Meet the expert: Emily Lockwood in Northern Portugal
01606 720199 (9am - 5pm)

Request a Brochure | Live chat | Newsletter | Contact Us

Meet the expert: Emily Lockwood in Northern Portugal

From stunning coastlines and rugged mountain landscapes to charming vineyards and local culture, Northern Portugal has something to delight every visitor and make their holiday memorable. Our Headwater Product Development Manager, Emily Lockwood, recently visited this remarkable region of Portugal. Emily shares her experiences with us below and provides insights on how to make the most of your holiday here.

The three distinct landscapes of this region make for an exciting and captivating holiday, and our Walk the Highlights of Northern Portugal trip showcases the best parts of each one.

The Douro Valley wine region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where picturesque rolling vineyards and terraced hills are intercepted by the serene Douro River. The first two full days of our Walk the Highlights of Northern Portugal trip provide the opportunity to explore this area’s gems, following the Douro Valley hiking trails. “The trails are mostly paths through the vineyards and not too challenging at all if you’re a capable walker,” Emily says. However, she also recommends an alternative viewpoint. “We took a boat trip along the river with incredible views of traditional port houses and rolling vineyards.”

Another of Emily’s top tips when visiting the Douro Valley is booking a port house tour and tasting in advance, which can be done through our local partner. “We visited Quinta do Bomfim in Pinhao and sampled three ports after a guided tour of the port house. They explained the traditional port-making methods and how they transported it along the river.”

Day 4 of our trip provides a chance to venture into the majestic mountains of the Peneda-Geres National Park. “The terrain is naturally more rugged here with more ascents and descents, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views,” Emily explains. Staying in the National Park for two days, your base is the historical village of Castro Laboreiro, originally an Iron Age settlement. From here, you can walk to the ruins of the castle. Emily confirms that the short climb to get to it is definitely worth it, “You get the most magnificent far-reaching views over the mountains and valleys. You can see the town of Castro Laboreiro and rivers below.”

Crossing the wild, rocky highlands, our trip follows ancient stone paths through the forest and to the Sanctuary of Peneda (officially, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda). Built during the 18th and 19th, this tranquil place of pilgrimage is nestled in the middle of the mountains. Legend says that Our Lady of Peneda appeared to a young shepherdess in 1220 and asked her to build this hermitage in her honour.

Regarded as a natural jewel of outstanding beauty, the mountain landscape of Peneda-Geres National Park is also home to a wondrous variety of wildlife. “Whilst walking through the National Park, we saw plenty of cows, wild ponies, and deer roaming the trails. We also saw the town’s namesake Castro Laboreiro dog (not wild, thankfully),” Emily shares.

The simplicity of the flavoursome homegrown food in the National Park was another highlight for Emily, “My most memorable meal was in the National Park at a local restaurant just five minutes’ walk from our hotel. It’s very deceiving from the outside but opens up with panoramic views of the most beautiful mountains,” she explains. “All dishes are created using local produce, and you can really taste the difference.” The meal even changed her opinion on certain foods! “I thought I didn’t like goats’ cheese or olives, but after eating here, I now love them (but I’m sure it’s only these ones I love!). We shared the traditional white fish cooked very simply in oil, garlic, and lemon served with potatoes – delicious!”

As the trip continues on the meandering trails alongside the River Minho, bordering Spain, you can visit the beautifully carved Gothic parish church in the riverside town of Caminha and pause for refreshments in the main square focused around its 16th-century fountain. Then as the path reaches the mouth of the river, it is greeted by the sweeping coastline of Northern Portugal and its mighty Atlantic Ocean waves. Emily loved her stop here: “My personal highlight was watching the sunset on the beach, just a few steps from our hotel.”

Crossing the sandy beaches and passing stone windmills and fortresses, our Walk the Highlights of Northern Portugal trip concludes in the fascinating city of Viana do Castelo. Wander around its historical centre at your own pace, taking in the shops, restaurants, and cafes serving the famous Pastel de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tart pastry). “We walked to the waterfront where people were paddleboarding and where the impressive Gil Eanes Hospital Ship sits,” Emily shares. “We also visited the chocolate museum and enjoyed a fantastic meal at a local seafood restaurant.”

When asked if there is anything else she would recommend when visiting Northern Portugal, Emily responds, “I spent one night in the city of Porto at the end, which is a must for me. I visited Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, enjoyed another port tasting at one of the many traditional port houses, and watched the world go by as I sat beside the river.” 

So, what were Emily’s lasting impressions of our Walk the Highlights of Northern Portugal trip? “It’s a great exploration into the diverse landscapes of Northern Portugal,” she says. “You don’t have to choose between the coast, mountains or vineyards – this trip has it all!”

If Emily’s trip has inspired you to visit Northern Portugal, you can find all the details of our Walk the Northern Highlights of Portugal here.