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      November 2013 > On foot in the Douro

On foot in the Douro

Self-guided walking holidays in PortugalWe asked Cristina Van Zeller, who runs Casa de Vilarinho – a delightful manor house hotel on our Valley of Gold holiday – to describe her favourite walk:

“When I was a little girl, my father – a keen walker – would take me on long rambling adventures through the hills of the Serra de Gerês, right on the northern border with Spain.

Those walks have left such indelible memories on my mind that I quite naturally turned to him for his advice when looking for the best walking options here in the Douro. We had just finished the long, but hugely rewarding, task of refurbishing our home, the Casa de Vilarinho, and so it was now time to start exploring.

Together, we followed many varied routes: traversing silent forests, crossing deep valley bottoms and climbing to the dramatic tops of mountains. Of all the walks we did – some more than once – I think my favourite has to be the route to Pinhão, taking in the peak of São Domingos on the way to enjoy the fabulous panoramic views.

Self-guided walking holidays in PortugalAnd what views they are! All the way down to the winding River Douro far below and the neat vineyard terraces of Quinta do Noval and the hamlet of Casal de Loivos on the far hillside. It’s certainly spectacular, with the colours of the landscape continually changing throughout the year, from vibrant springtime greens to the rich browns and yellows of late summer, and the stunning reds of autumn. Very special.”

Cristina knows all the best places to walk in the area, and she’s very knowledgeable on local history, too. The estate was the very first place to grow potatoes in the whole of Portugal after they were brought back to Europe following the expeditions to ‘discover’ the New World in the 16th century!

With views over steep terraced vineyards from Casa de Vilarinho, the mind invariably turns to wines and what best accompanies your dinner each evening. Here, our friends at Laithwaite’s Wine offer their suggestions.


Self-guided walking holidays in PortugalMention ‘Douro’ and most wine lovers will think of Port, the classic fortified dessert wine traditionally brought out at Christmas, passed to the left and served with Stilton cheese! Of all the places where people have planted vineyards, the Douro has to be the most improbable. It is unlike any wine region in the world. The rocky, dramatically steep slopes rise from the river below. Vines are terraced in small neat rows – anywhere a tiny, stony plot of ground can be claimed. The hot wind swirls in-land from Oporto, the historic town on the cusp of the North Atlantic and the Douro itself. The wines reflect the dramatic climate, geology and geography. They are intense, pure, powerful and completely unforgettable. The first notable non-fortified Douro wine, the now-legendary Barca Velha, was first made in 1952, but it’s really only in the past 15-20 years that the area has begun to be taken seriously as a producer of great red table wines and some truly rarified whites.


Self-guided walking holidays in PortugalAltitude by Duorum – RRP £12.49 (64634)

Here is why people say there has been a winemaking revolution in Portugal! Dark inky purple colour leads to an intense, concentrated bramble nose of ripe blackberry and baking spice. There’s plenty of dark, ripe, black and red fruit. So pure and defined – you could mistake it for Barossa Shiraz. Brilliant quality. The finish is long and bright, a wine you’ll remember.

Self-guided walking holidays in PortugalPorrais Reserva (white) – RRP £11.99 (29075)

The dizzyingly high vines at Quinta de Porrais are on average 65 years old (many of them well over 100) and that combination of age and altitude gives you a wine of great freshness, with an intense nose of white peach and tropical fruit, sprinkled with fresh spice and brimful of beautifully rich, tropical and orchard fruits that leave you wanting more.


You can buy any of the featured wines at and, as an Inntravel customer, you can benefit from a 20% discount on your first order over £50 if you order before 16 February 2014 by clicking here > and quoting ‘INNTRAVEL’.*


Enter our competition to win a short holiday for two people in the beautiful Langhe wine growing region of Piedmont in Italy. Two runners up will receive a case of wine specially selected by Laithwaite's.

* offer only available to new Laithwaite's Wine customers

Posted: 13/11/2013 09:35:28 by | with 1 comments
Filed under: competitions, festivals, gastronomy, lifestyle, opinions, Portugal, slow

Jeremy Head
I did this walk a while back. It's a really great trip. You can read my write up here:
Jeremy Head
Travel writer
09/01/2014 17:11:17

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