Circular Routes Stage
On this route overlooking the sea, the dune vegetation fills with color in the spring, when thymes, wild garlic, gum rockrose, lavender and shrubby everlasting perfume the atmosphere and attract an amazing diversity of insects. This variety of insects serves as food for many birds, such as larks, the European stonechat, the pipits and the corn buntings. At low tide, the restless dunlins, plovers and ruddy turnstones seek out small invertebrates to feed on. The Western jackdaw, which can be found in only a few places in Portugal, is easy to spot along this route. It likes to be in open fields with scattered trees, and near quarries or coastal cliffs, where it finds cavities to make its nest. For breeding, it forms long-lasting pairs, which nest each year in not just in the same exact place, but in the same exact nest.
The Island of Pessegueiro, 340m long and 325m wide, is a strong component of this route’s landscape, and is just 250m from the coastline. The island stands as an emerging part of a large fossil dune, now partly submerged, which resulted from the consolidation of ancient dunes formed when the sea was a few kilometers back from the current coastline. Nowadays this island works just like a giant breakwater. Two old port establishments have been documented, one that existed during the Iron Age and the other in the Roman Age, each taking advantage of the island’s natural shelter. In the second half of the first century AD, a Roman trading warehouse was founded on the Island of Pessegueiro where amphorae filled with salted or sauced fish were manufactured, while olive oil, wine and ceramics were obtained from Bética, southern Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula. In turn, the island drained mining products from Serra do Cercal. In the second century AD, modernization of construction occurred. In addition to housing and warehouses, there would be workshops (for example a forge) and a bread baking oven. At that time, the industrial activity of fish salting began, packing the salted fish in amphorae and producing it in the Sado and Tejo Rivers. From the second half of the third century, the island transitioned fully to be a center for the production of fish products. This led to the construction of buildings like the bathhouse, which contained a dressing room, a semicircular tub of cold water (which functioned as a frigidarium), hot baths, consisting of a large rectangular room controlled by an apse and heating systems (furnace and hipocaustum).
At the north end, the island seems to have been sliced by a gigantic knife. There are vestiges of a great enterprise that occurred during the end of the sixteenth century: the creation of an artificial port, whose objective was to create ideal conditions for tuna and sardine fishing and for the settlement of inhabitants in the region. At the same time, the construction of a fort on the island and on the land began as well, in order to protect the port. However, this project was abandoned in 1603, due to the political issues of the time, frequent pirate attacks and technical difficulties.
Where to start
At the main square.
Rules and Recommendations
Refreshments along the way
In Porto Covo.
At the turning point of this circular route, you can continue with the Fishermen’s Trail another 200m to visit the beach of Ilha do Pessegueiro.
Pay attention to the high tide period, which may make it impossible to cross the fishing port of Porto Covo.
Pay attention to the signage as there are intersections with other routes.