The good things about Portugal include fabulous wine, great beaches, reliable sunshine, Cataplana. The bad things about Portugal at least as far as running goes is that it’s all hills. We stayed in the Monchique area about an hour west of Faro and 20km north of Portimao. Monchique is a pretty little hill town where not much of nothing goes on. Close by is the highest peak in the country – Foia which at 2,963ft affords a fantastic view over the coastal plains and you can see from Cap St Vincent on the westernmost point right along past Portimao to the east.
But enough geography; where does a man run when all around is near-vertical hills?
The beautiful villa we stayed in was just outside Monchique halfway up the Foia mountain with hills in every direction. The best beaches are not on the south coast in my opinion where all the tommy tourists go but equidistant from Monchique to the west. Driving to Aljezur from Monchique directly west through Marmelate takes about 40 mins and from there you leave the coast road just north of the village of Aljezur (by the public swimming pool) and take off left down a dusty but well made road/track towards the sea and Amoreira Beach. The road has no name and no signs but around every corner you think you’re going to see the beach but it teases its way round coll and corner past salt flats and cuttings through bright red soil until at last rising to a halt at a small beach restaurant.
From here the view of the beach hits you like an epiphany. Arrive early morning and the clouds blow in off the rollers tasting of pure Atlantic. The waterline is peppered with surfers (there’s even a surf school there the surf is so good) and the sand is clean and uncrowded.
Park the car, have a coffee in the restaurant, put your running shoes on and head back down the track towards the main road. It’s about 4 miles if you run the whole way back but just before the main road there’s a little restaurant where you can refill your water supply and turn around and head back. The view each way seems to change and you notice things you didn’t on the way out. That house on the hill facing seawards with an all-glass seaview lounge – i’ll buy that when i can afford it. The menu at the restraurant – i’ll be hungry when i get there – what shall I order? The baby squids? The grilled sole? Or just a mediterranean salad rinsed with fresh lemon and olive oil?
It’s not a hard run, and the rolling clouds will keep you cool until about 11am when the fierce sun wins the day. Its not a particularly scenic run either if I’m honest but the route is strangely intriguing and the reward is in the completing of it and lunch that awaits.
And besides, it must be the only one in Portugal that doesn’t have any effin’ hills.