"You're going there at night?" asked the slightly concerned Joao, "Be careful up there, that's where Lord Byron was chased by werewolves" (!) I wasn't too worried about that encounter, and I am used to wandering around woodlands at night with only a torch for company, but I admit it is one of those places where on a foggy evening the imagination runs wild.
The Sintra Cascais Natural Park, just outside Lisbon in Portugal, extends from the Sintra Hills down to the ocean at Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point in Europe. On each side of Cabo da Roca are the wild, unspoilt, photogenic beaches of Guincho, Ursa and Adraga, overlooked by the fantasy palaces and mysterious forests of the Sintra Hills. The Sintra area has its own micro climate and after rain is often shrouded in mist, which gives it its special character and a wealth of photographic opportunities. Peninha, Sintra Hills
Known as Cyntia (moon) by the Celts and Mons Lunae (Moon mountain) by the Romans, Sintra has always been a place of mystery and legends. Thick, dark larch forests cover the hills, interspersed with giant boulders, Neolithic dolmens and lichen encrusted cork oaks, eucalyptus plantations, often shrouded in thick mists. Whatever the truth in the legends, Byron was not wrong when he described it as 'Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes, in variegated maze of mount and glen’
Up in the hills is the dank, mossy, fern covered Conventos dos Capuchos (Capuchin convent) which has been seemingly built around the natural giant boulders. Visit on a misty day for the whole Hobbit like feel.
Capuchin Convent, Sintra Hills Capuchin Convent, Sintra Hills The hills are covered with a network of tracks and paths ideal for walking and mountain biking; there is even a hidden network of downhill tracks, ask a local to show you. Sintra itself has many palaces and gardens such as Pena palace and Quinta da Regaleira where the fairy tale takes over: Duck House, Pena Palace
Drop down to the coastline and you are spoilt for choice; the wild open beach of Guincho with the Sintra hills as a backdrop, next to this is Abano beach, with a cove that is straight out of Mordor.
Travel west along the hairpin bends of the Sintra road(often used for Car launches) and you reach the westerly point of Europe, Cabo da Roca with its lighthouse. Next to this is the dramatic, otherworldly feel of Ursa beach, with its steep, tricky access, and further along, beautiful Adraga beach with its arch and famous rocks(and a good seafood restaurant)
The Sintra area has a wealth of photographic opportunities, be it the coastline, Sintra and its palaces, or its forests. It makes a great destination for photographers and non-photographers alike.