Menhirs of Vilarinha

Hiking up and down the hills of central Algarve, the remnants of the past are all around. There are medieval burial sites all around, and then there are the menirs. In a line running northeast to southwest, red sandstone obelisks stand sentinel over the hills. Each one different, they each have distinctive markings and shapes. Along the trail, modern stone arrangements bear witness to the fascination people have had with building and working with stones, from thousands of years ago to the present day.

This is an alignment of menirs, running from northeast to southwest, over several kilometers. They are carved from local red sandstone (known as “grés de Silves”) and date back to the Neolithic period (around 5,500 to 4,500 BC). The first one is about 1km from the village of Vale Fuzeiros, along a marked hiking trail (“PR2 SLV”). It’s under 2m tall, and has some distinctive cup marks (“covinhas”) and faint carvings. There is a (heavily damaged) sign board nearby, in Portuguese.

The second menir is about 400m away. It’s about 1.76m tall and has more visible serpentine carvings.

The third menir is about 300m further along the trail. It has some patterns in the stone, but it has not been decorated by people. It’s about 1.5m tall.

In his published description of the excavation1, Mário Varela Gomes describes how the original Vilarinha 3 menir was removed in 1994 and displayed in the Silves Municipal Archaeology Museum. He details its ornate carvings, with serpentine curves, zigzags, and “báculos” (croziers or curved staffs). There is also an identified fifth menir, Vilarinha 5, which was not in his original publication, although Varela Gomes wrote that it was likely that that there had originally been many more menirs. The Archaeologists’ Portal describes Vilarinha 5 as “ovoid…without decoration.” This fits the menir that is currently located in the site for #3. The site for #5 is more or less empty, certainly without a menir.

It is quite likely that all (or at least many) of the menirs had been moved and/or reused over the years. The archaeological excavations turned up no artefacts, and the various carvings on the menirs indicate that they have been worked on at different periods of prehistory. Varela Gomes dates the menirs back to the early Neolithic (8,000 to 7,000 years ago) but says that the carvings on different menirs indicate their use through the Chalcolithic.

The fourth and (presently) last menir in the alignment is known as the Menir dos Gregórios (after the nearby hamlet). It is also sometimes called Pedra dos Cucos. This was the first menir in the alignment to be discovered (by Varela Gomes in 19832) and was named a Property of Public interest in 1986. The other menirs were excavated in 1994 and are designated Properties of Municipal Interest. The menir of Gregórios about 2m tall and is decorated with cup marks (“covinhas”). It can also be easily reached from the trailhead on the tarmac road near the hamlet of Gregórios.

Such an alignment of menirs is not very common in Portugal, but there are others around the country. There is another in Bensafrim (also in the Algarve, about 45km away), called Portela do Padrão, which also runs from northeast to southwest.


These menirs are located on a ridge in the municipality of Silves along the main road (N124) between Silves and São Bartolomeu de Messines (signposted as S. B. Messines or just Messines). They are along a line of hills south of the village of Vale Fuzeiros. The village of Gregórios is to the south of the last menir in the alignment (which gets its name from the village).


The Via Algarviana hiking trail (PR2 SLV) is well laid out and easy to follow, but there’s a fair bit of hill hiking. It’s an energetic walk up and down the hills especially in the Algarve sun! The Gregórios menir (Vilarinha 4) has the easiest access if you start out from the village of Gregórios.


On the N124 between Silves and São Bartolomeu de Messines, there is a sign pointing out the trail (“percurso”) and directions to Vale Fuzeiros. There are more signs pointing out the route after Amorosa near the village of Pedreiras (east of São Bartolomeu das Messines) and the village of Gregórios, but in the village of Vale Fuzeiros (the start of the trail) the only signs are the trail markers. There is a notice board with information about the alignment (“alinhamento”) near the village of Gregórios and another with a map of the area outside the village of Pedreiras.



There are many medieval necrópoles in the vicinity, several along the hiking trail. There are also a number of other prehistoric menirs in the region, although their specific locations are not well documented nor are they signposted. The Menir de Vale Fuzeiros was identified by Mário Varela Gomes but is not signposted, and is on private land. The Silves Municipal Archaeology Museum is about 15km (20 min) away and has an extensive prehistoric collection, including other menirs besides Vilarinha 3.


  1. GOMES, Mário Varela (2008) – The alignment of Vilarinha (São Bartolomeu de Messines, Silves). Megalithic Architecture and Art. In Xelb, 8. ↩︎
  2. GOMES, Mário Varela (1983) – The Gregórios menhir (Silves). In Guimarães Magazine. Guimaraes. 93, p. 133148. ↩︎

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