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Home / Reviews / Shop / Books / Wild Guide: Portugal

Wild Guide: Portugal

Review by Paul Rouse:

Portugal is getting an unprecedented amount of publicity in the international travel media at the moment, as the rest of the world seems to be waking up to what those of us who live here have known for some time: that the country possesses an array of stunning landscapes, a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and a vibrant and inventive hospitality scene.

Whilst the likes of Time Out and Condé Nast Traveller however have tended to focus a large part of their ‘top ten’ or ‘must-see’ lists on trendy restaurants, cool bars and funky museums, there is another Portugal waiting to be discovered by the vast majority: one, in the words of the latest publication in the award-winning Wild Guide series, of “secret adventures, hidden places and wild escapes.”

Wild Guide Portugal, the new offering from Bath-based Wild Things Publishing, promises to take its readers to “places no other guidebook reaches,” and throughout its 256 full-colour pages, containing 300 photos and 25 maps, it does exactly that. Organised by region, from north to south, it covers the whole of mainland Portugal plus the Azores (although curiously enough, not Madeira). Each section contains an introduction, suggestions for ‘the perfect weekend’ and a comprehensive list of recommendations covering such topics as wild swimming, beaches, rustic restaurants, rural accommodation, walks and cycle paths, historic attractions, local festivals and traditional crafts.

More rucksack-size than pocket-size, it is designed both for those who like to plan their holidays ahead, and for spur-of-the-moment decisions if you happen to be in a particular area, and are looking for ideas. Each individual entry is concisely written and includes GPS co-ordinates, directions, walking times from the nearest parking spot, and explanatory symbols (although you’ll need good eyesight) denoting such things as birdlife, sunset views, local wine, entrance fees charged, etc.

At the front of the book, author Edwina Pitcher - a travel journalist, photographer and video blogger who specialises in the conservation and legacy of Europe’s wilderness and wildlife, and who splits her time between London and Lisbon - also picks her own top ten (or thereabouts) of beaches, festivals, where to stay, mountain villages, historic sites, picnic spots, food and wine choices, and places to skinny dip.

Which brings us neatly to the main reason the book is being reviewed here. Firstly, of course, there is often more to a ‘naturist’ holiday than simply crashing by the pool. Many naturists are also lovers of nature in its widest sense and ‘back to basics’ principles, so it tends to follow that they are exactly the sort of people likely to combine naked sunbathing and swimming with walking, hiking, cycling and exploring the ‘real’ aspects of their chosen destination. Equally, even for those who would not necessarily label themselves ‘naturist,’ what can be more tempting after a long hot day spent on foot, in the saddle, or cooped up in the car than an impromptu skinny dip into a mountain stream, crystal-clear lake, or the crashing surf of the Atlantic on a remote beach? Portugal has a lot of space, and not that many people to fill it, so even if you’re a first-timer, in many places there’s no need to be shy, or worry about offending local sensitivities.

The author picks eleven of her favourite places to skinny dip in the opening pages, ranging from the River Tuela in the remote north-east region of Tras-os-Montes to the naturist-friendly Canavial beach in the western Algarve and - as you would expect in a book from the same publishers as the Wild Swimming guides - her choices come accompanied by a number of important safety tips. Throughout the rest of the book, there are also plenty of other recommendations of places to get wet with no clothes on, from waterfalls in central Portugal to volcanic lakes in the Azores, referred to either in the text or by the N (for Naked) symbol.

If there is a minor quibble, from the naturist point of view, it’s perhaps that there could be more information on beaches, and in particular suggestions for some of the more off-the-beaten-track stretches of coastline which rarely get mentioned in most ‘naked beach’ round-ups.

On the whole however, this is an excellent guide for anybody who really wants to discover the less-obvious and ‘touristy’ face of Portugal: and I’ll guarantee it’s the sort of publication that is more likely to gather dust on the road than it is on a bookshelf.

  • Wild Guide Portugal by Edwina Pitcher (ISBN: 9781910636114) is published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd, priced £14.95.

To place an order click HERE


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