Our friends, Jason and Julia, wanted to experience a nature hike in Portugal, but they don’t have a vehicle to get to hiking trails. So, I researched options that we could reach via train and came up with this very pleasant route around the Rio Ferreira and the village of Couce.
I was already quite familiar with part of the route, as I usually take my dirt-bike to the same area for off-road riding. This time, however, we caught a train from Porto’s Sao Bento station to Sao Martinho do Campo. The train journey takes 28 minutes and costs €1.80 each way. Bev and I have monthly all-zone Andante passes for the Metro, so we were able to take this train journey at no additional cost using the passes.
On arrival at the Sao Martinho do Campo train station, we had to reach the start of the trail. The Google Maps app told us that we had to walk for 39 minutes to reach the trail, taking a large loop on public roads in order to cross the river over a road bridge. We followed the Google recommendation but, as we got close to the start of the trail, we realised that we could have taken a shorter option along the railway line and across the railway bridge.
The route started out on a dirt road but we soon reached a small wooden suspension bridge across a small river. Once over the bridge, we were on a narrow footpath. The trail took us past a huge pile of schist stone (perhaps a quarry) and then we found ourselves looking down onto the Rio Ferreira. Our route followed the river, heading in a southerly direction. Initially, we were at an elevation above the river but we gradually descended until we were at the river’s edge.
Here is a short video clip of the river from the trail above:
When we reached the Couce Bridge, we crossed the river and turned in a northerly direction, to head up the western side of the river. That took us through the small village of Couce and onto a scenic footpath that is part of the corredor ecologico (ecological corridor). Before reaching Carvoeira, we turned right to pick up a narrow trail that took us back past the suspension bridge, to the start of the trail. Along the way, we passed a large rock formation known as Fraga do Castelo. Just beyond the rock formation is an old schist ruin that appears to have been a water mill. The ruin sits at the very edge of a narrow section of the river, with some rapids. It was a lovely place to stop for a while, to enjoy the river.
Here’s a video clip of the river, next to the old ruin.
Having completed the primary route, we headed back towards the railway station. For the return route, we took the shorter (10 minutes) option across the railway bridge. There is a footpath alongside the track, so it is a safe option. And it shaves off 29 minutes from the Google-suggested route along the roads.
Our final destination was about 100 metres from the railway station – Adega Regional do Mineiros. After walking over 11 kilometres, we were ready for a late lunch and some liquid refreshment. It is a quaint old restaurant that only had one other customer when we arrived. There is no menu, so you only get to choose from whatever dishes the cook has available on the day. We had a choice of fish or francesinha – I opted for the francesinha whilst the others had the fish. The dishes were accompanied by large plates of rice, french fries and salad.
For drinks, we asked for some beer and wine but, due to the language barrier, we received something unexpected. We were brought a large jug of what appeared to be a light beer, along with four small glass beer mugs. But it wasn’t only beer! It had a sweet taste, reminiscent of a shandy (beer and 7-Up mixed together). But a later ‘conversation’ with the owner (in our minimalist Portuguese) implied that white wine was one of the components. And there was a lot of sugar remaining on the bottom of the jug after we drank the contents. A small group of locals entered the restaurant later and they also had one of these jugs, so I assumed it was a local drink. Our best guess was that it is a mix of beer, white wine and sugar. This has since been confirmed by my friend Marco, who tells me that it is commonly called “receita” (which translates to recipe). In addition to the ‘receita‘, we also ordered a jug of white wine as well as three bottles of Super Bock beer. We were riding the train home, so no worries about being over the limit! Total cost for lunch and drinks for four people – €30. It was an excellent way to end the outing.
According to the Wikiloc app, our actual hiking trail covered a distance of 7.5km and took 2 hours and 42 minutes (1 hour and 58 minutes moving time). However, according to my iPhone exercise app, including the additional walks to get to the trail from the railway station, and back (along with a stop at a cafe for water), we covered over 11km and took 3 hours and 37 minutes. The zoomed-in image of the hiking route (below) shows the proximity of the railway station (blue symbol in the bottom right corner) to the start of the trail, which are almost directly connected by the railway track.
I recorded the trail route and have uploaded it to the Wikiloc site. Anyone wishing to follow our trail can access the GPS track using this link.
Anyone wishing to extend this hike might wish to consider this route that was uploaded by another Wikiloc user. We just did the first half of this user’s track.