The Estoril Coast has a wonderful climate and is a superb natural environment. There are traces of mankind dating back to the Palaeolithic period. Well before even this time, dinosaurs lived here and their footprints remain in several places.
Very early on, people became aware of the strategic importance of the most westerly point in Europe, and the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Arabs all came here.
The Arabs in particular left their mark on the architecture and culture, and their influence is apparent in many place names. They built the first windmills and the first literary reference to them is in a poem by the Arab poet Ibn Mucane of Alcabideche, a village near Cascais.
The region was reconquered by the Christians in 1147. From that time onwards, because the area is so close to Lisbon, its people have borne witness to many of the ups and downs of Portugal’s military and political history.
Sintra was one of the favourite summer retreats of the royal family.
Cascais was the first town that sailors would see as they approached the Tagus estuary and their last glimpse of Portugal as they sailed away to all corners of the earth. The people of Cascais would see the explorers leaving and their ships returning laden with African treasures, Indian spices and Brazilian gold.
In 1558, they watched from their beaches as the Spanish Armada, the largest naval fleet ever to exist until the Second World War, sailed out on its ill-fated trip to England. The coastal fortifications remind us that the coast was once vulnerable to attack by pirates and that Spanish, French and English forces all landed here at various points in the history of Portugal.
More recently, Estoril became the favourite haven of many of the kings and aristocrats exiled at various points during the tumultuous history of the 20th century. Estoril was a major centre of international espionage and secret diplomacy during the Second World War, and from that time onwards has retained a sophisticated, cosmopolitan atmosphere.