PR3 Hike from Moldes

Yesterday, we enjoyed another of the lovely Portuguese hiking trails. This time it was a section of the PR3 trail, starting and ending at an 18th century church, the Igreja Matriz de Moldes. Our hiking companions for the day were Paul, Angela and Samia.

We headed off from the church on a paved road, but we were soon on a dirt track and beginning our ascent. The first half of the hike would ascend from an elevation of 411 metres to 793 metres, but it was a gradual climb and not too taxing. The trail passed through a nice wooded area, with lots of chestnut trees.

We emerged from the trees and were greeted by a distinctive church as we entered the small village of Bustelo. As we passed through the village, we enjoyed looking at old granite buildings with slate roofs, a couple of espigueros (the traditional granaries) and some corn stacks in the fields.

As we continued walking, the trail took us past abandoned buildings, corn fields, grape vines and even stacks of chopped firewood.

Back into a wooded area, we enjoyed the shade as we crossed a gentle stream over an old, moss-covered stone bridge. The trail became more rocky as it continued its upwards climb.

As we continued our ascent, we came to perhaps the most beautiful part of the trail, as a small river cascaded down rocks alongside the trail. There is an old watermill at this location, with its walls covered in moss and its roof so overgrown with vines that it almost blends into its surroundings. It was already 12.45pm and it was such an exquisite location that we decided to stop there for lunch. We sat on the rocks at the edge of the trail, with our legs dangling a few feet away from the gurgling river, whilst we enjoyed our picnic. Perfect!

We pushed onwards, and upwards, watching out for the brambles that overhung the trail, ready to scratch anyone who passed. They managed to inflict minor injuries to Paul and Angela! As we got closer to the maximum elevation of our hike, the topography changed. We had moved out of the forested area and were now in a more barren scape, with large granite boulders strewn across the mountain. We detoured from the marked PR3 trail to visit the village of Espinheiro. Again, we enjoyed seeing old granite cottages with traditional slate roofs, as well as more espigueros. Paul’s hopes of getting a coffee from the Casa no Campo restaurant were dashed, as it was closed. We were thankful that we had carried a lunch with us, and hadn’t relied on eating at the restaurant. We still enjoyed the view from the restaurant’s car-park.

Rejoining the PR3 route, the views of the surrounding countryside opened up, as we reached our maximum elevation. In some places, the assorted ferns were taking on their autumn appearance, adding more variety to the colour of the vista. And the ladies couldn’t resist climbing onto the boulders and hamming it up for the cameras.

We began our descent, continuing to enjoy sweeping views all the way to the Parque de Merendas da Palma. This small leisure park area has picnic tables, a built-in barbecue and a ‘swing with a view’ that presented another photo opportunity.

Further down the trail, we passed another water mill and then entered the village of Fuste, where we saw the Chapel of Santa Catarina (built in 1747).

Now walking on paved roads, we passed through the village of Vila Cova, where a large espigueiro sits on the roadside. A little way further, a group of villagers were harvesting corn/maize from a roadside field.

A little further along the road, we reached a delightful area alongside the Ribeira de Moldes. In a stand of trees, there is yet another water mill, as well as the Pertebelho Bridge. This is where we left the paved road and returned to a dirt trail – across the bridge and uphill to the village of Povoa.

Moving through Povoa, we encountered more corn fields, traditional buildings and espiguieros. Whilst I have seen many, many espigueiros, they have always been empty. This was the first time that I have seen one fully loaded with corn/maize. Quite a treat to see!

The final village along the route was Friães. Perhaps the most notable feature in the village is a tunnel built into an old granite building. It accesses a small lane with more traditional buildings beyond it.

The trail continued to move uphill from Friães until it joined the paved road that took us back to our starting point at the church. A very enjoyable hike had been completed.

Our route covered a total distance of 13.85 kilometres and took us 5 hours 40 minutes to complete, including our lunch and rest stops, and lots of stops for photographs. Our actual moving time across the route was 3 hours and 48 minutes.

Moldes, the starting point for our hike is just south of the town of Arouca. It is about a one-hour drive/ride from Porto.

A GPS track for this route can be found at Wikiloc, using this link

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