Village

Aigra Velha

Hilltop village

Here in the highest village, everything is simple and done following the natural cycle of the surrounding environment.

 Aigra Velha is the highest altitude Schist Village (770 metres), not far from the summits of the Lousã Mountain, but easy to get to. It is a small place, but one with wide horizons. The landscape surrounding the village makes all the difference. Here everything is simple and done following the natural cycle of nature that is all around us.

Located on a mountain ridge, Aigra Velha is surrounded by farmland and spreading pastures. On one side there are views of the Serra da Estrela, and to the east, of the massive Penedos de Góis.

The buildings were organised in a defensive arrangement against bad weather, intruders and wild animals such as wolves, allowing communication and circulation between the different buildings, while maintaining each family’s privacy.

Here you can hear old stories about the caravans of traders who travelled the mountains and stopped here for the night. At night there were wolves, prompting the inhabitants to block the village’s only street and to create internal connections between the houses. These schist walls surrounded by green pastures are our shelter before we set off to discover Oitava forest park and the Ribeira da Pena.

 

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Heritage

The collection of buildings, though small, form a complex layout due to family and community relationships created between the owners of the different buildings. They only have a single storey and were organised in a defensive arrangement against bad weather, intruders and wild animals (wolves), allowing communication and circulation between the different buildings, while maintaining each family’s privacy We find a similar arrangement in the historic centre of the Schist Village of Figueira (Proença-a-Nova).

Every kitchen had a hiding place between the kitchen and the animal pens to hide food that might be considered surplus by the inspectors of the New State, who came to inland villages to confiscate their provisions. Every house also had a cat door, a hole in the wall to allow cats to go in and out. Cats were highly valued because they kept down the rodents that ate the grain and even people’s clothes in their wardrobes. Every kitchen also had a caniço, a structure located above the fireplace or stove that was used to smoke chestnuts in autumn to preserve them for the winter. As we move away from the village, we notice that the land is practically bare of vegetation. This can only be seen here. These are pastures that are burned in the summer to encourage the growth of new vegetation. A few decades ago the Serra was all like this and the villagers had to walk far to gather firewood.

The predominant building material is schist, with occasional quartzite.  This small village is part of a group, which also includes – in a relationship of proximity and functionality - the other three Schist Villages of Góis municipality.

The village only possesses minimal facilities, some in the public space, others private.

Worth a visit:

  • Claro Family oven and still
    Private equipment belonging to the Claro family, used for making products (bread and honey brandy) for their own consumption. Both the oven and the still have recently been restored as part of the ECO-ARQ Project.

  • Tank
    Precaution in case of fire.

  • Fountain
    The source of the Quelha da Bica is a bubbling spring, constantly emitting notes of cool water which flows to meet the Ribeira de Pena in the bottom of the valley.

History

The village dates back at least to the 16th century. Aigra is a fairly common place name in Portugal. It derives from the classical Latin word ager, which evolved into agra, meaning “field” or “farm”.  VITERBO (1798) also draws our attention to the possibility of acra or acrus, which means a certain portion of land that servants or slaves were expected to cultivate.

In the “Register of the population of the Kingdom (1527)” the entry for the villa de Goys included what was then called hegra cemejra, which had one resident. The name Aigra Velha evolved from Aigra Cimeira (upper Aigra), relating to a farm or new crop field, in contrast to another Aigra, (Aigra Nova).

The first forms of settlement that are known of in Góis municipality date from the Neolithic or Bronze I period, as proved by the many archaeological remains and finds (stone and metal axes, adornments, coins, rock art –stone inscriptions) found to the north of this area. The origin of these villages dates from the Iron Age with the foundation of small settlements on the slopes and the tops of hills, some of them subsequently abandoned during the Middle Ages.

To overcome the difficulty of crossing the region, it is said that there was probably a “Roman” or “medieval” road whose course would have passed through Aigra Velha and Pena, forming part of the trade route from Lisbon to the north of the country, transporting goods such as salt, spices and cloth. Aigra Velha thus played an active role in this customary trade, thereby diversifying its economy, which was traditionally linked to agriculture and pastoralism.

Breasting the rise to Aigra Nova we find a block of buildings situated in the village which appears relatively ancient to judge by the nature of their construction and degree of dilapidation, and which marks the start of the community of Aigra Velha.

Nature

Sanguinho-de-água.

Aigra Nova is included in the Lousã Mountain Site of Community Importance, of the Natura 2000 Network. On the northern edge of the village there is a monumental, centuries-old chestnut tree (Castanea sativa). Also of remarkable size, an alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) conceals itself among the other vegetation beside the watercourse.

A clump of birches with their characteristic white trunks beautify the area around the tank and Portuguese laurel cherries spread along the watercourse which runs from the village to the flanks of the Penedos de Góis, where it flows into the Ribeira da PenaRed deer visit the edge of the village almost every night.

Unnamed in books or maps, the small stream that runs through the village receives the water from the rains that fall on the village. Into it forever flowed the blood, sweat and tears of all those who lived there. Its waters flow between a large stand of Portuguese laurel cherries. At the bottom of the valley, they flow into the Ribeira da Pena, and thence to the Ribeira da Ceira. The Mondego finally dissolves into the Atlantic.

The region’s very rich natural heritage surrounding these villages includes in particular the Penedos de Góis and Oitava Forest Park, the habitat of endangered birds and mammals such as red deer and roe deer which are rarely found elsewhere in Portugal.

Territory

Aigra Velha is 14 km from Góis. It is served by the EN342 (passing through Comareira and Aigra Nova), 6 km away, and the EN2 (passing through Pena), 7 km away, two of which have a dirt road section passable with due care.

The village is located on a mountain ridge, surrounded by farmland and a vast pastures. From Aigra Velha there are views of the Serra da Estrela and, on the opposite side, to the east, rise the Penedos de Góis.

Penedos de Góis:

... a spiky, craggy massif which, visible from afar, is one of the most salient features of certain landscapes of the Beira.”
Raúl Proença (ND, c. 1940) “Estradas de Portugal - Estradas da Beira Meridional"

Stories and Facts

Origin of the name
The name Aigra Velha evolved from the designation aigra cimeira (upper Aigra), relating to a farm or new crop field at a higher altitude, in contrast to another Aigra (Aigra Nova).

Facts

  • Permanent inhabitants: fewer than 10

  • Patron Saint: St. Anthony

  • Iconic feature: Penedos de Góis

Festivals

  • January: Cantar as janeiras (carolling)

  • February: Traditional Shrovetide in the Schist Villages of Góis

  • July: Meeting of mountain people (Santo António da Neve)

Products

  • Chestnuts
  • Kid goat
  • Goat cheese
  • AHoney spirit
  • Maize bread broa cooked in a wood oven

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Contacts and Information

Location:
Aigra Velha, Góis
Getting Here:
De Norte e Sul
Na A1 sair em Coimbra. Tome a N17 e saia na N342 no sentido da Lousã. Continue em direcção a Góis até encontrar as placas indicativas (à direita) das quatro Aldeias do Xisto.

De Espanha
Na A23 sair em direção a Fundão-Sul. No Fundão seguir pela N238 em direção a Silavres. Siga em frente até ao Orvalho. Aí tome a direção de Pampilhosa da Serra. Apanhe a N2 no sentido de Góis. Continue pela N342 até encontrar (à esquerda) as placas indicativas das quatro Aldeias do Xisto.

Contactos

Associado

Câmara Municipal de Góis

Góis 
Portugal
(+351) 235 770 110

Posto de Turismo de Góis

Largo Francisco Inácio Dias Nogueira
3330 Góis 
Portugal
(+351) 235 770 113

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