Wellington in Portugal
The French Invasions
During the years 1808 – 1810, the forces commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley successfully repulsed three French invasions of Portugal. In 1808 he scored his first victories in the Peninsula at Rolica and Vimeiro. 1809 saw the French invading the country from the North only to be brilliantly out-manoeuvred at Porto when Wellesley audaciously crossed the Douro. Then in 1810, after receiving a bloody check at Busaco, Marshal Massena's forces forced themselves towards Lisbon only to be stopped before the ingeniously conceived Lines of Torres Vedras. Making no attempt to break through, the starving French were forced to abandon Portugal for the last time, hotly pursued by Wellington's (as he was by then known) forces, the Light Division seeing many sharp actions and capturing an 'eagle' at Foz de Arouce.
On this eight day tour 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 landing beaches of 1808 with their treacherous rolling surf, the lagoons through which Hill and Cameron's brigades sailed in an attempt to out-manoeuvre before Porto, explore the forts and signal redoubts along the Lines of Torres Vedras and see how, during Massena's retreat in 1811, Marshal Ney honed his rear guard fighting techniques against the Light Division, a quality for which Napoleon dubbed him the 'bravest of the brave' after the disastrous French retreat from Moscow the following year. There will be time to explore the historic centre of Lisbon, take Port in Porto, walk the walls of the pretty Moorish town of Obidos, and see much of rural Portugal.
"When I reflect upon the characters and attainments of some of the General Officers of this army, and consider that these are the persons on whom I am to rely to lead columns against the French Generals, and who are to carry my instructions in to execution, I tremble".
Duke of Wellington
Fly London to Lisbon. Battlefield tour of Rolica including both the French positions and Lake's monument. Check in to our five star coastal hotel near Peniche for one night.
Our first stop is at Maceira Bay, where British reinforcements came ashore. At Vimeiro's visitor centre we get a great view of the battlefield before travelling out to Ventosa to look at the French flanking attacks. After a lunch stop at the fortified Moorish town of Obidos we continue to Mondego Bay, Wellesley's initial landing beach. Check in to our four star hotel in Curia for three nights
Today we examine Wellesley's audacious crossing of the Douro and the events preceding it. We stop at the River Vouga, the French defensive line and the Aveiro lagoons through which Hill's flanking forces sailed. At Vila Nova we stand at the monastery from where Wellesley commanded before crossing over to the seminary. We end the day at one of Porto's fine port lodges to sample their wares.
Today is dedicated to the battle of Busaco, the field of which is situated in the heart of the Portuguese National Park. We will visit Massena's headquarters, Wellington's command post, the military museum and Craufurd's rock and take a late lunch at the Busaco Palace hotel.
As we make our way back to Lisbon we visit selected actions that took place during Massena's retreat from the Lines of Torres Vedras including Foz de Arouce and Pombal. Check in to our four star hotel in the Belem area of Lisbon for three nights.
We spend a full day in Lisbon and its environs including the impressive military museum with its large model of the Lines, the dominating Castello de Sao Jorge and explore Belem, the home of the British forces for most of the war.
Explore the forts in the 2nd lines of Torres Vedras and visit Colonel Fletcher's monument at Alhandra. Then on to the 1st lines to see the site of Beresford's and Wellington's headquarters at Pero Negro, the great redoubt of Sobral and the restored fort of San Vicente.
Fly Lisbon – London.