The cape of Cabo Espichel is a windswept, rocky headland at the south-western tip of the land across the Tejo, around 40 kilometres south of Lisbon. This is a wild, desolate spot, where giant waves crash against sheer, towering cliffs. It is a place to appreciate the raw beauty of nature and is often a great place to come to watch the sunset, although visitors need to beware of the dangerous drops and the powerful gusts of wind.
There has been a lighthouse at Cabo Espichel since the 15th century, and today a white, hexagonal lighthouse built in 1790 is still operational, beaming out a light and sounding a siren which warns ships of the treacherous waters and rocks below.
From the 13th century onwards this spot has been a place of pilgrimage. Legend tells that a visionary saw the Virgin Mary riding a giant mule around the cliffs. Perilously close to the cliff edge, the whitewashed Ermida de Memoria (Memory Chapel) commemorates this event. The chapel is closed to the public. Also on the cape is the Nossa Senhora do Cabo Church (Our Lady of the Cape, protectress of fishermen). The church is worth a visit, to admire the richly painted ceiling and experience the tranquility of this place. Adjoining the church are the now abandoned former pilgrim’s lodging house. There is a café close by serving traditional Portuguese fare.
Also of note in the area are some uniquely preserved dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.