With St Valentine and his perfunctory bunch of roses around about every Lisbon street corner, the call of the wild provides a much needed alternative romantic escape this February 14th…
Sleeping out under the stars is an essentially romantic activity and several campsites have added extras helpings of romance and luxury. Sleep on silks and embroidered cushions in luxurious tipis on the riverbank or a secret treehouse hidden high in pine trees. Or if cosy mountain houses, with roaring fires are more your style then you can discover fairy-tale refuges in Comareira, Pena or Alvarenga and open your shutters to sweeping views across wild hills. For the ultimate in Romantic castles, stay in the 16th century fort on the wild island of Berlengas surrounded by the sea.
Slow food and wine is a prerequisite of a romantic evening and Portuguese dishes are nothing if not a labour of love. If you’re travelling out of the city, remember to savour the flavours and the evening with a glass of wine- fresh vinho verde from Minho or a dark deep wine from Douro, the vineyards offer nectar to match every mood.
And for wild activities, what better than to feel your pulse race with some wild swimming? Stripping bare and plunging into a lake, a sparkling river or a thrillingly deep clear mountain pool is one of the most direct ways to reconnect with the wild. Bare all to nature and strip off at a secret river in Gerês for a more exhilarating romantic break. Many of Portugal’s rivers, waterfalls and lakes – and a good number of beaches where naturism is accepted – are in secluded spots, perfect for a skinny dip.
Here are six wildly romantic suggestions –
1. CELA CAVALOS
Hop over little black streams, shaded ferns and discover the bright clearing and brilliant pool. Small water mills are tumble-down now but would once have milled flour here. Follow up the waterfall and above is another with a deeper pool for perfect for a romantic dip.
Take the M308 to Cela, then take the road down past Santa Luzia Chapel and follow the road for 4km.
2. RIO TEIXEIRA
The River Teixeira is one of the cleanest rivers in Europe. At this point, just below the bridge, there is a poço, a well, carved by two millennia of water. Further down, the gleaming river snakes between mottled feldspar and granite worn to smooth pebbles. A natural wild haven.
3. AZENHAS DA SEDA
This is wild luxury, all the comforts of a rural retreat while sleeping out under the stars. Secluded tipis and tents by the River Raia as it tumbles by the old watermill. The river is cool but with a wetsuit you can zip-up and try the canyoning, canoeing, hiking and swimming trips for which this campsite excels.
Signed off N251 between Mora and Pavia. +351 266 448 036, Azenhasdaseda.com
4. QUINTA DA VILA, ALVARENGA
Throw open your bedroom windows to views of the Montemuro and Arouca Geopark mountains. Just an hour’s drive from Porto, ancient vines grow by the traditional wine press house, and luxurious old stone bedrooms have deep window seats. Relax on the terrace looking out to romantic views over stunning hills.
Lugar da Vila 4540-053, Alvarenga +351 918 528 478, Quintadavila.pt
5. FORTE DE SÃO JOÃO BAPTISTA, PENICHE
You can stay in this 17th century fortress on the tiny island of Berlengas just off the Peniche coast. Monks used to provide shelter here for seafaring people. The rooms have views across the sea and its inherent solitude still holds more of a Romantic-poet appeal.
Reservations through the Associação Amigos das Berlengas +351 912 631 426, Berlengareservasforte@gmail.com
6. MIRADOURO DO CASTELO, CASTRO LABOREIRO
A homely restaurant with a terrace looking out over Laboreiro castle. Sip Alvarinho wine and watch the sunset light up the castle towers. Inside there’s pão castreiro frito com chourico, local bread, with a hard dark crust, fried with smoked meats. A good selection of local wines. All are the dishes here a fine examples of Portuguese ‘made with love’ rules.
Vila, 4960-061 Castro Laboreiro
For many more wild and romantic escapes with GPS and directions see Wild Guide Portugal – the ultimate guidebook to Portugal’s hidden places, great adventures and the good life. Out 3rd April 2017 and available to pre-order here.