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Black Pudding Gaiters

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fort

Feeling young in Madeira

Monday 25th March 2019
Mum had been dropping some not so subtle hints about how little she’s used her passport. I delved around online to find somewhere we could both go and drew up a short list of places to go.
Mum quickly decided on Funchal in Madeira and we settled on a well priced all-inclusive suites hotel.

Packing was easy. Four nights somewhere warm meant we were travelling light, very light. Despite having 44kg of luggage allowance, we got everything in to one rucksack weighing under 10kg.

Boarding the flight, I noticed I was quite possibly the youngest passenger on the Jet2 737-800 out of Manchester. I suspected there wouldn’t be much in the way of rowdy behaviour on this flight!

Jet2 737 over Madeira  Funchal airport

Our first attempt to land was aborted due to the wind. As we circled a while, waiting for ATC to report that the wind had dropped, I pondered where our divert would take us but, luckily, however, it was second time lucky.
I had a slight worry when bag didn’t appear, however, rather than being on the carousel, it was in a separate oversized luggage area. This rucksack hunt did mean we were the last two to board the minibus to the resort.

The Girassol hotel was better than we hoped. A big bed room with two single beds, a large separate living area and good sized balcony.

Despite the earlier wind, the weather was nice so we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. Passing the the Lido we reached Cais do Carvão, (coal wharf) the area were a pier once stood.

Back at the hotel we grabbed a couple more drinks (Mum tasting her first strawberry daiquiri!) before heading down for dinner. The dinning room is a large space with the self service buffet in the centre. I started with the squid salad before a ‘pick and mix’ main course of scabbard fish in banana and passion fruit butter, veal flame grilled tuna steak and pork in a white wine

Tuesday 26th March

Views from hill top fort Funchal.

After breakfast we took a left out of the hotel, following the coast to the Santa Catarina park. From there we headed up hill to the Fortaleza de São João Baptista do Pico, a hilltop castle overlooking the town. This was a bit of a trek especially as it was pleasantly sunny and warm.
Entrance in to the fort was free, the views were great and, being so early in the year, we had the place to ourselves.

We wandered back down hill through the town centre, stopping for a beer flight at the Beerhouse brewery . Lovely drinks, lovely views.
This walking route available for download on ViewRanger.

Levada water channel in Funchal

Later in the afternoon, Mum went to the hotel’s outside pools for a swim. I’m no swimmer, so took a wander and found my first levada. These are channels bringing water from the north of the island to the drier south.
I took the narrow path alongside the water to a residential area. There wasn’t much space when other people walked past in the opposite direction!
My route back to the hotel took me past Estádio do Marítimo, Satdium of the sea, home of Marítimo football club .

Wednesday 27th March
Picked up our packed lunch from the hotel reception.
Blimey! We wouldn’t go hungry! Four cheese and ham sandwiches, fruit, tomato eggs, mango juice and two bottles of water each.

This morning, we walked along the shore to the cable car station. We purchased the combined return ticket and entrance to the botanical gardens for €32 then joined the queue. I can imagine these queues can get very long in the summer months.
In retrospect maybe the first garden in Monte may have been better. The botanical garden was decent but, in my mind, this package was overpriced.

Botanical gardens Funchal

If I took the trip again on my own, I would probably take the path down which followed alongside the the cable car took route to the gardens. Looking from the cable car window, it looked a pleasant albeit steep route.

Back at the hotel I grabbed on of the all inclusive coffees from the poolside bar. Unfortunately, the machine coffee is so bad I so took a couple of sachets from breakfast! (sadly only decaf)

Thursday 28th March
This morning, we followed the coast past the lido to the the promenade. I even managed a little scramble over the rocks (-;
We went as far as we thought interesting but decided against walking down the steep slope to the beach.
We followed pretty much the same route back, cutting up inland slightly to pop to the supermarket.

Coastline Funchal

After another game of table tennis, I went for another stroll along the coast towards and beyond the cable car weaving between the residential areas. It was here, at the furthest point from the hotel, it decided to rain!

At dinner time, we had Portuguese theme night…this included a rather bland piri piri chicken and black pudding….which I managed to consume for every course!

Funchal by night

After consuming all of the black pudding (chef is going to be very surprised by it’s popularity!), we took an evening stroll towards the CR7 museum.

Friday 29th March
The last day.
We were leaving for the airport at 11.45 which gave us time to have breakfast h quick stroll then another table tennis game.

Jet2 737 800 Funchal airport

It rained on the drive to the airport and continued while we were at the airport. That didn’t stop me going on the balcony to watch the planes. There are two outside areas, one before security and another airside.
I love outside space at airports!

So, what are my thoughts on Funchal?
It’s a pleasant enough place but three of four days is enough time to spend here. Maybe a trip out to the less populated areas and countryside may have been nice.
The people are as nice as the weather and everyone speaks very good English.
The hotel food was very ‘safe’ (read, rather bland)
I described it to someone has Eastbourne with cacti and I can see why it appeals to people but, I was already planning my next trip to the hills while sitting in the airport!

Alternate, solo Valentine’s

It’s Valentine’s Day. The cards, presents and flowers are nowhere to be seen so, rather than a candle lit dinner, I decided upon a slice of malt loaf up a hill.

Parking up in the upper Moel Famau/Bwlch Penbarra car park, I eventually tracked down the one working pay and display machine and headed up Foel Fenlli. I glanced over to Moel Famau behind me, watching the hordes of people strolling up to the Jubilee Tower like ill equipped sheep.  I concluded I’d made the right decision with this route….albeit not a well planned route. I had planned nothing other than head up and over Fenlli and just go where ever I fancied. Somewhere different would be preferable but, given the crisp sunny day it was just nice to be out, and away from the masses.

It’s quite a steep climb to the top of Fenlli (511 meters) but once at the peak there are some lovely views and  the remains of the Iron Age hill fort can clearly be seen.

View from Foel Fenlli
Foel Fenlli peak

From the peak,  I continued South down a steep scree path to join the Offa’s Dyke path to Bwlch Crug-glas and on to the junction of paths to the East.
It was at this junction I drew up a rough route plan. I had never ventured over to the East of the A494 so quickly devised a route towards Mount Pleasant.

The first step on this hastily arranged plan was a left, heading North East, passing through plenty of mud and a farm gate.
Where the path splits, I could take either, both led to the same location. For no particular reason I continued on the ‘top path’ before taking a right and dropping down to Plymog and crossing a A494.

River near LlanferresThe next path was almost directly over the road. Crossing over a river, I continued to where a spring joined the river and plonked myself down on a large piece of concrete jutting in to the water.
An ideal place for lunch.
Here, there was nobody about at all and I was far enough away from the main road for a peaceful break.

Crossing stream

I eventually made my way on to the path in to the woods, using stepping stones and a small wooden bridge to make my way over the water.
The trees became fewer as I walked towards what was presumably an old quarry at Bryn-yr-ardd.

As the path became more of a track, I took a left almost going back on myself, into the woods. As I passed old, derelict buildings, I crossed a stile to my right, deeper in to the woods towards the buidlings at Mount Pleasant where I took another right heading initially East and then turning to the North.
The original ‘plan’ was to take the next path to the West towards Llanferres, however, I spotted a cave marked on the map so continued North through the woods of Big Covert. Unfortunately, as this was a very haphazardly planned route,  I didn’t have the exact co-ordinates of the cave. After a short wander in the general vicinity proved unfruitful, I decided to return another day (with my head torch!) and rejoined the path.to the small village of Maeshafn.

Woods near MaeshafnTaking a left when I reached the road, I took the next footpath on the right, walking South West to the track. At the crossroads, I took a right towards the houses and continued West to the A494, crossing the road and taking the narrow road almost opposite through Llanferres.
At the end of Rectory Lane I took the path through the field heading North West, passing to the left of the farm at Fron Hen.

When reaching the road, I took a left and another left at the t-junction heading to the lower Moel Famau car park. From there I followed the path parallel to the road back to the top car park.

The gpx file for this 7 mile walk can be downloaded from the ViewRanger website

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