Circular Routes Stage
Traveling through the village of Cercal, this route crosses a mosaic of small farms, vegetable gardens and orchards, where you can experience the authentic, rural life of the people of Alentejo. Across the path we find many small water lines, born in Serra do Cercal, running eastwards towards the Campilhas dam and on to Sado River.
The circular route of Cercal gives us a perfect example of the harmonious coexistence between man and nature. The route takes us along paths that have been traveled for centuries, leading to gardens and orchards, pastures and wheat fields, in a daily movement, like a heart beating between the heat of the village and the surrounding fertile land that nourishes it.
Fig, quince, olive, orange, loquat and lemon trees comprise the pleasant, surrounding orchards. The fields feed sheep, goats, cows, chickens and geese. Among many wild birds, you can watch carrion crows, white wagtails, cattle egrets, Eurasian wrens, corn buntings and Eurasian blackcaps. You can also find traces of the wild boar, mud wallows, rubs and rooting. In the hedges, groves and on the edges of the agricultural fields, wild plants such as honeysuckle, gum rockrose, false olive, lavender, kermes oak, gall oak, butcher’s-broom and flax-leaved daphne abound. Some are used in cooking, as is the case of laurel, wild asparagus, oregano or strawberry tree. In the wettest places they grow together with St John’s wort and apple mint, and on the banks of the water lines the willows are aplenty.
The trail crosses Quinta da Mandorelha, an emblematic location in Cercal where, until a few years ago, courtship and dancing took place to the sound of the harmonica and accordion.
While there are vestiges of human activity in Cercal since prehistory, it was from the Roman occupation time that Cercal became one of the most inhabited places in the region, and it is easy to understand why: the relief is flattened, the fields are protected from sea winds by Cercal’s mountain range, and the water is abundant, coming from springs in the mountains and distributed by the water lines that cross the territory. Reports from the eighteenth century describe Cercal of the Alentejo as being surrounded by “vast assemblages of cork oaks and large marshlands” with the lands producing “copious wheat harvests”.
In this prosperous land, agriculture has always had an ally in the mining of copper, iron and manganese. Of these, iron was the main metal mined, in the five mines of this parish – Cerro da Fonte Santa, Toca do Mocho, Serra da Mina, Serra das Tulhas and Serra de Rosalgar, which ceased activity in the year 2000.
A legend tells of a nobleman who arrested his daughter in the tower of Casa das Heras, in Mandorelha, locking her away from meeting a commoner whom she was in love with, and throwing the key into the waterfall. The captive girl used to come to the window, by the tumultuous waters, combing her hair as she sang a sad song. One day she ceased to appear, and the people believed she threw herself into the water. From then on, during full moon nights, the ghost of the young woman appears in Mandorelha, running a gold comb through her hair, and singing as she used to.
Where to start
Cercal do Alentejo
At the village’s roundabout (Largo dos Caeiros).
Rules and Recommendations
Cercal do Alentejo has many cafes and restaurants – enjoy them!
There are other routes in this area. Pay attention to the signage.