Alte is one of the most traditional villages in the Algarve, with its whitewashed houses, flowerpots decorating the narrow, cobbled streets, and typical architectural details such as the eaves and traditional Algarve chimneys.
Heading towards Sítio do Montinho, the itinerary takes you through the village and then quickly into the typical rural landscape of the Algarve barrocal.
Dryland orchards populated with almond, carob and fig trees fill the scenery around the route, along with small vegetable gardens and scattered houses.
In Perna Seca, the route takes you along a narrow trail, maximising your contact with nature. The vegetation begins to thicken and you will soon reach a small stream with abundant riverside vegetation that includes ash and oleander trees. After the stream, the route carries on to the village of Torre, where handicrafts are still held in high regard. From there, head north, past Fonte Santa, and then past Rocha de Messines Hill, which will rise up to your left.
The path carries on along Vale Gorge and then starts heading uphill to Portela de Messines. Along this path, the landscape is rich in vegetable gardens and the hydraulic devices installed to water them (norias, tanks and wells).
If you decide to embark on this sector in the spring, make sure your nostrils are at the ready as you’ll be walking past an extensive orange grove, where the wonderful scent of orange blossom fills the air!
One of the highlights of this sector is in fact the passage along the banks of the Meirinho Stream, with its pleasantly surprising, extensive riverside vegetation providing plenty of shade and a landscape that will surely surprise anyone adventuring through it.
Just before you reach the town of São Bartolomeu de Messines, you’ll go past one of the places where the legendary Remexido once took refuge.
São Bartolomeu de Messines is located practically in the centre of the Algarve and is made up of houses dating back to the 17th century, which still boast the area’s traditional stonework. This village is located at the foot of the southern slope of Cerro Penedo Grande, on the edge of the Caldeirão Hills. These hills also, incidentally, make up a considerable part of the parish.
» HISTORIC, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS HERITAGE
This part of the route takes you through the Algarve barrocal, a region very rich in natural vegetation. Many types of herbs can be found here (thyme, French lavender, fennel and rosemary, among other plants), some of which have medicinal uses and many other plants of great conservation interest, such as orchids and daffodils.
You’ll also walk along the banks of streams with mature riparian galleries, namely the Vale and Meirinho streams, where the Mediterranean dwarf palm (Chamaerops humillis L.) is particularly notable, it being the only palm native to Europe. The leaves of this palm are harvestedin the summer and dried in the sun for use in several types of handicrafts.
The geology of the area is made particularly interesting by Silves sandstone, which has a dark reddish colour and was formerly used as a building material thanks to its wide availability. It was most notably used on Silves Castle and São Bartolomeu de Messines Main Church, its colour giving the buildings a unique appearance. It also works well as a sharpening stone, which led to a small industry springing up in the parish, though this has since been abandoned.
The imposing Penedo Grande Hill, which you can see from the town of Messines, is undoubtedly the most striking feature. In terms of vegetation, the most predominant tree is the cork oak, which is unsurprising given that the municipality of Silves was once one of the main producers of cork in the country. Some species of Mediterranean shrubs such as French lavender (Lavandula stoechas), pink rockrose (Cistus crispus L.), myrtle (Myrtus communis) and rockrose (Cistus monspeliensis L.) can also be spotted here.
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