The Serras and The Coast

Beyond Portela, Porto Santo’s eastern coastline and inland serras provide a rugged landscape, strongly reminiscent of its volcanic origins. Most spectacular are the tiger-stripes of sandstone and dark basalt on the cliffs near Calhau da Serra de Fora, where there are also intimate swimming coves, much loved by those in the know. On the serras the land becomes a cocktail of colour, created by a variety of clays (some used on the island for therapeutic massage). The dry, tawny vegetation will suddenly sprout green after the slightest of showers. At first you may encounter a few Casas de Salão – traditional farmhouses with golden dry-stone walls and clay roofs, but soon any evidence of human habitation disappears. Here and there you’ll see the ruin of an old stone farmhouse, the ghost of an abandoned corn-threshing circle.

A road circles through the serras and back down to Vila Baleira, and there is a dramatically exposed walking path along the slopes of Pico Branco (450m), a mountain specially protected by European Union environmental legislation because of the diversity of its snails! (You can probably check out a few by carefully lifting a rock along the way.) At Terra Chã, at the end of the path, there is a small shelter for those who would like to spend the night on the mountain. A walk from the forestry house at the start of the path to Terra Chã and back will take 1.5 to 2 hours. Don’t forget to take water and something to eat, as there are no facilities along the way! Though, depending on the time of year, you may well be accompanied by flocks of Red Admirals or Clouded Yellow butterflies, and even the odd partridge.

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