Ayamonte/Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Tavira by Back Roads
We bought a holiday apartment in Ayamonte about 3 years ago.
Ayamonte is a lovely town on the Atlantic on the Spanish side of the River Guadiana, the Portuguese town on the other side being Vila Real de Santo Antonio. The cycling on the Portuguese side is much better but Portugal has a major problem with maps and due to military restrictions maps with decent detail of minor roads are not available or they are (probably deliberately) very misleading. Google maps is similarly limited in this respect. Tavira is a lovely town about 15 miles on the main horribletocycle N125 road. I mean reallyreallyhorribletocycle. There is a motorway a bit inland.
Anyway it took me twelve efforts to work out a route on minor roads to Tavira, but it is wonderful and I’m documenting it here for benefit of someone who’s looking for it online.
Apartments in Ayamonte
There is a river ferry to Portugal which leaves Spain on the half hour and Portugal on the hour, in winter and more frequently in summer. This is cheap, costing 2.50 for a cyclist and a bike, each way. You cannot get a return ticket due to fulminant unrepentant Iberobureaucracy.
The very pleasant transfluvial trip takes about 15 mins. You cycle onto the boneshattering cobblepocked quay in Portugal and tremble your way northward for about 400m when you encounter a Christian surface and turn west. This road parallels the railway track for about half a mile or so and then you head north for a bit with sea or marsh on both sides. You can see flamingoes here now and again. As you approach Castromarim you may see small houses on your right. These are for Mr. and Mrs.Pigeon rather than Senor El Portuguez. You can either cross the road to get to Castomarim or cycle the hilly flyover. If you take the flyover turn left and sweep around into the Main Street, passing the Moorish looking fort. The main street drops down onto the flat. As you cycle along you see cafes. Stop at one on the left called Encontro dos Amigos. This is run by two tiny sisters. Really tiny. I think they’re pituitary dwarves (I used to be a doctor). Here you can get two large white coffees and two cakes for the extortionate price of 2.80 Euro. Two coffees in Portuguese is pronounced Doysh caffeysh. It sometimes appears that every word in this Russian-sounding language ends in sh.
Sit here looking at Portugal passing by and talking. The Portuguese are great talkers and very very sociable. They just WOULDN’T DO in the home counties!
Suitably refreshed, mount your trusty steed and head west. As you proceed into farmland you will no doubt see cattle and cattle egrets, and further on, storks.
You come to a roundabout but go straightabout. The main traffic goes left but you go straight. After a mile or so, you go over the motorway on a bridge. After this, at this time of year you will see Storks on concrete electricity poles with there large nests looking like Jamie Oliver’s hair, but somewhat tidier. The countryside in the Algarve, for here we are, is lovely. White houses, lots of wild flowers at this time of year, hills, farms, old wells, little untidy villages, lush valleys, all kinds of plants, numerous kinds of trees, streams etc. You keep going straight, i.e. west. There are a few roundabouts and side-roads and Satan will tempt you to enter them, but heed not this tempter. You will pass through Pisa Barra de Baixo according to a sign. This must mean something like Pisa Barro with Nothing There, because it certainly is no village. Then you go through Pisa Barro de Cima, which is a little village. The main road veers left and so do you, rather than following the cloven-footed one uphill to the right. A short while after the main road veers to the left uphill, Satan’s alternative being a small road uphill to the right.
You cross the bridge and there’s a “fair pull” up this road, with the newly developed far-too-expensive Monte Re golf course on both sides of the road. This looks amazing but it’s not doing well as it’s too dear and Spain and Portugal, as well as most of Europe are in a financial dungheap at the moment.
Eventually you reach a T-Junction. You turn left and coast downhill for a mile or so. You reach a roundabout where on the left you will see the imperious entrance to Monte Re (or is it Monterey or Monte Rey?). Take the first exit, Santa Rita sign, and again at the adjacent roundabout. You continue to Santa Rita on a lovely high-perched road with colourful hilly Algarve scenery to the right.
Algarve is like all Spanish or Portuguese words beginning with “Al” (Arabic the) of Moorish Origin. It means “the West”. The road then sweeps southward over a bridge across the hellroad N125. You enter Santa Rita, a typical untidy and charming rural Portuguese village with some cobbles and after a short while this surface yields to ordinary tarmac and you are exiting the village. Ahead, you see a sign for a road to the left, but that, for the moment is Satan’s plan. Just after this road, you see a small house on the left with green paint and a kind of brown trimming. Just opposite this is a lurking lane to the right. This is the true and correct path. This is another lovely quiet country lane.
Your next landmark is Cumeada. Ignore other directions and keep straight or take signs for Cumeada. Now Cumeada is not a rival for Lisbon, or even Pisa Barro de Baixo, as there’s nothing there at all except a bar, and not a great bar at that. As you approach the bar you could turn sharp left or go to the left or right of it. The right is the right way, so keep to its right and you now will gradually descend to the edge of the village of Almargem. Here you turn left along a country road with rushes, orange trees etc., and go over a charming cobbled white arched bridge,
and then left about half a mile to the N125. On the corner there is a big ceramics place which has a reasonable cafe if that’s what you want. You could buy garden gnomes etc. here were that your heart’s desire but somehow bicycles and garden gnomes don’t seem to go together. Perhaps someday a Reynolds 531 Bicycle Gnome will be introduced, but as they’d say in Tipperary, there wouldn’t be much “take” for it!
You are now about 2k or so from Tavira. You head west and take the second exit on the second roundabout, first on the next and then third exit and over a big humpbacked bridge. At its bottom veer right and you’ll find your way into this nice town. There are lovely old Churches and so on.
When you leave Tavira you end up on the N125 a bit west of the roundabout on which you entered, so proceed east until you see the Ceramics place on the other side of the road. Retrace your steps as far as the green house in Santa Rita. You can return the way you came, but there is a different route to Castromarim which is also attractive so here goes.
At the green house turn left and then immediately right, and take the left fork which ensues almost immediately. Were you to take the right, that would bring you down towards the N125.
Keep going on this road until you come to a T junction. (At one point you will come to a river where there can be a bit of a stream across the road. Sometimes you may have to cycle through shallow water.) Anyway, at the T junction, go right. This takes you down onto a bigger road on which you turn left, and as you do you will see a left turn on a small road labelled Portela. This is what you want. Keep going on this until you come to another T. Here you climb a bit of a hill and at the top you veer left and then over a little bridge for Portela. This is only a few yards. Over the bridge turn IMMEDIATELY left (i.e., at the bridge). Keep going straight on this, including through a roundabout and eventually you will come down to Castromarim Station. This is not IN Castromarim, but about 2 miles from it. Turn left and cycle to Castromarim, going through the roundabout which you first traversed on your way from Castromarim. From Castromarim reverse your route to Vila Real.
The total route is something like 40 miles or so.