Of all the days for a British pro-European to visit Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe, Friday 24th July 2016 was probably not the best. Only the day before, 52% of Britain – a small but democratically legitimate majority – had voted to leave the European Union, and as I walked along the rugged Portuguese clifftop that morning I realised I was at the end of Europe on possibly the day Europe, as I had known it all my life, had ended. Having voted (by post) to remain in the EU, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the irony.
Cabo da Roca is about an hour’s journey away from Lisbon. Trains to Sintra depart from Lisbon’s Rossio train station every half an hour for as little as €6.40 return (2016). From there, the 403 bus for Cascais departs twice hourly from just outside Sintra train station and arrives at Cabo da Roca forty minutes later, depending on the traffic. A single fare is €3, a return is €5 (2016) and either can be purchased from the ticket machines in the train station if you can work out which ticket is valid for the bus (even when the on-screen options are in English), or from the driver when boarding the bus. Lisbon travelcards loaded onto a Viva Viagem card are not valid on this bus. Buses arrive and leave Cabo da Roca from the same bus stop just outside the area’s tourist office building.
If you wish to send a postcard from Cabo da Roca, buy postage stamps from Lisbon or Sintra beforehand and bring them with you. Even though there is a large post box by the Cabo da Roca tourist office building, neither the office nor the small souvenir shop next door sells stamps even though they sell a vast array of postcards. Apart from an adjacent cafe that never seems to be manned, some toilets and a snack bar that calls itself a restaurant, there is very little else at Cabo da Roca. It is just a unique geographical point with stunning clifftop views and a large car park.
Be extremely careful taking a walk along the clifftop. There are no official clifftop paths in place, only flattened grassland where previous walkers have trodden. There are few fences or safety barriers in place to warn visitors that they are getting perilously close to landslip, and the Atlantic gail-force winds do their best to pluck walkers off the cliff edge. Also, there doesn’t appear to be any safe way to get down to the shore below, so just enjoy the lofty view and fresh air.