The southernmost point of Portugal

Every night and every day we look out from our apartment at Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria, four miles away and the southernmost point of mainland Portugal. Well kind of! We can certainly see the lighthouse (farol) and is definitely located on the Cabo de Santa Maria. However it would appear that it is the other half of Cabo de Santa Maria – Barreta – on the other side of the channel, where technically the southernmost point of Portugal is located somewhere along the beach. Farol do Cabo de Santa MariaStill we can almost see the southernmost point of Portugal from our apartment!

This is my December ‘Past Meets Present‘ and my focus is not the beach but the lighthouse. Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria dates back to 1851. The 1851 original was raised 112ft in 1922, but the work caused the lighthouse to become unstable. So in 1929 it was almost rebuilt. In 1949 and again in the mid 1990s changes were made to the light, and it has been fully automated since 1997.

This postcard from Klaus Hülse’s wonderful Lighthouse Website appears to be post-marked 1933 and from descriptions of the modifications I had assumed it was a photograph of the 1922 modification rather than the 1929 rebuild. However another excellent Lighthouse Postcard Website indicates it is in fact of the original 1851 version. What do you think?s_maria

It is of course in stormy weather and at night that lighthouses come in to their own. Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria has four white flashes every 17 seconds. Here is my collection of the ‘flashes’ at dusk and night as seen from our apartment and the saltpans. Think the final one might be the best 😉

There were and maybe still are two other Lighthouses in Olhão. One definitely still exists and still works albeit looks a little different as you can see from the ‘past meets present’ gallery.

The second lighthouse I’m not so sure still exists. It was on top of the main church, and it took me a while to spot it when it did exist even with the ‘past’ photographs laying in front of me. I finally got there with the third picture, and was then bemused as to why I had’t seen it in the first two! I am not convinced though it is still there, which makes this a perfect ‘Past meets Present’. Have look at my ‘past meets present’ gallery below and let me know what you think.

It was not only the lighthouses that have changed since 1851. The islands and channels of the Ria Formosa would also have looked very different. The channel closest to Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria is artificial. Work began on it in 1927 but it was not until 1952, 100 years after the first lighthouse, that the channel was fully commissioned. wp-1479646562854.jpgThe creation of this artificial inlet whilst essential to Faro port impacts on rest of the Ria Formosa because of the dredging and changes to water flow. It will be interesting to see what happens over the new few years as it is likely the port will close following the change in cement orders. If it does then there will be no need to dredge the channel to the depth it currently is, nor will there be any funds to pay for the dredging. It is expensive to dredge and needs to be done regularly. Perhaps I should start taking more and better photographs of the channels to log any potential change. Talking of change do share your before and after photographs and join in this month with Past meets Present. Remember they don’t need to be of Portugal.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

23 thoughts

  1. Have you never been over to Barreta, Becky? It will absolutely be deserted at this time of year, but if you get a calm day. And there’s a restaurant 🙂 But only one!
    You could lose hours in that lighthouse site. What a good find, and a good bit of research from you.

    1. Remarkably no! Crazy aren’t we…..had not realised there was a restaurant over there. Now i know that should be easy to convince MrB – that’s if these storms ever blow out!

  2. Hey. I am thinking of taking a ten day tour to Portugal in late March, going to Porto, Figueira da Foz, and Lisbon. Does that sound like a reasonable itinerary for someone who has never been to Portugal to get a flavor of the country? Thanks for any advice.

    1. How exciting!
      Lisboa and Porto will definitely give you a flavour of Portuguese city and town life, and in Lisboa you’ll have the opportunity to experience the soul of the Portuguese through fado.

      However I am not sure about visiting a 3rd city. I don’t know Figueira da Foz so it could be amazing but if it was me I’d consider exploring more of the countryside and escaping into the hills, valleys or remote villages. It is then you really begin to get a feel for this fabulous country.

      1. Thanks. I would take your advice but it is a fixed itinerary with Roads Scholars. I am also considering a river barge tour in the north of Portugal.

        1. Oh definitely do the river tour that will certainly provide a flavour of life away from the towns – perfect ☺

    1. Thank you LadyLee, and love your entry this month. Glorious photographs. I am very envious of your childhood in such a beautiful country.

    1. So so glad you enjoyed 🙂 and I agree the original was a beauty. Always wanted to stay in a lighthouse, maybe one of these days . . .

  3. The onshore lights are not lighthouses as such, but range lights. When in the Ria at night, skippers can work out their location by lining up these shore-based lights. They may look random when walking around, but the lights form various straight lines and are vital for navigation if you do not have GPS.
    * Olhão Range Front
    Active. Small round cylindrical tower, painted with a white and a red horizontal band, mounted atop a 1-story building in use as a fishmonger’s shop.
    * Olhão Range Rear
    Active. Light mounted atop a historic church, the 17th century Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário.

    1. Wow thanks Paul – wondered how they work. Fascinating
      So that tiny red light on the church is active ☺ have to back in the evening now!

    2. Paul out of interest do you know why the lighthouse doesn’t ‘flash’ during daytime storms? We noticed when a squall comes in in daytime there’s no lighthouse light despite little or no visibility. It seems to be totally fixed between dusk and dawn. This morning it actually stopped during the thunderstorm.

      1. I asked someone with yachting experience:

        “Light-houses are nowadays mostly automated. Those which are not are in the care of keepers governed by the maritime authority in charge.

        I can offer no further enlightenment as to Culatra’s farol, apart from
        commenting that I’ve never seen a light-house lit during day-light hours.

        They are not there as storm aids, although do have fog-horns, whose
        characteristics are also noted in the Admiralty List of Lights, which
        actually cover them world-wide.”

        I hope this is helpful, as you can guess, this is not my specialist subject!

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