TORRES VEDRAS took its name from the Duke of Wellington’s famous defence lines (Linhas de Torres) in the Peninsular War against Napoleonic France. The “Lines” consisted of a chain of 150 hilltop fortresses, built in a matter of months, where in 1810 Wellington and his forces retired, comfortably supplied by sea and completely unassailable. The French eventually retreated back to Spain in despair. Thus from a last line of defence, Wellington completely reversed the progress of the campaign – storming after the disconsolate enemy to effect a series of devastating victories.
Despite the historical glory, modern Torres Vedras is a little disappointing. There are a few fortress ruins in the vicinity and a couple of imposing sixteenth-century churches but, bar a pleasant kernel of cobbled lanes, the town is swamped by a dull urban sprawl. It’s at its best around the central Praça 25 de Abril, where – in the old Convento da Graça – the Museu Municipal features a room devoted to the Peninsular War; an obelisk in the square outside commemorates the battles. Above the old town sits the Castelo, which was once a popular royal residence. It was here, in 1414, that Dom João I confirmed the decision to take the Moroccan outpost of Ceuta – the first overseas venture leading towards the future Portuguese maritime empire. The castle was reduced to rubble by the earthquake of 1755, but the battlements have been restored and in spring the slopes are carpeted with red poppies.Read More