River Lodge – Central Portugal, Alto Alentejo
- Camp for 2
Extra guests welcome at 5 euros pppn with your own tent, 10 if you borrow Richard & Cathy's and 30 if you want the use of a tipi they have. Please call to enquire.
The River Lodge was built by owner Richard, in a gorgeous spot overlooking a bend in the Rio Sever. It’s a simple wooden deck with a canvas cabin set under a cork oak on the rocks. Furniture is either hand made stick style or bought second hand from nearby Badajoz. The mattress on the tree-trunk bed is a quality orthopaedic and the goose down duvet means that you’ll only be roughing it if you choose to. At the lodge there’s a gas hob, the river, the woods, some books and games and...not much else. But then, what do you really need? This is the sort of place where you can, if not must, get away from it all.
During your stay you’ll live like Richard and Cathy do, off grid and off the land. The complimentary olive oil, wine and olive soap are all made a short walk away and if you explore the countryside and the nearby villages you’ll begin to get a feel for the rich culture and history of an area where some things have gone unchanged for centuries.
Kids and pets cannot be accommodated
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Everything you need to know about River Lodge
The important stuff
- Check in time is variable depending on who’s around before and after you, but arriving in daylight is a good idea
- Thing you should bring: Torches are invaluable, strong non-leather sandals for the river. Out of summer, a fleece for the evenings. In high summer straw hats are useful. If you're coming during the distilling season - drinking boots.
- CREATURES! - There are a few that are capable of spoiling your holiday. Scorpions, millipedes and snakes are not uncommon. Each of these can put you in hospital. Care should be taken playing with stones. They are all, however, more afraid of you than you are of them. You would be very lucky to see them at all. The only wildlife to actively search you out are the mosquitoes and the area doesn't get plagues of them.
Sleeping arrangementsExtra guests welcome at 5 euros pppn with your own tent, 10 if you borrow Richard & Cathy's and 30 if you want the use of a tipi they have. Please call to enquire.
Kids & PetsKids and pets cannot be accommodated
SurchargesExtra guests welcome at 5 euros pppn with your own tent, 10 if you borrow Richard & Cathy's and 30 if you want the use of a tipi they have. Please call to enquire.
- Gas hob, shared bbq 20mts away
- Cork lined coolbox
- Small washing up area with biodegradable detergents
- Showers/baths Solar shower available 20mts away.
- Please only use biodegradable products
- Compost toilet nearby, replaced for each visit
- Plus you can bathe in the river!
Heating, lighting & bedding
- There is solar lighting and, naturally solar heating!
- Bed linen is all provided
- There are books, some games, chalk, paper and an easel.
Moinho do Pego Ferreiro, CP 30 Relva, Santo Antonio das Areias, 7330-216
By public transport
The nearest train station is too far off to bear thinking about, but a bus can take you to San Antonio des Areias. From the bus stop it's a 40 minute or so walk. Richard is happy to come and pick you up though either from San Antonio or Castelo de Vide, at no charge with a bit of warning.
From Lisbon Airport Take the A1 North towards Oporto. After about 1 hour turn east (right) towards Castello Branco, Torres Novas and Abrantes. After 40mins or so turn south towards Portalegre. Come off this road at Alpalhão and head into town. Turn right at the first roundabout, go past the bar to your right. Just before the fields start, turn left and then right towards Castello de Vide. In 20mins you will go through Castello de Vide. Head towards Marvão. On your way out of town you will pass Pingo Doce (supermarket) where provisions can be acquired. A few miles on you will pass through an avenue of trees after which turn left. This will bring you into a small village called Portagem. Turn left at the roundabout and take the first right. This road will bring you to the Bull Ring in Santo Antonio das Areias. Turn right here heading towards Camping Asseiceira, go past the camp site and carry on for about 400mts. The road will turn 90° to the left but you will see a track in front of you going straight on. To your right will be a bank of mail boxes and the Quinta das Maças. Head straight onto the track in front of you and follow this for 1.6km. Keep going straight ahead until you hit a T at which point turn left. Do the same again - at the next T turn left. The road gets tighter and a bit bumpy but keep going. You will find a small parking area with our UK plated cars. Park where you can but please avoid blocking a track. Out of the car you will see a stone laid path leading to a house. Go down this path but do not go into the house, instead turn left following the footpath down. Follow this footpath and you will find the Mill.
Eating & drinking
At Pego Ferriero
Cathy & Richard grow to organic standards and can provide seasonal produce/meals. They have their own olive oil, home made beer and some fairly potent aguardente. You'll have a complimentary half litre olive oil, bottle of local wine and hand made olive oil soap, which is great stuff! Your nearest stop for basics is a 40 min walk across country that brings you to Santo Antonio das Areias. There are 2 small grocers, a butcher, baker and several bars. Cathy & Richard will endeavour to cater for your needs, culinarily speaking, but do require some notice.
Going out - food
Pau de Canela - workmans lunch in Santo Antonio - walkable 40 mins
O Sever, Portagem - pricey and posh(ish) - 15min drive
Bar Nicau, Beira - good solid Portuguese food, nice people, 15min drive.
Over the border the village of Aceña de la Borrega has a family run bar/restaurant serving typical mountain dishes - pig's cheeks and rabbit stew being amongst the favourites.
Assador in Jola is very friendly.
Bars are much the same and serve the same beer. The only ones worth trying are Desportivo in Santo Antonio (full of complaining farmers) and the one in Escusa about 20 min drive away (full of farmers complaining).
Things to do
At Pego Ferreiro
Help is always appreciated in the garden and with feeding the animals. Handily, a tool box is included for those odd jobs at the lodge if you're feeling handy!
The land is rocky and remote and if you're exploring the hills you will encounter not a soul. The woods are criss crossed tracks that go over the border to Spain. The river has some pools long enough for swimming and for the lazy there is an interesting selection of books. An easel, paper and chalks can be supplied.
On rainy days
Richard's advice for rainy day activities is simple and well worth heeding: Marvel at the size of the rain drops, guess the weight of hail stones in the shoe you left out last night.
Places to visit
Local village Marvao is a must see. Castelo de Vide has a market on Friday mornings. Ammaia is an old Roman settlement where you can brush up on your Latin. Dolmens, Menhirs and Antas abound the area. The Festa do Flores in Campo Maior (only once every 5-7 years) is spectacular.
Outdoor & Active
You're in great walking and cycling country at Pego Ferreiro. Smugglers paths run back and forth across the border, you will be unlikely to bump into anyone, particularly Customs. It's also a great are for bird watchers: Hoopoes, golden oriel, bee eaters, black storks and 4 types of eagle. Private world-class singletrack available with a special key.
The bullring in Santo Antonio has occasional bull fights - tame affairs by Spanish standards, more for the horsey type.
Pony trekking available with Caballos Marvao
The region has Festas almost every weekend in one village or another. Ubiquitous to these are the Touradas. Teenagers and stupid old piss-heads chance their luck in the ring with a young bull. Ambulances are kept quite busy.
Meet your hosts
"We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. Which was lucky - if we had we wouldn't be here."
So say Cathy and Richard, who came from the West Country in 2005 in search of land. With backgrounds in photography, community work and farmers markets they decided to take on the challenge of self sufficiency in the rural wilds of Portugal.
Pego Ferreiro (which means, "blacksmith by the water") is in the Parque Natural de Serra de Sao Mamede. Reported to have the largest diversity and density of invertebrates in Europe. Being at the bottom of the food chain this leads to an abundance of wildlife in general. The Iberian Lynx is there with some wolves, boar and 4 types of eagle. In the river are otters, freshwater turtles and a pair of Richard's trousers that Cathy lost whilst washing.
Opposite the River Lodge is a small cave housing a colony of bats. Sightings of Golden Oriel, Black Stork and Bee Eaters have been reported and wild pigs can be heard at night. The whole site is off grid, relying on small solar lights whilst work goes on on the hydro system.