The Historical Way Stage
This is Rota Vicentina’s most mountainous section as well as a physically demanding one, with long ascent segments on harsh and irregular terrain. But you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the plains and the Atlantic ocean, right from the top of the hills.
The flatter areas of this section are liberally peppered with small orchards, vegetable patches and low-intensity farming, while in amongst the undergrowth can be found the remains of the area’s iron and manganese mines which operated here for over 40 years. The old mineshafts are now home to large colonies of several species of bat that work tirelessly, night after night, both as pest controllers and seed spreaders. Every single night each bat eats 50% of its body weight in insects.
The southern part of this section becomes hillier and offers walkers some spectacular scenery, such as Rocha de Água d’Alte, and the breathtaking views of the coastline. Underground streams sometimes bubble up onto the surface into springs that feed small streams, and the flora is unique, dominated by the beautiful and aromatic gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer). The only blot on the horizon is the view of the ubiquitous eucalyptus plantations, a major cause of several losses to the area, soil in erosion, water due to the tree’s insatiable thirst, natural habitat due to its monoculture, and, of course, countryside employment. However, it is quite interesting to see how the local flora explodes whenever it finds an open, sunny area among the eucalyptus trees. Nature could flourish here, given the chance. After Penedo, you don’t even have to leave the trail to find some very rare species as they grow on the hard and dry soil right beside the path.
Where to start
Cercal do Alentejo
At the roundabout of Cercal do Alentejo (Largo dos Caeiros), follow the road towards Milfontes.
Next to the bus stop on the road N120 which crosses S. Luís, head towards the Church.
Rules and Recommendations
A demanding section
As the final part of this section can be a little exhausting, you can shorten it by going directly to S. Luís by the circular route. You will lose, however, the São Domingos mountain range (the highest point of the Historical Way – 329 m).
You will not find any refreshments along the way. You should bring water (1.5 L minimum) and enough provisions for a walk that is one of the most demanding of the Rota Vicentina.
Pay attention to the signage as there are intersections with several Circular Routes.