This is my review of Madeira Walks: Leisure Trails Volume 1 by Shirley Whitehead,Mike Whitehead.
These 41 walks all begin with a useful chart to show length, approximate time needed (possibly somewhat underestimated for those who want to take their time), variation in height, whether circular or one way, vertigo risk and refreshments en route. They are clearly described with details of method of access and return, key features on the way, illustrated with photographs of the scenery and a small map, which often looks hard to follow so the Discovery Walking Guides Ltd Madeira Tour & Trail 1:40,000 super-durable waterproof map is also recommended. All routes require sturdy footwear with a good grip, since paths are often uneven and slippery from springs and moss. I noticed many walkers using poles for stability or confidence. Walks with a low vertigo risk unsurprisingly tend to offer less dramatic views.
Since, although reliable, Madeira buses tend to be infrequent, a taxi is likely to be necessary at least one way for many of the walks making it tempting to opt for an organised levada walk tour instead. For those with limited time on the island or not very hardy walkers, I would recommend the walks which link in with bus services to major points of interest e.g. Walk 1 from Praia Formosa in West Funchal to the fishing village of Camara de Lobos – this walk can be commenced earlier, say at the Funchal Lido or even the Fortaleza do Santiago near the Funchal teleréfico to Monte. Walk 7 from the viewpoint of Eira Serrado, accessible on the No. 81 morning bus, gives striking views on the hairpin track down to Curral das Freiras (the Nun's Valley), although it can be slippery on the mossy rounded steps. The No. 8 walk in the Ecological Park is interesting, although despite the evidence of recovery from a largescale fire, I was depressed by the sight of blackened, leafless trunks. Walk No. 19 from Ribeiro Frio (Bus 56 or 103) is a short, easy walk to viewing balconies giving dramatic views of the peaks.