We traveled to Portugal in the summer of 2014, arriving at Lisbon late in the evening. We didn’t have time to hang around as first thing in the morning we packed up and left our hotel and we were soon driving down the length of Portugal to the famous Algarve region. In all it was a pretty long journey with not a lot to see, though the drive over the Ponte Vasco da Gama (the longest bridge in Europe) was pretty incredible. When we finally got to our hotel in the little town of Sagres it was already late afternoon and we were content just to have some rest and food.
The next day though we finally headed out into Sagres itself, just to explore some of the town and the coastline. Sagres is in the extremity of south west Europe, being only a couple of kilometres from Cape St Vincent.
Besides being a bustling tourist destination Sagres’s other claim to fame is its historic connections to Henry the Navigator, a prince of Portugal and a great patron of early Portuguese exploration. Henry had a villa in the area and is often credited with reviving the Algarve. He greatly encouraged the mapping of the Portuguese coast and financed several expeditions to the Azores and the coast of West Africa. There are even tales that Henry built a Navigation School in Sagres, though this is now widely considered to be just a myth. Eventually Henry died in Sagres in 1460 and numerous statues are now dedicated to him across the Algarve, including one in Sagres and nearby Lagos.
After exploring some of the clifftops I spied a rather large, castle-looking site and suggested we head over there to take a look. What I’d seen, turned out to be Sagres Fortress, a military fort built in the 16th century to defend Portugal’s western coast from enemy raiders. Not that it did much good mind you, in 1587 Sir Francis Drake led an attack on the fortress. After two hours of fighting, the English buccaneers were unable to storm the castle so they instead pillaged the fort’s artillery, rendering it useless. Additionally the castle was severely damaged in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755,. This is a little know event outside of Portugal but it was something that kept cropping up on our holiday and it is definitely deserving of further discussion in another post. The fortress was later restored in the mid 20th century and its now open for tourist to mill around in and provides a wonderful vantage point to view the rest of the Sagres coastline.
I hope you enjoyed this first part of my trip to Portgual. If you did enjoy it feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.