Many pilgrims start their Portuguese Way of St. James with this 2-day section walking north from just outside Porto towards Barcelos and beyond.
For me it was the very last stage I did as part of my “mop up Camino”, an extra 5 days walking the remaining stages of the coastal and central routes. Although I started out alone, my Camino partner-in-crime, Dori, joined me towards the end of the first day of this 2-day journey so that we would both end up where we started, back in Barcelos.
Porto to Arcos
Technically, my journey began in Porto but I didn’t actually start walking until the tour operator had dropped me off in the village of Mosterio.
I wasn’t being lazy, honest.
From the village square, I followed cobbled lanes and tarmac roads through village after village. Fortunately there was little traffic as pavements are also scarce. The first particularly attractive village I encountered was Vairão with its leafy central square and picnic benches shaded by ancient oak trees. Ever curious, I took the short detour up the ramp to the chapel and was rewarded with views across to the coast.
Vilarinho is more of a town, although you don’t go through its commercial area. I stopped for a hearty chicken lunch at Restaurante Castelo in the square before moving on, back into rural scenery through a small patch of forest.
The architectural highlights of this day’s walk are the two Roman bridges. The first one, Ponte D. Zameiro, or just plain old Ponte de Ave, is the most impressive. I joined the locals to peer over the sides and watch the ducks basking in the sun on their sand bank on the River Ave.
The other, Ponte de Arcos, lies at the entrance to the hamlet of Arcos where we spent the night. It’s a pretty spot, with a tree on the river bank that looked ideal for sitting under although I didn’t make it back there.
While in Arcos, I highly recommend spending some time hanging out among the locals in Café Barbosa. As well as cakes and wine, they can also produce hot meals with a few hours’ notice.
Arcos to Barcelos
A leisurely stroll along cobbled lanes through farming lands and a patch of forest took us to Rates and the striking Romanesque church of local saint, São Pedro de Rates. While Rates looked attractive, we were due to catch a train later that day so decided to push on rather than look around.
Note: The Camino splits into two here so check the signs to make sure you don’t accidentally follow the coastal route.
More forests and country lanes, some of them rather hair-raising thanks to the lack of pavements, took us into the village of Pedra Furada.
The perforated stone that the village is named after comes with a legend. Apparently Saint Leocádia was buried alive and manage to escape her premature tomb by drilling a hole through the stone with her head!
The Pedra Furada café-restaurant is an almost obligatory stop for pilgrims. Its walls are covered in Camino paraphernalia and the bolinhos de bacalhau (fried cod cakes) are delicious.
Note: We made the mistake of hoping to find somewhere a few kilometres further on to have lunch but ended up having to walk all the way to the outskirts of Barcelos. I would plan to have lunch in Pedra Furada unless you’ve managed to rustle up a packed lunch.
It was a fairly hot day so we were relieved to leave the main road and enter shady woodland, even if it was short-lived. The back roads took us through hamlets and villages that got grander the closer we got to Barcelos.
Another spectacular medieval bridge took us over the River Cávado, past the wonderful outdoor archaeological museum and a beautiful Romanesque church and into the beautiful historical centre of Barcelos.
Back in Barcelos
To celebrate coming full circle and completing our Camino de Santiago, Dori and I opted for a particularly delicious cake from Confeitaria Colonial.
Read about the next section, from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima, here. Or find out more about the Portuguese Way of St. James.