Railway Ramble

Railway Ramble – Linha do Tamega

31 August to 5 September 2018
Portugal

We are once again offering you the chance to relive the experience of travelling on the Tâmega metre gauge line in northern Portugal, albeit at a much slower pace than was possible by train! But the scenery is the same, and now we have much more time in which to enjoy it.

The Tâmega metre gauge line opened in March 1909 between Livração, the junction on the broad-gauge Douro Line, and the town of Amarante, a distance of just under 13 km. It was extended in stages to Chapa in 1929 (8 km), Celorico de Basto (13 km) and finally to Arco de Baúlhe (17 km) in 1949, the last extension to any metre gauge line in Portugal.

The section from Arco de Baúlhe to Amarante closed in 1990 and has now been turned into a cycle path, with the four bridges and one tunnel along this part of the route repaired and brought back into use. The remaining section was closed in 2009 along with the Corgo Line, ostensibly for upgrading after accidents on the Tua Line but the financial crisis hit Portugal hard and the line was formally closed in 2012, with the replacement bus service also being withdrawn. This southern section has not been converted to a cycle path and indeed the local council in Amarante have proposed the line be reopened as electrified broad gauge between Livração and Amarante as part of the ongoing scheme to extend electrification on the Douro Line from Caíde to Marco de Canaveses. During the walk, you might want to consider how broad-gauge trains would negotiate some of the tighter corners!

The walking tour will be done in manageable stages over four days (maximum distance walked in one day on a good cycle path will be 18 km – 20 km, but other days, especially those when we walk along the section south of Amarante, which has not been converted to a cycle path, will be less). Accommodation, including breakfast each morning, will be the Mondim Hotel & Spa with transport arranged to take us out to the start point of the walk each morning and collect us at the end of the afternoon, thus avoiding the need to walk with all our bags. Lunch/drink stops will be available at the villages we pass through. Of particular railway interest are the museum at Arco de Baúlhe station and an interpretation centre about the Tâmega Line at Celorico de Basto, as well as the other stations and halts along the line. Track remains at Livração, Celorico de Basto and Arco de Baúlhe stations. We also have many opportunities to admire the wonderful views that the rail passengers enjoyed for so many years, and to walk over bridges and through deep cuttings and the one tunnel on the line. Mondim de Basto is a charming little town and has a number of very good restaurants.

However, we should look on this trip not only for the walk, which is so enjoyable, but also as a way to get to know “small-town Portugal”, visiting towns and villages that see few foreign tourists, and giving you a real feel for the way of life here.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

The main objective of this trip is to enjoy the scenery we pass through and the company of the group, and to get to know this part of rural Portugal, so the pace will be leisurely, and a balance will be struck depending on the abilities and desires of the participants in the group. However, clearly all participants must be able to walk a distance of up to 20 km in one day, and the total distance of 51 km over the four days.

Friday 31st August Flights from the UK to Porto, with a transfer to our hotel. We will spend the first night in Porto, as our flights may arrive at different times.

Saturday 1st September (B) An early departure this morning as we catch a train to Guimarães where we will be met by our minibus. First stop is Mondim de Basto to drop our bags at the hotel and have some lunch before the minibus takes us to the start of our walk and the former southern terminus of the line, Livração. Here there are two railcars in one shed, and two steam locos in another. This part of the walk is the shortest, at around 8 km, but as the track bed is as it was when the track was lifted, it can be a little slow going. We will walk as far as Passinhos bridge, one of the biggest bridges on the line, but sadly impassable as it has no deck. Our minibus will be waiting to return us to Mondim in time for dinner at one of the town’s excellent local restaurants.

Sunday 2nd September (B) Our minibus will bring us back to Passinhos bridge, but at the north end. Here we continue north along the track bed to the town of Amarante, the northern terminus of the line from its opening in 1909 to 1926 when it was first extended, and then again from 1990 when the northern section was closed. There is another impassable bridge immediately south of Amarante station. We will break for lunch here and have a chance to explore this attractive town. Here rows of 17th-century mansions with their brightly painted balconies line the narrow streets. There will be time to visit the Monastery and other sites during our walk through the town. Later we meet up and walk to the station. From here on the track bed has been converted to a cycle path, making walking much easier. The line climbs out of Amarante for some distance, all the way to Gatão tunnel. A short distance beyond the tunnel is Gatão station. Just like the steam locos in their day, we will have the chance to take on some liquids, but at the bar across the road! Having had some rest and refreshments, we will feel rejuvenated enough to continue the walk up to Codeçoso station, another long rising gradient. We are at the half-way point of the line, and our minibus will be waiting to return us to Mondim de Basto. This is the longest daily walk, at around 18 km.

Monday 3rd September (B) Returning to Codeçoso, we begin our walking day with a downhill stretch to one of the bridges we cross. The whole line is notable for its many long and deep cuttings, often through hard rock, and you really get a feeling for just how difficult and costly it must have been to build. Much of the line now is high above the river that gave its name to the line and we often have spectacular views of the river and the surrounding hills, especially the mountain above Mondim de Basto that towers above the others around it. We reach Celorico de Basto in time for lunch in one of the many cafés near the station. The station itself has a small railway interpretation centre in the station building, and some track still remains. An original carriage sits in the station. The upper floor of the building is now a flat that is available for rent. After lunch, we continue onwards to Mondim de Basto station. At Britelo halt, the first stop after Celorico de Basto, look out for the original level crossing gates, now someone’s garden fence! We cross two bridges, including the longest bridge on the line, the 194-metre “Ponte de Matamá”, just south of Mondim de Basto. On arrival at Mondim de Basto we have a short minibus ride to the hotel. Mondim de Basto is a good example of what is frequently found in rural Portugal, in that the railway station is nowhere near the settlement it purports to serve. In this case the town is on the other side of the river. Mondim de Basto is one of the bigger towns on the line, and had the railway station been better located, it would have surely generated much more traffic for the line. We walk about 14 km today.

Tuesday 4th September (B) Our final stretch of the line is also one of the most scenic sections, as we climb out of Mondim de Basto to Canêdo halt. Once again, we have a chance to take on some liquids, as the station goods shed has been converted to a bar! From here on it is downhill all the way to the terminus of the line from 1949 – 1990, Arco de Baúlhe. The station is now a railway museum, with petrol railcar (still operational), a steam locomotive and two royal carriages. After lunch in Arco de Baúlhe, our minibus will take us back to Mondim, but on the way, we will drive to the top of the mountain that we have been able to see for much of the walk from where we have spectacular views all around, including of the former railway. Approximately 11 km of walking today.

Wednesday 5th September (B) We return to Porto Airport by minibus this morning, ready for our flights home. Alternatively travel to Regua and join our famous Vintage Port tour.

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Full 6 day holiday from London Gatwick: £899
  • Full 6 day holiday joining in Porto: £699

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £160

Deposit

  • £100 (balance of deposit due by 01/01/2018)

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Highlights
  • Full length of the line (except impassable bridges)
  • Beautiful, unspoilt scenery
  • Wildlife
  • Railway museum
Your holiday price includes
  • All travel as outlined in the itinerary, including transport to/from the start/end points of the walk each day
  • Hotel accommodation and breakfast each day
  • Services of our Tour Manager (fully escorted from and back to Porto)
Flights
  • Direct flights from Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol and Manchester.