‘trigger’ range, the subtle difference inaudible to the human ear.

Fortunately the walk quickly leaves the traffic behind and everything becomes a little calmer and a lot less embarrassing. As you climb this hill, views open up both north and south; don’t forget to look behind you.

At the top of the hill is a restaurant on your left and a row of buildings on the right. Behind the buildings is an unsurfaced track leading downhill and then off to the left – follow this track.

Away from the cliff-edge the feel of the walk is quite different. This valley is sheltered from the sea and agaves have been used to divide up plots of land.

This track winds its way towards Carrapateira and the scenery, pleasing for the main part, is marred only by the sewage-works just before you enter the village. When we passed, it was a little on the potent side, so probably best avoided in mid-August.

As you enter the village, bear right, briefly following the Aljezur-Vila do Bispo road. Although quiet, the village has a good sprinkling of cafés and restaurants and as we passed through there was a well-attended game of bowls going on in the village square.

Within a minute or so, after passing some impressive Eucalyptus trees which have somehow escaped the chainsaw, you cannot miss a brown sign pointing out the road you originally drove along to reach Praia do Amado.

There were a few cars departing as we walked back along this road so I seized the training opportunity to rid the dog of the chasing problem. All seemed well and by the time we reached the car park she was ignoring all vehicles and almost looked normal.

Don’t go, the best is yet to come!

We arrived to start our walk in late afternoon, which proved to be an excellent decision. The walk itself was invigorating and enjoyable but the real splendour of the west coast was about 25 minutes away.

We sat in front of the aforementioned café and slowly watched Mother Nature perform.

The sky changed through a spectrum of colours, from watery yellow to rich golds, from a dusky brown to a pinkish red, vibrant purple and the deepest crimson.

The sun changed from a burning ball to a smouldering ember, from sphere to hemisphere and eventually, just a memory.

Words cannot paint the picture as clearly as the camera, but the camera still fails to do the beauty justice. The only way to truly appreciate the west coast at sunset is to be there.