While we were in Guimaraes we had set ourselves two main tasks. The first was to visit the Castle of Guimaraes which was voted by the people of Portugal as the number one wonder of Portugal.
And our second task was to see the stunning views of Guimaraes and the surrounding countryside from the summit of Penha Hill. Now we could have driven our motorhome the seven kilometres up the twisting and cobbled road, as at the top there is a campsite and there were two free places there as well where we could have parked our motorhome and stayed overnight. Or we could have walked up.
However, right next to where we had parked our motorhome on the outskirts of Guimaraes was a cable car station. why walk up when you can ride up? Deby is not a great fan of heights and really doesn’t enjoy these sort of rides, but she’ll do it for the chance to go on a nice walk back down again.
We had parked there for a number of reasons one of which was to go up Penha Hill by cable car. When we did our last big European tour in 2002 in a motorhome we used to love using the funiculars in Austria and Switzerland to go up the hills and mountains and then walking back down. It cost us €4 each to go up in the cable car and nothing to return as we walked down.
The wooded summit of Penha Hill is 617 metres above sea level, so really not very high, particularly bearing in mind where we started from had some elevation.
Here’s an illustrated map of the summit of Penha Hill.
Its cool woods make it a wonderful escape from the city and summer heat, although when we were there in the second week of June and it was cool enough for both of us to be wearing sweatshirts at the top. The hill has 60 hectares of protected green areas to explore.
Particularly around the summit, there are massive boulders, covered in moss, some of which are in huge piles.
There are tiny hidden staircases that climb up through the boulders that lead to secret hidden grottoes, or high platforms with great views. Some of the boulders are crowned with crosses and there are flowers everywhere. In places you have to crouch down and crawl underneath to continue, or turn sideways and slip through narrow gaps, or follow tiny, narrow and winding stone steps through the rocks. It really was a very adventurous walk – I bet kids would love it here. So much fun to explore.
The hills boulder art was built up by a team of masons led by the master mason Jose de Pina.
The miraculous spring and fountain of Saint Catherine, these days is fed by a carefully concealed hosepipe just to make sure it still runs, which is somewhat disappointing! Let’s pretend we didn’t see that.
We walked about up on the top exploring for quite a while and then it was time for us to make our way down back to the motorhome.
We used trusty Google Maps to get us back down through all the winding and hidden pathways through the rocks and the forests. Some short stretches on the road but mostly trails through the woods, then down into the lower parts and through the village where we admired the local massive stones that were used to build the houses.
We had great time exploring what Penna Hill had to offer!