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Review: Douro Railway Line

Travel Service - Bus & train


Port line pleasure

  • By SilverTraveller JohnP

    244 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • September 2015

68 people found this review helpful

It was built to speed the shipment of port downriver, but today it runs at as leisurely a pace as anyone could wish on a scenic route. To drive from the hills towards Porto allows barely a glimpse of the river until Regua, yet the railway runs beside it all the way from the tiny terminus at Pocinho. At 10 Euros return for a senior citizen it is a bargain.

There are not many trains each way and the station is more concerned with booking other trips or selling food and drink than train tickets. When I asked they said “On the train.” So with many another slightly bemused passenger – and most were local – we trundled along for a few minutes through nondescript countryside, then as in a picture book the expanse of river spread before us. Amazing.

It is deep because of the numerous dams built for electricity generation as well as to keep the channel navigable, although all boats are now for pleasure, whether private sailing dinghies, speedboats, cruisers or the traditional-style vessels given engines for the tourists. For about half the hour or so of the journey the train keeps to the left bank. Then it crosses a bridge to follow the right. Everyone has a seat so the view, even across the carriage, is unimpeded, and there is a window seat for one or other half.

Terraces climb the steep hills and every one is packed with vines. From time to time a familiar name appears: Dow, Croft, Taylor, Sandeman (which at Regua even has its cloaked figure standing tall on the skyline). As in Germany one wonders at the ways these vines are cultivated, still more at the harvesting, yet the work is centuries old.

Occasionally a Quinta, or vineyard house, can be seen. Some have their cellars and winepress buildings alongside. Many have a landing stage still, though as with the boats these must be for pleasure. Boats pass in both directions; some may well have come all the way from Porto, others make a shorter journey based on Regua, more or less the half-way point.

There are numerous stations, some little more than halts, others with reminders of a trading past and serving prosperous small towns still. Regua itself is a useful junction for road and rail, and has a port museum, several hotels and a busy street including of course port tasting and purchasing opportunities. We chose to spend a lunch hour there, discovering there was just enough time for a fifty-minute river trip before the mid-afternoon return train.

That seems to have been a good decision. The cruise showed us the beginning of the lower Douro, less spectacular than the reach we’d already seen. The railway too seemed rather more removed from the riverbank, sharing such views as remained with a road. Our fifty minutes gave us close-up views of the expensive lunch cruisers, fed with passengers from coaches who were then fed on board and taken to a quinta tasting before the journey back to their hotels.

Before our return train came in we had time to see a so-called steam train with folk dancing and baskets of picnic food. It hardly seemed worth the bother or extra fare. We took the basic journey back, enjoying seats on another side of the carriage for an up-river view. Oh, we did pay – about half-way through the outward journey and our tickets were checked on the way back. A good thing we had remembered ID to prove we deserved our concessions.

68 people found this review helpful

This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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