West Coast Ride, Algarve Beach and Forest, Portugal, 2011.
Sarah Ritchie, Far and Ride.
In April 2011, I escorted the Four Day West Coast Ride in the Algarve, a destination I spent four months working at last summer. After spending a fantastic summer there last year and realising it was a wonderful destination for plenty of riding in unspoiled landscapes, I was delighted to be able to escort a trip there. I took five clients along, one of whom had been to this destination before but for a based stay rather than a trail ride. The quinta is owned and run by Jinny Harman, an experienced English horsewoman, and the trail was led by two experienced guides, Nat and Joel. Despite having spent time there, I had not experienced the wonderful scenery the West Coast had to offer and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. We were very lucky with the weather as the forecast was not at all good whilst we were there. We somehow managed to get away with most of the rain and stormy weather being overnight, leaving mostly sunny days with the odd shower and cloudy moments.
David, Sarah and I arrived at Faro Airport on Sunday late morning ready for our transfer to the quinta, the starting point of our trail, where we met Pauline who had arrived a day earlier. As Alex and Emily were not due to arrive until early that evening, Jinny took the four of us out for a short hack that afternoon so that we could make sure we were happy on our horses before setting off in the morning. I was lucky enough to be able to ride my lead horse from the previous summer, Trovao, which instantly brought back many happy memories for me. We were all very well suited to the horses Jinny had chosen for us and had a lovely ride before I went off to Lagos, which is only a short 15 minute drive away, to pick up Alex and Emily. That evening we were due to have a barbeque by the pool but the weather was certainly not looking too promising so we opted for a homecooked lasagne in Jinny’s house instead, accompanied by green and red wine (green wine, ‘vinho verde’, is a Portuguese speciality).
In the morning, after breakfast, we went down to the yard to help prepare our horses for the trip. We set off, led by Nat, through the small traditional village of Bensafrim, the only bit of tarmac we would see for the day. At lunchtime we found a nice spot for a picnic which was brought along in the jeep by Sue, the yard manager. The weather was pretty windy but we managed to find a nice sunny, sheltered spot to enjoy sandwiches and beer! After a nice break we set off, heading to Herdade de Beicudo, our stopping place for the next two nights. The stunning property was absolutely perfect for us and the horses – Deborah and Henrique who own the property could not have been more hospitable. We were met there by Jinny, who took us for a drive along the coast before taking us to a local restaurant for a delicious dinner.
After a large breakfast the next morning, we set off for our longest ride of the trip. It was a wonderful ride along the open cliff tops towards Sagres. On route we were met by Jinny’s friend Nidia, who runs her own trekking centre nearby. Nidia guided us down to the beach of Castelejo, where her parents have a restaurant. We had set off an hour later than planned that morning due to bad weather, which in turn meant the tide had come in further than we had anticipated. We had an adventurous ride along the beach to reach the restaurant, having to do some unplanned rock climbing, leading the horses, to avoid the waves! It was certainly an experience to say the least but the horses were all so well behaved. Upon arrival at the restaurant, we tied the horses up right next to the beach whilst we enjoyed a delicious lunch and more beers! The horses certainly caught people’s attention, it was a new experience for us all to take our horses to the beach. After lunch we had a long afternoon ride back to Deborah’s, I think we were all starting to feel a little saddle sore! That evening Deborah and Henrique prepared us a huge paella, which proved very popular with everyone. There were plenty of drinks flowing and we all had a lovely relaxing evening.
The following morning we were led by Joel, who took us down to the beach for a good canter. The track from the beach to our lunch stop was perfect, through the sand dunes and along the coast. We stopped for another picnic, again met by Sue, with plenty of food and beer. After lunch we made our way to the home of another of Jinny’s friends, Gundrun, who kindly gave the horses a home for the night. We headed to the quaint, historic town of Aljezur, where we checked into our accommodation for the night. After a quick shower and spruce up, we went for dinner at a local restaurant. Another great selection of delicious food!
The next morning, after our final breakfast, we headed back to the stables to prepare the horses for our last ride. The day did not quite go to plan as en route to the restaurant, where we were due to have lunch, the heavens opened and we were caught in a very heavy downpour. In light of this we decided to get the horses home as quickly as possible and travel by car to the restaurant so that we didn’t have to leave the horses outside in the rain. Our final meal was a huge feast of wild boar, fish pie, salad, chips and a delicious dessert, accompanied by wine of course! It was a lovely meal, where we all had a chance to reflect on the last few days before a sad goodbye.
This trail is a fantastic trip for those wanting to do a slightly shorter trek, enjoying stunning scenery, great food, lovely horses and generally speaking, plenty of sunshine! It really was a fantastic five days, with great company and lots of fun. There are plenty of low cost flights available from many airports to Faro, from which the quinta is approximately a one hour drive away.
Read more about the ride here: Algarve Beach and Forest, Portugal.