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Wellington in Portugal

The French Invasions

To the Portuguese, the Peninsular War is known as the War of the French Invasions.  Three times the French invaded Portugal between 1807 and 1811 and each time the nation’s saviour was Arthur Wellesley the future Duke of Wellington. The first invasion by General Junot ended following the battle of Vimeiro in August 1808; the second by Marshal Soult ended abruptly following Wellington’s audacious operation to recapture the city of Porto in broad daylight, forcing Soult’s force into a harrowing retreat over the mountains in north Portugal; while the third invasion by Marshal Massena came to an equally dramatic end in front of the Lines of Torres Vedras necessitating, the following year, Marshal Ney to conduct a series of rearguard actions for the French to escape.

On this eight day tour, led by the award winning Peninsular War and Napoleonic historian Nick Lipscombe, we escape the main roads to discover the Portugal known so well to the men of Wellington’s Army during the years 1808– 1811. As well as the battlefields we will see the Wellington’s landing beaches with their treacherous rolling surf, explore the forts and signal redoubts along the Lines of Torres Vedras, wander around the historic centre of Lisbon, take port in Porto besides the banks of the mighty River Douro, walk the walls of the pretty medieval town of Obidos, admire the architecture of the UNESCO listed university city of Coimbra and marvel at the stunning Portuguese countryside as we travel through its mountain ranges, river valleys and national parks. All set amidst the background of wonderful local and international cuisine and great Portuguese hospitality.

“Wellington: A fine fellow with the best nerves of anyone I ever met with”

Major General Sir Lowry Cole: letter from Portugal 1811

Day 1. Outward travel.

Fly London Gatwick to Porto. Check-in to our hotel for two nights. Welcome drinks and introductory talk.

Day 2. Porto

We examine Wellington’s audacious re-capture of the city from the marvellous vantage point of the Convent Serra do Pillar before crossing to the north bank to see the Seminary building. In the afternoon we will visit the picturesque bridge at Amarante and discuss Soult’s harrowing retreat before returning to Porto to enjoy one of the many Port Lodges in the Gaia district.

Day 3. Busaco.

We drive south via Ovar, the position that Hill’s Brigade outflanked the French in the initial advance to Porto, to the wonderful ridge where the battle of Buçaco took place in September 1810.  We visit Massena’s HQ, Wellington’s command post, Craufurd’s rock and the Military Museum. Thence to the splendid Curia Palace hotel where we check-in for one night.

Day 4. Massena’s Retreat.

We drive south to Pombal where Ney fought the first of five rearguard actions. Then to Redhina before going to the historic city of Coimbra to enjoy lunch on the banks of the mighty Mondego river.  In the afternoon we visit Foz d’Arouce where the French lost an eagle. Check-in to our hotel for one night.

“Wellington: The long-nosed bugger what beats the French”.

Remark by a British private in the Peninsula 1811

Day 5. Lisbon.

We drive south to Lisbon and visit the picturesque Tower at Belem, the impressive Military Museum and the Castle Sao Jorge. Check-in to our Belem hotel for three nights.

Day 6. Lines of Torres Vedras.

We spend the day exploring the 1st and 2nd Lines: the restored fort of San Vicente, the Great redoubt at Sobral, Wellington’s and Beresford’s headquarters and the monument to the two engineers responsible their construction overlooking the Tagus at Alhandra.

Day 7. Rolica & Vimeiro.

We head north to the medieval town of Obidos where the first shots of the war took place before moving on to look at the battles of Roliça and Vimeiro.  We will see the landing site at Maceira Bay and the impressive visitors’ centre in Vimeiro village.

Day 8 - Home.

Check-out of our hotel and drive to Lisbon airport for our return flight back to LGW.