I knew nothing about Madeira prior to this trip apart from three facts: it is part of Portugal; it is in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere to the north of the Canaries; and it produces a sweet wine which used to be popular in Britain: “Have some Madeira, m’dear”. Now I know it’s the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo (they’ve even renamed the airport after him); it is quite small (about 60k from east to west and 24k from north to south); it is all hills and valleys with no coastal plain and some quite big mountains in the middle (the highest is 1862m, almost twice as high as Scafell Pike); and it is irrigated by a system of ‘levadas’, relatively level concrete channels descending from the hills, where most of the springs and rains are, to the cultivated areas lower down the slopes. Many of the guidebook-recommended walks are along these levadas which wind into, round and out of valleys along a very winding trajectory.
I chose to avoid these levada trails, predicting that they would be boring for two reasons: they wind in and out of the same terrain over long distances and they are often enclosed by dense forest which restricts the views. Since two of my main reasons for walking are varied terrain and spectacular views, I went for two coastal trails, two mountain trails and one, short, levada trail to a spectacular view.
Here’s a map showing the location of my trails – I hope you enjoy (or can forgive) the images of what the Madeirans consider most attractive about their island: