Getaways in Portugal always hold surprises and good experiences in store for us. Celorico de Basto is no exception.
In the transition between Minho and Trás-os-Montes, Celorico de Basto is a territory between the Tâmega and the vineyard that gives us the green. Here we have the traditions, viewpoints with long panoramic views, many manor houses and the small castle that gave its name to these Lands of Basto.
In a weekend tour, one must wake up very early and enjoy every minute, if only to do nothing with quality.
On these days when the heatwave hits, we want water and shade. A walk through Celorico de Basto can begin in the town. At the county seat we find both water and shade. The first one is at the fluvial beach of Freixieiro, near the camping site, with the sand on the left bank being covered by the shade of the trees. The second, further down, right in the centre, in the pleasant Freixieiro Urban Park, with its watermills.
Wine tourism is one of the programmes that is within everyone’s reach, even in these times of restrictions that we live in. By appointment, you get to know the cellars of the estates that produce vinho verde. But it’s not the only one. There are tourist entertainment companies that can take us on all-terrain rides through the municipality’s ever-present mountains. This weekend, we prefer to have other kind of experiences, always on our own.
In Celorico de Basto we must visit the Arnóia castle and the Villa de Basto. The small castle, triangular in plan and with a keep, imposes itself on the landscape for many kilometres. Although it is easy to get there, with indicative arrows on the main roads which cross the municipality, on one of the routes the flat sign at the last crossroads is missing. It is obvious that this was the one that took us there and that is why it took longer than expected, as we missed the entrance. But it was seven in the morning and we were already walking up the steep slope that follows from the village to the ramparts. Steep, but easy to climb.
The small castle, triangular in plan and with a keep, imposes itself on the landscape for many kilometres. And if it is seen from a distance, it is certain and well known that the landscape that can be enjoyed from it must be worth seeing.
And by early morning, the sun lends an orange to the greens of the surrounding hills and the mist hides the valleys that have yet to wake. Standing on the rampart we let our eyes spread across the landscape.
For the more daring, which the last haul is difficult, it is possible to climb to the top floor of the keep and paste the ramparts to the landscape. Tradition speaks of the Moors, but the castle is Romanesque in style and the archaeological remains found speak of occupants from the 14th and 16th centuries, at a time when the fortification had already lost its military weight and was merely a symbol of the lordly power.
From the castle walls you can see the Villa de Basto. This was the seat of the county until 1717, when the administrative power was moved to the parish of Britelo, where today Celorico de Basto is located.
Here, in the Villa de Basto, there are several restored houses that lend it an arranged look. We can see the pillory, right next to the Castelo d Arnóia Interpretive Centre, housed in the old primary school. If we climb the path that leads up the hill from the school, always alongside a vineyard, and when we reach the end of the path at the top, turn right, we come to the old gallows.
Recovered in 1963, the gallows is worth the walk just for the view you have of the village and the castle from there, and this is because the recovery was not the happiest. But we made the journey and, from the landscape, we would do it again.
Almost on the other side of the county, from Britelo, we descend towards the Tâmega river, which is almost only border here, towards an area on the bank appropriately called Vau. The last few kilometres are made of dirt, but arriving at the bank we come across a totally natural space, but one that is used by many in the summer. When we were there, on the first Saturday in August, only one family was having fun in the here shallow waters of the river, at the border point of the districts of Braga, Porto and Vila Real.
“This is all very nice, but a weekend without food might not end well,” they will say. There are several places to eat in Celorico de Basto. We were told of the famous Sabores da Quinta, but at this time of year, only with a reservation made well in advance. We ate at Nova Vila, a normal everyday restaurant but where the “posta maronesa” (pork shoulder steak) is treated with respect. And, at night, we were delighted with Destravado and its dishes. Chicken cigars breaded in cornflakes opened the hostilities accompanied by craft beer. In between, there was sautéed greens with alheira sausage and corn bread and shrimp kebabs with pineapple. The party isn’t only about traditional gastronomy and sometimes we can find good surprises.
The weekend is nearing its end. There was much left to see, but another visit in a more wintry season is promised. We passed the windmills of Argontim and, were the route well maintained, they would be a mandatory stop. So, it’s worth the murmur of the running water and the coolness that the dense vegetation allows. It is beautiful.