This was a very enjoyable hike that combines areas of natural beauty with historical sites dating back to the 9th century BC.
The starting point for this hike was the Parque de Lazer de Nossa Senhora de Valinhas (Our Lady of Valinhas Leisure Park). This small park area is located a few kilometres from the town of Santo Tirso, and is a 35 minute drive from Porto.
Within about five minutes from starting the hike, we reached our first point of interest. The Valinhas water mills (Azenhas de Valinhas) were fed by the River Leça and were used to mill grains, trim fabrics and to operate hydraulic saws. There are said to be ruins of ten mills at this location, some being partially hidden by vegetation. There are four obvious ruins alongside the hiking trail.
From the ruins of the mills, the trail began its uphill climb over areas of rocks and dirt footpaths. The trail is well marked with a combination of sign posts and the distinctive red and yellow paint markings along the way. We were also following a GPS trail using the Wikiloc app, that had been uploaded by Wikiloc member João Marques Fernandes.
After a bit of a climb, the trail levelled out as we reached the 18th century Capela da Senhora do Padrão. An inscription above the door indicates that the chapel was built in 1738. It was closed at the time of our visit, but is said to be decorated with several paintings and contains an image in polychrome granite of Christ crucified. Legend has it that this chapel marks the place where the old Church and Benedictine Monastery of Monte Padrão was located.
Our next checkpoint provided a panoramic overview of Santo Tirso and the surrounding area. As we approached the overlook, we passed a couple of heavily burned areas, victims of the wildfires that occur each summer. Fortunately, the burnt areas were not widespread.
The historical highlight of the hike was a visit to the archeological site of Castro do Monte Padrão, formerly known as Monte Córdoba. This is a site of significant scientific importance, as it is known to have been occupied as early as the 9th century BC. The site was declared a national monument in 1910 and has been the subject of archaeological excavations since the 1950’s.
The fortified settlement was first occupied from the late Bronze Age to early Iron Age. The circular buildings at the northern end of the site date back to that period.
Subsequently, under Roman occupation, the buildings in the fortress took on a rectangular shape and a layout that encompassed a central open-air courtyard, surrounded by rooms.
At the southern end of the complex are the remains of a medieval temple with numerous burial necropolis.
At the southern periphery of the site, beyond a stand of cork oak trees, is a primitive defensive wall, or battlement. This may be one of the oldest parts of the complex.
Leaving the castro site behind, the route took us back past the 18th century chapel and the Monte Padrão Interpretive Centre (which was closed). After walking a short distance via paved road, we arrived at the Serra de Pereiras which is described as one of the last vestiges of the ancestral wood sawing mills in the municipality of Santo Tirso.
Probably built at the end of the 19th century, this mill is representative of a pre-industrial mode of production. The original building was built entirely of wood, was also smaller and narrower, and was used exclusively for sawing wood. Around the 1950’s, the building was extended by installing a large wheel to hydraulically move two millstones installed in a dwelling attached to the original building. This permitted the mill to grind grain in addition to sawing wood.
The Leça River runs alongside the mill and there is a pleasant picnic area beyond it. At the time of our visit, the river was more of a babbling brook due to the recent hot and dry weather but, in the winter, significantly more water passes through. We enjoyed our picnic lunch beside the river, listening to the gurgling water and watching dragonflies and birds.
The saw mill was the last of the historic points of interest. From there, the hike took us through areas of natural beauty, as we generally followed the route of the Leça River. The trails were mostly rocky with some lovely river views. When we reached the area of the Fervença waterfalls, sections of the route were on steep, downhill, smooth rock, that required a high degree of caution. Whilst the trail was quite tricky in places, it was well shaded. As we are in the dry season, the waterfalls were almost non-existent. We will have to return in the winter to see them in their full flow. But, even without a fast-flowing river, it is a lovely scenic area.
We left the trail and followed the route along paved road for a while, and then there was a final climb to get us back to the bike, which was parked at the Leisure Park.
The hike covered a total of 7.55km and took us 3 hours and 28 minutes to complete, including our stop for a picnic lunch. The elevation ranged from 186 metres to 412 metres.
A GPS track for our route can be downloaded from Wikiloc using this link.
The trail by João Marques Fernandes (that we used) can be accessed using this link