Firstly, I would like to thank Rob, flowercity, rose and vine, Calderglen, queen_mary, and others for their useful advice and the very helpful links. Many thanks also to Tobi Hughes for his interesting and informative ‘Madeira Island News’ blog.
We went on a Jet 2 package from Newcastle, and stayed B+B in the Pestana Miramar Garden Resort Aparthotel. The service and transfer was excellent: we were in our room less than an hour after landing! Amazing!! The hotel was lovely. Its location was very good as it was within walking distance (a mile or so) of the bus stations on Avenida do Mar, the restaurants and attractions in the centre, and several other nice restaurants in the more immediate vicinity.
We found the Sunflower Guide (current 2015 edition, with free internet updates on the state of paths), and Trevor Franks’ little booklets (The Unofficial Walk Guide and The Unofficial Bus Guide), extremely useful. In fact I would say that they would be essential to anyone planning a walking holiday in Madeira!
We got soaked on almost every walk we did – even though, as we found out on our return each afternoon, it had been mainly sunny, with just the odd shower or two, down in Funchal! No regrets though! We would have appreciated better weather, but we wouldn’t have opted for pool-side sunbathing instead of our torrentially wet, and wildly windy, walks! They were fantastically memorable in their own ways!
Highlights – in no particular order of preference – included:
*Every single hair-raising, hair-pin-bending, bus-ride up above Funchal to the start of each of our walks;
*Levada da Serra do Faial (Trevor Franks’ Walk 1): a ‘taster’ for people like us, who had never done a levada walk before;
*Cabo Giraou’s glass-floored viewing platform;
*Faja dos Padres – the idyllic ‘island within an island’ – accessed by the new cable-car down to the exotic path through tropical gardens to the lovely, and extremely reasonably-priced, restaurant by the sea; (The cable-car operator is a very friendly and helpful gentleman.)
*Curral das Freiras from Eira do Serrado (Sunflower Walk 3): We enjoyed the viewing area and the walk – especially as the rain held off until we reached the village;
*Levada do Furado & Levada da Serra do Faial (Trevor Franks’ Walk 6 / a variation on Sunflower Walk 25): This is a lovely 8-mile levada walk. (10 miles if you include the ‘Balconies’.) We caught bus 56 @10am, included the detour to the viewing point at ‘Balconies’, and arrived in Santo da Serra in time for the return bus 77 @4.15pm. We got absolutely drenched – but we enjoyed it!
*Ponta de Sao Lourenco (Sunflower Walk 13/Trevor Franks’ Walk 9) – even though the ferocious winds and squally rains on Sunday 12th February forced us to turn back before reaching the end!
We have booked an apartment in the centre of Funchal for October – Mansarda dos Aranhas – so as to be more convenient for buses for walks. The weather will still be unpredictable, I know – but we are restricted by childcare commitments. We are already looking forward to doing some of the longer walks I had planned, and are keeping our fingers crossed for drier weather!
Our holiday was enhanced by the lovely restaurants we visited each evening – Cris’s Place, O Piano, Olives, Goya, O Avo, Espettus and Do Forte – for each of which I have posted individual reviews.
I hope viewers will enjoy reading my reviews and reports as much as I have enjoyed writing them. For me, they are a way of ‘re-living’ the lovely times we had – and hopefully other people will find something useful in them for their own future holidays. I am happy to reply to any queries for more information about any of the places I have mentioned in this report.