In her previous post, Mary wrote about a fantastic 16 km walk between Salir and Alte. This post suggests three different walks that you can do between Alte and São Bartolomeu de Messines.
The advantage of this section is that it actually allows you to choose between 3 different lengths of walk, depending on how far you want to walk and the time you have available. The map and route description are available free from http://www.viaalgarviana.org.
You start in the lovely village of Alte, with its pretty houses, cobbled streets and the beautiful Fontes. Give yourself enough time to explore this delightful area; it is a great place for a picnic breakfast before you set out.
If you choose option 1 or 3 you will visit S.B. de Messines which is a practical, lived in, Algarve town. There are some interesting old houses, a sixteenth century church and a museum. S. B. De Messines is also the birthplace of João de Deus Ramos, a famous poet and educationalist. You will see many references to him as you walk through the town.
Another big plus with this walk is that you explore an area which really exposes you to the delights of the Barrocal or limestone region. This, less well known, area of the Algarve is characterised by dry fruit orchards, neat, carefully tended vegetable patches or hortas and simple agricultural practices. You will walk along some quintessential footpaths joining small clusters of houses. If you complete the whole section you will walk along a section of the Ribeiro Meirinho, which is green, shaded and unspoilt.
The disadvantage is primarily that none of the three options provide a circular route and your only feasible way back to your car is by taxi. The second disadvantage is that if you complete the full walk, you will have about 20 minutes of rather unpleasant road walking near the end (but you have had the delight of the stream walking mentioned above!) Note: In winter, some of the shops and cafes in Alte are closed.
So now it is time to go ahead and choose the best option for you!
The full section from Alte to S. B. De Messines. It is just over 19 km in distance and requires at least 5 hours. There are shops and cafes at the beginning and the end, and a petrol station at Portela de Messines with a small shop and cafe, a little over halfway along the walk.
Walk from Alte to Portela de Messines. It is just over 12 km in distance and requires about 2.5 hours. There are shops and cafes at the beginning of the walk in Alte and a petrol station at the end with a small shop and cafe.
Walk from Alte to Vale Vinagre and take a short cut, on road, to S.B. de Messines. This is 12 km in distance and requires about 2.5 hours. The road you will walk on is not very busy but does not have a pavement. There are shops and cafes at the beginning and the end only.
The route is well marked with the characteristic red and white painted lines. However there are a few confusing spots, particularly at the beginning in Alte and at Perna Seca, just after passing the Fonte dos Termos. I have described these parts of the walk in detail, for the rest of the route you will easily follow the way marking.
Whichever option you choose, begin your walk at the Fontes in Alte. There is a parking space across from the public toilets. Be sure and have a look at the public laundry area, a feature that is becoming less and less common even in rural Algarve. The last time I visited, I was amused to see that the wash tubs and clothes lines were again in use, this time by some of the motor home owners who visit Algarve in winter. Nice to see this quaint public facility back in use!
From the bridge, walk towards Marco´s Bar and turn left.
You will pass an attractive shop selling soap and other natural products made from olive oil.
Bear right following a sign to the centre.
Bear right again (away from the centre) and up Rua dos Pisadoiros. Here, there is a striking tile painting of a lady preparing the esparto grass for use in making baskets. This is a real insight into the life of the ordinary men and women of this area. The painting does not romanticise the work; this was heavy physical work as the grass, once picked, had to be prepared and made flexible to be later woven into baskets and other containers. A short description in Portuguese, also painted on tiles, describes the process.
Continue onto Rua Placido Sousa Viera, where again there are some lovely tiles. Here turn right onto Rua das Almas and continue onto Rua José da Costa Guerreiro.
At the second sign for Rua José da Costa Guerreiro, turn sharp right across the road and then left.
You will pass a gateway with two large black painted eagles. As you walk out of town, don’t forget to also look up and check the skies overhead as there are often birds of prey in this area.
The Algarve Way signs are clear from this point to the Fonte dos Termos, so just enjoy your walk.
Pass the fonte and soon the Algarve Way leaves the road you have been walking on and goes onto a small grassy track on the right, which descends. This track soon rejoins the road.
Where the road bends at Rua Cruz dos Termos, go straight ahead and bear right, down another track. This is the beginning of some absolutely lovely footpath walking.
When the track bends right (you can see some houses in the distance), you must leave the main track and take the second of 2 small tracks in front of you. The first small track has a sign showing it is the wrong way; it is difficult to find the sign on the second track, as it is about 50 meters ahead on a tree.
Once you have identified the correct path, the walk is absolutely delightful; you can hear the waters of a small stream on your right.
Turn left on the level, and soon this becomes a distinct footpath. Eventually you reach a wider track, where you turn right. Follow this until you turn left up a gentle hill. You are now on your way to the small hamlet of Torre. The way is clearly signed.
Leave the village, passing the small school building on your right. The school no longer functions as a school, but has been turned into a wooden toy factory by three local ladies. If it is open, drop in to see them at work.
About 9 km from the start of your walk, you reach Vale Vinagre and join a larger road. Here is the point (Option 3) where you can walk into São Bartolomeu de Messines by following this road and turning left under the motorway into the town.
For option 1 and 2 continue along the road in the direction of Messines. Ignore a left turn and just before a ruined house on your left, turn left, up a small track which runs past the house. You soon see the motor way structure ahead and Portela de Messines, which is the end of Option 2. Take a break at the petrol station, while you call a taxi from Messines. The staff in the petrol station may have some suggestions but I have provided some telephone numbers below.
To complete the Algarve Way (option 1) continue past the petrol station on your left and pick up the Algarve Way sign, taking you off the road to the right.
The second section of the route is well signed. The highlight is the section along the Ribeiro Meirinho, where we have seen up to 20 turtles basking on the rocks. Walking through this area you feel like you are miles away from everyone, so allow some time to slow your pace and just enjoy it.
Unfortunately you have a short section of road walking, and then you reach the 18th century sanctuary of Nossa Senhora de Saude, just before you drop down into S.B. Messines.
S.B. de Messines is not a striking town but once you start to walk around it, you will see that it is an intriguing town, with some lovely old buildings and shops. It has a relaxed feel and is a friendly, comfortable place to unwind after your walk.
Where to eat
Tapas e Vinho, R. José Rodrigues Martins 13. (Closed on Sundays)
A small, friendly, cosy place where the owner really does try to make you feel welcome. Good selection of tapas, which are sometimes quite big, almost a meal in themselves. This is a great place to try something different. The staff are very helpful and will explain what the dishes are. The owner speaks English. Good wines too.
Cafe Académico, Rua Cândido dos Reis
Easy to find, friendly, and popular restaurant and cafe. Good value traditional food.
It only takes place for a few days in the year, but if you can, do this walk during the annual Semana Gastronómica de São Bartolomeu de Messines. This week, usually at the end of November, is a great opportunity to try some of the older, traditional dishes, often forgotten today. Most of the restaurants in the town and in the countryside around participate in the event. The food is great, the atmosphere is welcoming and there are often local musicians who visit the restaurants and stay to play a few tunes.
Returning to Alte
The only option is a taxi from either Portela de Messines or from S.B. Messines. It will cost €12- €16.
- Táxis De Messines, Lda:282 330 160
- Eliseu & Nunes, Lda :282 339 101; 966 349 941
- Taxi Vitor Martins :282 330 160