Walking the Trilho das Vinhas
Urban and rural co-exist on a hidden ecological trail
In the city of Cascais, Portugal, there is hidden trail that the locals probably don’t want you to know exists hidden right behind the Mercado. The Trilho das Vinhas (Vineyard Trail) is an ecological trail that stretches 2.6 miles one way from the city center of Cascais to the civil parish of Alcabideche heading towards Sintra.
Although we have been to the Cascais Mercado da Vila many times, it wasn’t until friends who lived in Cascais mentioned they had walked the trail. So, one early afternoon, Paul and I set out to find this hidden gem.
If you walk past the parking lot behind the Mercado and step over some low curbing, you might not notice the paved pathway across from a stretch of parking that abuts towering condominium buildings - but keep walking – even if you think you’re heading nowhere - and you’ll come to the entrance of the trail where there is an explanation of its purpose (in Portuguese). Part of the description when loosely translated to English, describes the reason for the trail:
In addition to being an ecological corridor, this valley has always been used by Man, whether to access the Sintra mountain range or via a gentler slope, such as to use the force of the water to grind with the water mills…
Toponymics reveal the shape of time, how each part of the territory had a function and a name, Ribeira das Vinhas, Marmeleiros, Pião and Mule, represent the collective memory of Cascais and its connection to the Sintra mountain range.
The trail winds its way through a valley, with steep, high slopes on either side of the trail, where you can see homes and high-rise condominium and apartment dwellings through the trees and vegetation. Private properties and small farms line either side of the trail. The trail path is wide and flat, and the surface is hard, making it easy for a leisurely walk, a run, a bike ride, or even a horseback ride.
It also serves the residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods as there are offshoot hilly pathways and roads that when taken, can take them closer to where they live.
As we walked along the trail, we came across only a few people walking, a couple of bike riders and one runner. Rounding a bend in the path, we saw fenced-in plots of land where crops were guarded by a scarecrow. Orange trees were full of ripe fruit. Roosters crowed in the distance. A windmill stood idle amongst the vegetation waiting for a breeze.
We continued walking and came across small walled estates with ancient doorways and gated entrances. Although we didn’t see any vineyards as the name of the trail suggests, one property owner had lined the top of the property fencing with a series of intertwining vines.
A symphony of bells
We heard bells ringing, and as we kept walking the sound got closer. Around another bend, a fenced-in section of land held a herd of sheep - the source of the bells - as the older ones had leather collars with melodic brass bells attached. It was a symphony of bells! Some sheep were grazing lazily, some were heading down a steep slope to join the others, the little ones eyed us cautiously, and some were curious enough to come up to the fence to say hello. Spend a few minutes with these gentle creatures and listen to their bells, and your stress-level will completely disappear.
A short way down the trail, we came across a chicken coop and some ducks. A neighboring dog came over to say hello, and he escorted us on our travels for a while.
This is an interesting combination of urban and rural co-existing - a blend of the old and the new - and the feeling is peaceful, unhurried, and inspiring all at the same time.
If you go…
If you’re in a car, park in the Mercado parking lot (always crowded on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the marketplace is in full swing).
Be respectful of private property and don’t intrude on their privacy. Respect the fencing and refrain from feeding and disturbing the animals.
The trail is shared by foot traffic, bicyclists, and horseback riders.
Picnics are allowed. No fires of any kind are allowed.
The trail is dog friendly. Keep your pooch on a leash at all times and clean up after your pet. However, be aware that some dogs on the private properties are guard dogs. They may be behind property walls, but always be aware when walking with your pet.
This is a nature trail, so be aware that some critters may be around. Stay on the pathways.
There are no restroom facilities or water stations along the trail. The Mercado has public restrooms.
There are park benches scattered throughout the trail and plenty of shade trees if you want to take a break and enjoy the surroundings.
Until next time…