Jo’s Monday walk : The Masmorra Trail

In total contrast to last week’s walk, I’m taking you up into the Algarve hills today.  Winding 43kms north of Tavira on a delicious roller coaster of a road, you will find the sleepy village of Cachopo.  We can stop there on the way back, but for now we’re following signs for Martim Longo.  High up, the scenery is beautiful, even though wearing its scorched autumn gown.

A left turn and you’re on barely surfaced roads that lead you, slowly, through three scarcely known villages to your ultimate destination, Mealha. Why so much effort, you might be wondering?  Dolmens, or standing stones are the answer.  I’m taking a step back in time to the 3rd millennia BC. But first, the village of Mealha, not without its own charms, including these witches’ hat buildings.


These circular buildings, with a conical roof, are known as ‘palheiros’ and are designed to store hay for cattle.  Made of slate, the roofs are constructed of reeds from the river bed and ‘thatched’ with hay.   Up to 6 metres in diameter and 2.5 metres high, it is not unknown for them to have provided dwelling places in the past.  A little cramped, I think.

Distracted as I am, taking photos of the pointed huts and wells, I leave navigation to my partner.  He’s usually reliable, but on this occasion it takes 3 false starts to escape the clutches of the village.  Despite knowing smiles and hand signs from the villagers, we find ourselves scaling walls, only to end up in a cabbage patch.  Not shown on the map!  We cross the ‘ribeirinha’, the river bed, and fortunately dry, in entirely the wrong place. Eventually we manage to get back on track, but never with any great conviction.  It’s a warm day and I am concerned to conserve our water rations.

Some of the confusion arises because there are 3 trails leading out of the village.  We are attempting to follow PR8, which we take to be the Masmorra Trail featured in our guide book.  Much of the route seems to be uphill, but the sky has cleared to that lovely blue again, with a nice cooling breeze.  More uncertainty as the trails cross over each other, but upwards seems to be the right choice.

Not quite in despair, we are very relieved to spot, in the distance, a pair of ruined windmills.  Thank heavens, we are still on course, and we know that the dolmens are close by.  True to form, I almost pass them by.

“They’ll only be tiny” said the voice of reason.  I hadn’t expected them to be huge, but I could quite easily have gone romping down the other side of the hill and missed them completely.  Fortunately, one of us is paying attention.  After all, how big does a burial chamber need to be?  Somewhat irreverently I hop down inside, in hot pursuit of a dozing lizard.  In seconds he is alert and shimmying off into a crevice.


The Masmorra ‘anta’, or burial chamber, is 3.20 metres in diameter and comprised of 9 vertically positioned slabs.  The access would have been covered and was through a lower corridor, facing east and aligned to coincide with sunrise at the Summer Solstice.  The coverings have disappeared but the slab for the chamber would have been very large.  The ‘antas’ are always positioned on high ground, and often marking a territorial boundary.  They helped to dissuade unwelcome visitors with their magical, religious aura.

The route back to Mealha was short, downhill and very straightforward, which had us wondering if we mightn’t have been better to tackle it the other way around.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  You might like to compare my account with that of Becky, who was there last year.


Did you realise that I was going to link this post to Paula?  It’s perfect for Traces of the Past, isn’t it?  Then we’ll have a swift look at Cachopo.  The intention was to have a leisurely lunch and rest our weary feet.  Palmeiras bar had the prettiest little vine covered garden, but no food.  Trying her very best, the lovely lady behind the counter produced a dish of fresh monkey nuts to accompany our wine.  Oh, well…

This walk is featured on page 104 in Walking Trails of the Algarve, should you decide to give it a go.  If not you might prefer a little wander in the back streets of Cachopo.  Now let’s get the kettle on, shall we?

walking logo

Another bumper selection of wonderful walks this week.  I know it takes time but do please find a moment to visit.  So much effort goes into these walks and I’m very appreciative.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  All are welcome.


I know nothing about Williamsburg, but Jackie’s soon going to put that right!

Day 3, Williamsburg VA

Violet Sky has a real treat in store this week.  Don’t miss this one!

Mums on parade

Jesh always has something a little different for you :

Nostalgic Walk

30 years of walking sounds fearful!  Only joking, Geoff :

30 years on…#walking

Making the most of this lovely Autumn with Little Miss Traveler :

An autumn stroll around Burley-inWharfedale 

And I have a lovely new contributor- welcome Woolly!


BiTi has more wonderful photos from Yosemite :

Yosemite National Park- between sunrise and sunset

And Jaspa trespasses on Jude territory.  Understandably, he seems to like it!

Wheal Coates UNESCO Tin Mine, Cornwall

Tish Farrell is one of the most emotive writers I know, so it was a real pleasure to share a drowsy afternoon with her :

All Gold On All Hallows’ Eve in Bishop’s Castle

I love the west coast of the Algarve and I know you’ll enjoy seeing it with Jules.  Please go and say hi!

Five days alone hiking the Fishermen’s Trail

Drake, meanwhile is in the very best of company, down on Mathew Street :

Let it be

I’m sure most of you know Andrew, but if you haven’t had the pleasure…

Greek Islands, Amorgos and a Walk Through History

Denzil has a few ideas for keeping the family entertained on your walks :

The Fun of Finding and Photographing Fungi 

Kathryn takes us on ramble no. 20, California style :

Ewoldsen Trail

And Tobias bestows a little sparkle and shine this Monday morning :

Golden Hour

I can’t imagine anybody less idle than my lovely friend Meg.  Here’s another treat from her :

An idle stroll 

Fabulous, aren’t they?  Thank you so much for your company, and I hope you all have a great week.



    1. Yes, I could see you being happy there, Madhu. 🙂 I’m currently playing with Autumn leaves on a new laptop. Challenging for my feeble tech brain, but a good distraction. Hugs, darlin 🙂 🙂

  1. I enjoyed the walk as always, Jo. Such interesting contrasts between craggy rocks, dry brush, and blue, blue skies. And I really had to laugh about your detour through the cabbage patch! I often find myself in situations where my expectations don’t match the results of my navigation. I’ve been pretty quiet a couple of weeks, grading my law students’ midterm exams and recovering from the elections here in the U.S., but I have a contribution for the next Monday Walk: Wishing you the best!

  2. Wonderful walk, Jo. I’m sure if I was with you I would have lost my way and ended up the the cabbage patch as well 😀 The burial chambers are amazing – what a great slice of history xxxx

  3. Fascinating walk, Jo and I love the village of Mealha, those roofs are something else. Very evocative – glad you found your way out and then back. Yep, hindsight has something to answer for!

  4. Glad you managed to find the right path in the end Jo! What a fascinating walk and a world away from tourist Algarve. Wonderful photos and an incredible amount of information – has been a really good read! Hope things are settling down a bit for you and thanks for another delightful walk xx

  5. I am glad you spotted those windmills. It must be a little scary, especially on a warm day when you are worried about conserving water, not being sure if you are on the right track. As always, lovely pictures. 😉

    1. So were we! 🙂 🙂 We sometimes have the conversation about what would happen if one of us took really ill up there. Cheerful, huh? On this occasion we were passed by 2 ladies in a 4 wheel drive on the trail! Going the other way, of course 🙂 Thanks for your company.

  6. Jo I loved this walk! What an adventure. The witches hat buildings are so intriguing. Interesting how different countries come up with unique ways of hay storage. One of my fave lines from your post… “3 false starts to escape the clutches of the village”. I felt I was scaling walls and lancing in cabbage patches right with you!

    1. It was a friendly little village, Sue, but so hard to get out of! 🙂 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my yarn. Those buildings actually seem to have started out as homes, which is a bit of a worrying thought in that climate.

  7. Wow this was a neat walk Jo – a little apprehensive about the height and danger of sliding gravel and narrow paths. But to go back to 3rd millennia BC was an amazing journey to seeing the stones and reading your backdrop – leaves us with a good imagination for what was. Thanks for sharing this journey.

  8. Hello Jo, your photos are absolutely gorgeous! I love taking long walks in nature and really appreciate you sharing this lovely walk. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    1. Hiya Cathy 🙂 It was a bit of a struggle, this one, but we got it right in the end. Well, apart from going to the wrong cafe in Cachopo! 🙂 🙂 But it was a lovely shady spot and very nice wine.

  9. I love this walk – everything so sunny and clear, and many things that are new to me. I love the image of you romping, and your difficulty escaping the clutches of the village. No lizard could possibly escape you! Sending you a week’s supply of hugs. (Read the twins a book called “Hugless Douglas” on Saturday – its endpapers had at least fifteen different hugs which they practised with glee. So the weeks supply includes many of them.)

  10. You pick the most interesting walks and destinations, Jo! The cool breeze must have felt so good walking up hill. I am very familiar with not being able to stick to the trail. So much distraction with a camera in hand. Luckily, my husband is the navigator as well. But, in certain areas of the world, the trails are all but marked and are followed (or not) by trial and error. As long as one can’t get lost too badly, I am fine with that when I am mentally prepared for the occasion and adventure! I hope you found some real food not too long after all the exercise!

    1. I really appreciated the monkey nuts, funnily enough, Liesbet. It was just nice to sit in such a lovely, shady spot. If I remember rightly we went back to ours for something to eat and a chill on the patio. Best of both worlds 🙂 🙂

      1. I missed a cracker of a rainbow the other day, only saw it as we drove out of the courtyard and I had no camera! That’ll teach me to ALWAYS carry it.

  11. Hi Jo,
    Thanks for taking me on this virtual tour, and thank goodness for (travel) blogs. The world has way too many beautiful spots to visit in person. This way – reading blogs – I can at least see them virtually.
    Have a great week,

    1. Cheers, Robin! 🙂 I’ve done a number of the walks from the guide. Sometimes they’re less clear than others- or is it my map reading skills? 🙂 Lovely morning here in the NE 🙂 🙂

  12. Those little stores would make unique camping barns. I’m fascinated by Neolithic sites, burial mounds and dolmens and would love to see a Portuguese version of them. I picture the openings covered with wood to keep wolves out. I popped over to Becky’s and chuckled at your different descriptions of getting there, I know the distance doesn’t bother you but you were lucky the weather was kind to you 🙂
    Have a wonderful birthday week my love x 🙂 x

    1. It’s not a long walk if you don’t keep retracing your steps, Gilly, but it was a bit uphill! You’d not make it with your asthma. We’d have to drive you there. Sensible solution 🙂 🙂 How are you doing? It’s cold, wet and grim so I’m not walking but will be joining the girls later for coffee. Hugs, sweetheart!

      1. I’ve got different inhalers and i think the asthma is a bit better, although it’s hard to be sure with everything else being wrong! We have beautiful blue skies again today and I’m torn between going out with the dogs for a gentle stroll and doing some writing for the first time in ages. Enjoy your coffee date, somewhere nice or a costa type place – which can still be very nice? Gxxx

      2. Just a little coffee/cake place in our shopping centre. I’m hoping for a patch of blueness so I can scurry down there. Meal out with Tony and family tonight then scattering the ashes tomorrow. 😦

  13. What a dry landscape. Does it ever get enough rain to green up? I’m not surprised you nearly missed the burial chambers. I would have just though they were a pile of rocks. Very impressive once you know about them though.

  14. Some lovely pictures Jo, my favourite just has to be the door knocker.
    Just booked flights to Portugal for next year’s September holiday. Starting in Lisbon and then taking the train north to Porto. Have you got any tips?

    1. Yes- take me with you! 🙂 🙂 Will get back to you in more detail, Andrew. How long will you be there? Cachopo is an enchanting old village, very much after your own heart.

      1. Ha Ha, you would be most welcome Jo. We go for 18 days. Fly to Lisbon and then take the train to Coimbra and stay for a couple of nights, then Porto and finally hire a car and cruise the northern coast. Also want to go back to Guimares because it rained the last time we went there.

      2. Sounds wonderful! I liked Guimaraes. Did you do Braga and Bom Jesus? I need to go back to see that and Aveiro on the coast is a must do too. Only half hour from Porto. I want to stay in Amarante but I haven’t organised anything for next year yet (except Algarve 2nd Jan 🙂 )

  15. oh you had me laughing out loud, the village really holds on to you doesn’t it! Almost impossible to escape. . .we didn’t clamber over walls but did have fun wondering around the back paths when all you have to do of course is walk straight through the village on the main road. It’s that dastardly book again!

    PS Does this mean your navigator missed taking you to the roundhouse which has been restored and you can go inside?

  16. la storia e il tempo sembrano viaggiare con te su questi selvaggi sentieri, chissà nei secoli scorsi quante persone diverse da noi nel pensare e nel vivere l’avranno storia ci sovrasta ovunque si cammini, io adoro questi selvaggi sentieri.Grazie Giovanna di avermi portata qui
    passa una settimana serena
    🙂 xx

  17. Looks like a fantastic trail! I’ve never walked here, but the first time I cycled in Algarve was precisely from Tavira to Cachopo. For some reason I thought Algarve was pretty flat. Boy, was I wrong.. Thanks for this post and for the link Jo!

  18. That is quite an impressive dolmen, Jo. It’s remarkable that someone was able to make off with the ‘lid’. They’re usually HUGE – a ton or two. Magnificent countryside as ever, though it’s always worrying to do be doing an uphill walk when you’re not convinced it’s the route you want. But it all came good. Thank you, me dear, for the ping. Can’t believe it’s a week since Bishops Castle. All that dreamy warmth has evaporated. V. shivery this a.m. Brrrr.

    1. Allegedly grave robbers, Tish. That’s quite an effort for the reward 😦 I do worry sometimes that we’ll come unstuck on these rambles, but at one point we were passed by 2 ladies in a 4-wheel drive. Bizarre! 🙂 Yes- Winter’s struck, Tish. Hail, rain, wind… Lovely 🙂

      1. Ah- I think I remember you mentioning it before. Good writing weather! It’s pouring here and I heard a whisper… snow tomorrow. Shock! Horror! 🙂 Good luck with the book.

  19. Wow, this is some walk, Jo. You must have been exhausted after all that rambling in the wilds. But well worth it for the great series of wonderful views and historical ruins. Fascinating stuff.

    1. It’s not actually a very long walk, Isabella, but we made hard work of it. 🙂 It’s just that there weren’t very clear markers. Worth it in the end though 🙂 Thanks, hon.

  20. What a delightful country it is! Pitoresque little streets of Cachopo, and witches hat structures. That sounds just right for me 🙂 Thank you very much. Jo xx

  21. So glad you found the route Jo and weren’t trapped in an endless cabbage patch for days, although at least you would have had something to eat! Are they beehives? That’s a lot of bees, and I wonder what flowers they would be visiting right up in them thar hills.

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