Cabo da Roca: the most westerly point of mainland Europe.3 min read
We are in Portugal. The diverse heritage and stunning architecture make it a must-see for history lovers, while its very good cuisine is a foodie’s dream and the coastline attracts surfers and beach-goers from all over the world. If you’re planning a break to this fantastic country, don’t forget to stand on the Most Western Point in Europe
Okay, technically just continental Europe, but that’s still pretty cool.
To do this, you’ll need to head to Cabo da Roca, in the municipality of Sintra. The beautiful coastal trail offers stunning panoramas of the North Atlantic as well as dramatic cliff-faces, secluded beaches, and a picturesque lighthouse.
165 metres above sea level and standing 22 metres in height, this is Cabo da Roca Lighthouse, in Portuguese Farol de Cabo da Roca, a beacon situated on a promontory that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean made up of granite boulders and interspersed limestone.
In addition to the main tower, the complex is composed of nine buildings, since prior to electrification, it was necessary to marshall a team to maintain the lamp, store valuable equipment and produce the Acetylene necessary to run the torch.
It lies within the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais and is one of the points of interest on the walking trails that can be followed here, along the coast.
Historical records indicate that there was a fort on Cabo da Roca in the 17th century that played an important part in guarding the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour, forming a defensive line along the coast, especially during the Peninsular Wars.
Today there are only traces but, either way, the initiative to construct the lighthouse came from the Junta Geral da Fazenda do Reino on 1 February 1758, in an order to construct six lighthouses strategically throughout the country to assist navigation.
Cabo da Roca lighthouse began operating in 1772, becoming the third oldest lighthouse still in operation along the Portuguese coast.
In 1843, the lighthouse underwent major change with the installation of a new rotation device consisting of sixteen Argand light-bulbs with parabolic reflectors. Still later, in 1883, approval was granted for the installation of an electric light and with a sound warning system (a steam-mermaid device), which went operational in 1897.
Throughout the 20th century, the Cabo da Roca Lighthouse was subject to various interventions designed to modernise and optimise its operating performance. In 1917, the acetylene gas production unit was installed to supply the lighthouse system and, later, the sound signal was replaced by a compressed air device.
It was automated in 1990.
In the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse, there is the emblematic cross with its homage to Luís de Camões, the man considered Portugal’s and the Portuguese language’s greatest poet:
“Right here, almost at the head’s summit, Of all Europe, the Lusitano Kingdom, Where the earth ends and the sea begins, And where Apollo settles into the Ocean”
(The Lusíadas, Canto III, Luís de Camões).
His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads). The influence of his masterpiece is so profound that Portuguese is sometimes called the “language of Camões”.
The day of his death, 10 June (1580), is Portugal’s national day.
It was this position, at the end of the known earth, that turned Cabo da Roca into a sacred and legendary place which continues to amaze those who visit.