Back in the days of lockdown foreign travel was not an option. Walking around the local park was about as much travel as you could do in the UK. However between two periods of lockdown – October 2020 – one of the few countries I could travel to was Madeira, a Portuguese island located off the coast of Africa. Truth be told I was familiar with Madeira cake, but wasn’t even aware it was an island at all. However the chance to escape the UK was too tempting so we got our covid tests and off we went for a week.
It didn’t start smoothly as the plane took off, turned back and landed back in Heathrow due to a technical glitch on the plane. A night in a hotel and we were off the next day. However it turns out Madeira is paradise for an outdoorsy guy like myself. There are white sandy beaches, black volcanic sandy beaches, beautiful mountains, hiking trails for all levels, great food, incredibly friendly people and perfect weather for a Scotsman (i.e. not too hot, not too cold). Plus since everyone was tested on entry, it felt like a safe haven away from coronavirus and back to the world before. It was delightful.
We had such a great time that in September 2022 we went back for another week and loved it just as much as before, if not more so!
One of the great things for hikers is a large set of marked hiking trails that range from nice, easy walks through forests to full days of hard grind through the mountains on the side of cliffs, through tunnels and over knife edge ridges. You gain access to areas that would normally be accessible only to hardy mountaineers. And all without destroying the beauty of the area – this is clearly an island loved by the people who live on it.
When I visited New Zealand many years ago I always thought that if you got to design a place from scratch and right all the wrongs of every other country, New Zealand was it. I feel the same way about Madeira, it’s just a wonderful place and there’s nothing I’d change about it.
Interestingly Madeira’s most famous son is Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether you’re a football fan or not I’d highly recommend visiting his museum in Funchal. There you can see just what an incredible set of achievements he’s had. The trophies, the Ballon d’Ors, the hat trick balls, the photos, memorabilia and letters from fans. It’s very tastefully done and rightly shows off he’s one of the most talented footballers ever to lace up a pair of boots and is a legend. My girlfriend is not remotely interested in football but was left highly impressed by what one man managed to achieve in his career.
Anyway, that’s just a taste of what a wonderful place Madeira is. We’ll definitely be back! There are still plenty of hiking routes to do, food to sample and beaches to walk on. Although while I enjoyed surfing, I think I’ll stick to land based activities.