Oporto Excursions by Public Transport - To Régua and Lamego
A Douro Azul cruise ship at Régua, 2011.
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Whilst the quickest way from Oporto to Régua and Lamego is by road, in a car, a far more enjoyable route is by a combination of train and coach along a more circuitous route than the motorway. Indeed, the train ride from Oporto (S. Bento) to Régua features an extensive run alongside the River Douro for the final third of the trip, (sit on the right hand side for river views). Then, from Régua station, you can take the EAVT (Empresa Automobilista de Viação e Turismo Lda) bus up the steep and winding route to Lamego, which provides magnificent views of hilly landscape (sit on the left hand side for the best views). The bus journey is about 15km in length.
Right: A view from the Régua to Lamego bus.
And the whole trip is good value; a standard day-return fare of 14.95 euros (2011) from Oporto to Régua, plus just 4.20 euros return for the twenty-minute bus ride to Lamego. Régua is generally glossed over in tourist guides as little more than a transport interchange and faded port wine entrepot but it has more to offer than that.
In 2011, amongst the old equipment visible were two Henschel narrow-gauge steam locomotives 2-4-6-0 locos, E210 and E214, from the 1920s, a former Yugolslav railways railcar of the CP class 9700, and a former narrow-gauge diesel loco, 9004.
The station itself has a good café which also doubles as something of a regional souvenir shop, whilst part of the station's formerly extensive goods store has been converted into an attractive café which uses an old goods wagon as part of its outdoor seating area.
If you turn right immediately outside the station and walk 100 yards or so you will find the Rota do Vinho do Porto building, which is also a kind of tourist office where you can get maps and information on the town and surrounding area. The main tourist office is not well sited, some ten minutes walk away in the upper town.
The nearest of the three bridges to the railway station is the attractive "Ponte Metálica" or Metallic Bridge. This was built as a road bridge in 1872 in King D. Luís I's reign, whose name and bridge-building are more famously linked in the main Ponte D. Luís double-deck bridge in Oporto. However, the 19th century bridge in Régua had to be taken out of use in 1949 due to the poor state of its wooden "table" carrying the roadway. After, incredibly, more than sixty years of being unused for any purpose, it is now (2011) being repaired, but for pedestrian-only use, at a cost of more than one million euros.
In 1949, therefore, road traffic was transferred to the adjacent unused rail bridge, which had been constructed years earlier for the proposed line from Régua to Lamego. However, that railway was never built and the bridge was therefore available for road traffic and is the one still in use today. Sadly, it was from this current road bridge that, in 1964, a Lamego to Régua EAVT bus service was struck near the Régua end of the crossing by a Mini car and plunged 30 metres onto the concrete at the side of the river below, with the loss of seven lives. It is ironic that on virtually the only straight and level section of that bus route such an awful accident should occur. For more on this, click here.
The rail link from Régua to Lamego was planned as early as 1906, the same year that the line up the opposite valley was opened to Vila Real. However, although the foundations for the track had been made and space for the station at Lamego had long been earmarked, the railway only got as far as building the vital bridge across the Douro in 1933. Further delays meant that World War II effectively put an end to the whole project, leaving not only the rail bridge as a white elephant, but also another sister structure a little distance from Régua - the Varosa bridge, pictured left. That bridge is still unused other than by pedestrians and in 2011 it looked distinctly overgrown with foliage. It can be seen (left) from the Lamego to Régua bus route.
For more on this aborted rail project see the excellent "Narrow gauage railways of Portugal" by W.J.K. Davies (Plateway Press, 1998), pages 135-36 and 273.
Lamego's main sights include its castle, cathedral and the impressive Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church (pictured, right) which is reached up a series of steps - a smaller version of the Bom Jesus church near Braga but, in this case, with no funicular to assist your climb.
The Douro Azul company runs longer cruises as well as shorter trips to Oporto, Barca d'Alva, Pocinho and Pinhão. The longer trips vary from one-night excuursions to five-day holidays from Oporto to Barca d'Alva and back with meals and entertainment for 449 euros (2011).
In short; Régua may not be on the itineraries of most tourist guidebooks, but for those interested in transport and who enjoy scenic views, it is well worth a visit.