There really is no shortage of dramatically located beaches on the west coast of Portugal. Drive off the main road down dusty tracks towards the ocean and you’ll inevitably find yourself stood looking at a pristine beach nestling in a cove between towering cliffs, and sheltered from the ocean by monumental headlands.
We’d been told that the Praia do Carvalhal, a few kilometres from where we were staying, was one of the finest beaches in the area – which, given the competition, is quite an achievement. More importantly for those of us who find sitting on a beach a bit tiresome, there is an absolutely tremendous walking trail that heads south from Praia do Carvalhal across the cliff tops.
First though, lunch. You’d never know it, but the tiny (blink and you’ll miss it) village of Brejao harbours one of the finest restaurants in the area; combining a trip that featured good seafood and a spectacular beach seemed too good to pass up. One delicious fish stew later we plonked ourselves down on the beach amidst a scattering of Portuguese families enjoying themselves. After a little relaxation I decided to leave the beach bum in our party to enjoy the beach while I explored the walking trail.
The route is wonderful. I set off from the beach and climbed up to the cliff top overlooking it and then headed south. Without a map or a clear idea of where exactly I was going, I stuck to the small sandy trails and passed through some beautiful coastal scenery. On the cliff tops small succulents were growing, many of them in flower, and out to sea small coves and inlets appeared amidst a landscape of jagged, crumbling rocks.
After an hour of wandering around I found myself overlooking another, smaller but no less dramatic beach with no obvious way of getting to it other than the rough track I’d followed to get there. This whole area is tremendously beautiful, rolling sand dunes, jagged cliffs and vast panoramas over the Atlantic…and you can enjoy all of this without bumping into another human being, for a couple of hours at least.