Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes
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Porto Covo at SunsetFoto: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
The Rota Vicentina (Fisherman’s Trail) begins dramatically along a rugged stretch of the Atlantic Coastline. The footpath fights to keep close to the coast to ensure you enjoy every breathtaking viewpoint available, but doing so demands that you tackle some wild terrain. The path wades over sand-dunes and across beaches. It teeters atop cliffs and scrambles around inlets. At all times the path is sandy ensuring every kilometre and viewpoint is hard-fought for. (Don’t worry – the entire Rota Vicentina isn’t this sandy!)
Some of the beauty you can’t fail to notice - large coastal features such as velvety caves, shifting sand-dunes and precarious pillars - but for others you must look a little closer. There is an enormous diversity of plant-life here, around 150 species, 25% of which are endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and some found only along Portugal’s south-west coast. All have adapted to the region’s harsh conditions, where droughts can last 6 months, strong winds gust from the Atlantic Ocean, and a frenzy of waves buffet the shore.
Vila Nova de Milfontes sits at the mouth of the River Mira, though by here the river water is salty and tidal, and the beaches are sandy, just like the sea. Historically, the town has served a key defensive role, as evidenced by the imposing fortress that juts out from the town towards the river. A charming tangle of narrow streets forms the historic centre of the town, a perfect place to wander, get lost and stumble upon delightful cafes and restaurants.
EinkehrmöglichkeitenA Ilha Restaurant
Porto de Barcas Restaurant
There are many exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk. Additionally, some of the cliff-edges may be unstable; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
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Points of Interest
‘Peachtree Island’, as the translation goes, has a staggering history, dating to the 2nd Century BC when it was first occupied by the Carthaginians. Over the years, there has been a fish salting centre, a chapel, and a fortress (of which you can still see the ruins).
Construction began on this fort in 1598, however the project was abandoned and restarted several times and only completed in 1690. A similar fort on the island provided two lines of defence. The fort was damaged in the 1755 earthquake and then abandoned in 1844 due to the evolution of warfare.
St Clement’s Fort
St Clement’s Fort is the most noticeable building in Vila Nova de Milfonte, jutting out from the town and towards the River Mira. Historically, the river was considered both the best natural port in the south of Portugal, and also one of the greatest threats as it provided North African pirates with a shortcut to the heart of the Odemira Municipality. The fortress was completed in 1602, but the history is far older, with evidence of Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Carthaginian occupation.
Food and Drink
You will pass a restaurant after 3 kilometres, and another after 17 kilometres. There is nowhere to buy food or drink in between and nowhere to refill water bottles, so be sure to bring sufficient provisions.
0.00km – Start in the main square, facing the Church of Porto Covo and with the fountain behind you. TURN RIGHT to walk along the pedestrian street towards the sea. After 160 metres, as you reach a zebra-crossing (black and white marking) over a non-pedestrianised street, TURN LEFT following the sign to Porto da Pesco and Vila Nova de Milfontes. This road will pass a dead-end sign and descend towards the harbour.
0.32km – As the road forks and a section of wall finishes on your left, BEAR RIGHT. After 10 metres, BEAR RIGHT again to continue downhill. At a T-junction, TURN LEFT to walk along the gravel road, and ignore the paved road to the harbour on your right. You are following red, yellow and white blazes of paint at each junction.
0.40km – TURN RIGHT as the gravel road leads onto the sand. You will cross the sand, a small stream and then head uphill on a sandy road.
0.64km – TURN RIGHT to pass between the large rocks and onto a sandy path, following the sign to Vila Nova de Milfontes. After 100 metres, BEAR LEFT to walk along the narrow footpath bordered by upright wooden posts and rope, and ignore the wooden boardwalk on your right.
1.50km – As the path drops onto a stony beach, BEAR LEFT onto the sandy path that climbs away from it. There is a green and blue blaze of paint to guide you.
1.70km – As the path forks shortly after passing a sign about unstable cliffs, BEAR RIGHT onto the sandy path that continues along the clifftops.
1.90km – Beside a second sign for unstable cliffs, BEAR LEFT towards the post with green and blue markings. As you reach a wire fence after 100 metres, BEAR RIGHT and then immediately BEAR LEFT to keep walking beside the fence. Ignore the path that descends to the beach on your right.
2.10km – TURN RIGHT to cross the wooden bridge and follow the sign to Vila Nova de Milfontes.
2.50km – As you draw almost-level with Peachtree Island, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON to walk along the sandy beach towards the large fortress. There is a sign confirming you should ‘Walk along the beach’.
3.30km – BEAR LEFT from the beach and then into the car park. BEAR RIGHT from the car park to pass to the right/seaward side of the fortress. Once past the fortress and walls, BEAR LEFT through a sandy parking area, and then TURN RIGHT along the road.
3.70km – BEAR RIGHT at a sandy layby and follow the blue and green markings to continue along a footpath. After 200 metres this path will rejoin the road, but after 10 metres you can BEAR RIGHT onto a footpath again.
4.10km – As the path appears to join the road again, BEAR RIGHT to continue along a narrow, clifftop path, which can be tricky to spot.
4.60km – Shortly after passing a row of white cottages on your left and emerging into a sandy parking area, TURN LEFT to head directly away from the sea, and ignore the path that continues ahead. This feels counterintuitive so check the map occasionally and stay alert for the green and blue waymarking.
4.80km - TURN RIGHT at the T-junction to head downhill and between the bushes. As the road bends left after 100 metres, BEAR RIGHT to walk along the sandy tracks.
5.10km – BEAR LEFT as the sandy track forks to keep the wire fence on your right. After 100 metres, TURN RIGHT as the wire fence makes a 90° right turn. Continue along this sandy road beside the fence, ignoring all side paths. There are regular green and blue markings to guide you.
5.40km – As the path splits just before a row of bushes, TURN LEFT to walk away from the fence and with the bushes and sand dunes on your right. There is a sign which points you this way and instructs you to ‘skirt the sand dunes for 2km’. As the path forks after 200 metres, BEAR LEFT to continue walking with the bushes on your right, and then immediately ignore a sharp left turn.
5.70km – BEAR RIGHT as the bushes fade away and the path forks, to continue walking on the path closest to the sea.
6.70km – As you reach a junction with a wide sandy road, TURN RIGHT to head towards the sea. Having passed through a sandy car parking area after 300 metres, TURN LEFT to follow the footpath into the sand-dunes and walk parallel to the coastline again.
7.60km – TURN LEFT to head away from the sea and pass through a gap in the sand dunes following the blue and green markings. Ignore the path that continues ahead which has a blue and green cross. Once through the sand dunes there is a confusing junction; TURN RIGHT and then immediately BEAR LEFT, following the sign which instructs you to ‘skirt the sand dunes for 3km’. You now walk with all the sand dunes on your right and a flat plain of shrubs on your left.
9.10km – As you emerge into a wide sandy car parking area, BEAR LEFT to head away from the sea, still keeping all dunes on your right.
10.00km – After entering a car park, immediately TURN RIGHT to walk along the wooden boardwalk. This will pass toilets, and then follow the boardwalk marked with green and blue markings as it walks parallel to the coast on your right and the car park on your left.
10.50km – Just after passing the edge of the car park on your left, BEAR LEFT from the wooden boardwalk and onto the gravel road. As you enter a small, gravel car park after 300 metres, TURN RIGHT onto the sandy path, following the green and blue markings. After 50 metres, BEAR LEFT onto a rocky section and then walk along the clifftops with the sea on your right.
10.90km – The sandy path is fractured, with regular forks. All paths rejoin so stick to the most-established path, following blue and green markings, and walking parallel to the coast on your right.
14.10km – The path will head slightly inland around the large beach of Praia Angra da Cerva, however the path keeps close to the cliffs on your right, and is way-marked with blue and green markings. After 100 metres, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON, ignoring the right turn which heads down to the beach, and the left turn which is marked with a red and yellow arrow but also a green and blue cross.
16.70km – TURN RIGHT as you emerge into a large sandy car park to walk towards the buildings. After 100 metres, TURN LEFT along the paved road, immediately passing a restaurant on your left.
17.00km – TURN RIGHT onto the sandy road, following the sign to Vila Nova de Milfontes. This path passes above the marina, on your right. As this path splits into three after 400 metres, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON following the blue and green markings.
18.30km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON as you reach the paved section of road marked Rua dos Coitos.
18.50km – Just before the road ends by a field, TURN RIGHT. This road will soon bend left, and then continue walking with houses on your right.
18.90km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON at the crossroads, passing through a one-way sign.
19.00km – At the staggered crossroads, TURN RIGHT then immediately TURN LEFT to pass through a 'no entry' signpost. Facing the beach after 100 metres, TURN LEFT to walk beside the road.
19.40km – Finish at the Fort of St Clement’s. Why not enjoy a glass of wine from one of the cafes that overflow into the pedestrianised centre?
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
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