By Alyson Sheldrake

The parish church in Lagoa is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz or The Church of Our Lady of Light. It is in front of a pretty square called the Largo dos Combatantes da Grande Guerra. This translates as the Great War Fighters’ Square, and it has an impressive war memorial surrounded by a small area of planted gardens and benches.

Inside, the church is cool and inviting, with wooden benches and stone arches. Plenty of gold paint surrounds the altar and there is a statue of Nossa Senhora da Luz, which takes pride of place in the chancel.

Don’t miss the Convent of São José situated almost around the corner from the church. The Carmelite Convent, with its beautiful cloister, chapel, and gazebo, was built in 1738 and survived the 1755 earthquake. In the convent’s garden you can see a menhir (a tall upright stone), from the Porches region, which originated between 5000 and 4000 BC.

The convent was originally used to house and educate abandoned women and children. Today, it is the town’s Cultural Centre and home to a wide range of activities. It hosts art and photography exhibitions, concerts, musical events and plays, lectures and demonstrations, and a range of other cultural events. Upstairs, they have turned the original nuns’ rooms into mini art galleries, and there is a small chapel from the 18th century which is used for worship and music concerts.

Art lovers will enjoy the Lady in Red art gallery. It is located in the unused industrial space next door to the Adega Cooperativa de Lagoa building. The gallery mostly displays modern art, with regular featured-artist exhibitions. There is a café inside as well.

There is also a new initiative that has opened on the main road on the edge of town, called the Convent’bio. Their website describes the old convent building, which has been beautifully restored and brought back to life. Not only have they created an ambitious bio-organic farming project with produce for sale, but they have also lovingly curated the cultural heritage of the original building. A wonderful open and well-lit gallery space is available for exhibitions.

One of the most popular leisure options for a fun day out is the Slide & Splash water park. This is one of the largest water parks in Europe, covering over seven hectares with a wide range of water entertainment for all ages. As well as the main rides, there are live animal shows, spa treatments, restaurants, and a shop where you can buy souvenirs.

The Sand City extravaganza is on the N125 near the International School. Every year more than sixty professional sand sculptors from all over the world come to the Algarve to craft the most amazing sand sculptures. Fifty thousand tonnes of sand are used to create the sculptures which are displayed over six hectares of land.

The beaches near Lagoa have limestone cliffs, with incredibly rich deep-ochre and sienna colours. The sand is soft and golden; the waves are often calmer, and there are hidden coves and caves to explore by land or boat. The rock formations and cliffs create an impressive backdrop. The Benagil Cave is probably the most famous of all the sea caves in the Algarve. Many people take a boat trip out to witness this magnificent arched cathedral-like structure. There is a small and unique beach tucked away inside that can only be reached by boat.

Praia da Marinha is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and has won many awards. At low tide, you can walk around the sand and see the famous M-shaped arch of rocks that are slowly, but surely, crumbling. If you stand at a certain point on the cliffs above and look down on the arch, add some fanciful editing with your eyes of the surrounding cliffs in front of you, and you have a perfect heart shape. Well, a little romance never hurt anyone.

Alyson Sheldrake is an artist and writer. She is the author of three best-selling travel/memoir books in her Algarve Dream Series, which are all available to purchase on Amazon.

Her latest book A New Life in the Algarve, Portugal is out now.

All images © Dave Sheldrake Photography.

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