Fisherman's Trail Portugal Portugal Main

Day 1: Sagres to Vila do Bispo

As I write the first part of this post, it is lunch time and I am sitting in Sagres, where I slept last night and left this morning, instead of walking towards Vila do Bispo. Not exactly what I had imagined.

I had a good night’s sleep, 10 hours all told, waking every now and then. The breakfast was excellent with a large selection – far more than I had expected. At breakfast I spoke with an Italian lady walking in the opposite direction than I am, she had only 4 days to walk in, as she had three kids back home and her husband was looking after them. 

As today was a short walk, 21 kilometers, I decided to take a 2 kilometer detour to Sagres Fort, on the tip on the peninsula. It was closed and wasn’t open for another 30 minutes, so I decided to walk back towards the official path. The route was a mixture of road and sand/rock paths, with fantastic views of coves and beaches, 30m below. I could see my first stop, the St. Vincent lighthouse, in the distance as I enjoyed the beautiful weather.

I’d walked ca. 6 kms., when my phone rang. It was a Portuguese number. I hesitated, but took it. It was the hotel. For the first time in 50+ years of travelling, I’d left my passport in my room at the hotel. They didn’t want to send it with a taxi. I didn’t fancy walking back again, so I checked bus times. There was a bus from the lighthouse to Sagres in about a hours, and another back to the lighthouse an hour later. I continued towards the lighthouse, relieved that I would be able to pick up my passport and still make it to Vila do Bispo.

Beyond the surfing and beaches, the areas biggest tourist attraction is the Portuguese Navy’s St. Vincent Lighthouse. It is Europe’s second most powerful lighthouse, safeguarding one of the world’s most hectic shipping lanes. It’s beam shines 60 km into the Atlantic Ocean. (Phare du Creach, in Brittany, France is the most powerful). Unfortunately, you cannot visit St. Vincent’s Lighthouse, you can see it from outside. It was odd to think that not so many centuries ago, this was the end of the world and when you sailed past this point, one sailed into the unknown.

The stainless steel sculpture at the lighthouse represents St. Vincent wearing a tunic.

The bus took me back to Sagres, where I picked up my passport at the hotel and thanked them profusely. I now had over an hour to kill. As I write this, I am drinking a coffee and eating a fabulous lemon cake.

The bus to take me back was on time and at 13.30 I was back at the lighthouse St. Vincent, and back on my way again. The 13,5 km to Vila do Bispo is split into two parts. The first 8,5km along the coast, 30m above sea level, passing fabulous coves that are almost impossible unless you are on foot. Some of the beaches below can only be reached by mountain climbers and quite a few were out practicing. The going is tough, the paths either comprise of rocks (and you need to be careful where you tread) or sand (where your foot sinks into the sand). Neither are easy, not least with a backpack. But it is worth all the effort, the views are fantastic, although due to vertigo I didn’t go too close to the edge.

Via the All Trails app, I have the route marked out on my phone – with warnings if I leave the track, but the paths are very well marked, initially with blue and green stripes (representing the Fisherman’s Trail), later with red and white stripes (representing the Historical Trail that goes mostly more inland, but sometimes overlaps). Many stone cairns have been built as a visual marker – something I’ve earlier seen in Japan. It’s also amazing, given the sandy and rocky ground, how much vegetation there is.

The vegetation changes from small shrubs to green fields on the second part of the path, where it turns inland. Here it is primarily a sandstone path – a bit dusty, not least when the occasional car drives by. I even see cows grazing in some places, which I hadn’t expected so far south.

For the last few kilometers, the path turns from sandstone to a tarmac road. It’s arrived at the hotel just before 6 pm. Vila do Bispo is a small town with a couple of hotels and a few restaurants. I ate at a restaurant I had seen when the bus stopped here yesterday. They served excellent food, fish soup, fried fish, flan, a double espresso and a jug of Vinho Verde for 33 Euros. I slept well.


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