At the imposing M oorish Castle, an invigorating walk up the long trail takes us past granaries, a guard's house and the shell of the first parish church, built in the 12th century. Stairs lead to the top of the ram parts and a series of lookout spots.
Standing at the highest point, the Castle Keep, I can see the hazy Atlantic and the town as clouds drift by. No wonder the Moors fortified this position in the ninth century to monitor the coastline, and Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, took control of it in 1147.
The mix of medieval and more modern stonework reminds us that most of today's castle was rebuilt in the mid-1800s by Fernando II, a German-born prince.
Fernando built his fantasyland on the site of a 12th-century chapel and a 16th-century monastery, which he restored. His German architect designed the sprawling complex, mixing Moorish, G othic, R enaissance and M anueline features─with a touch of Bavarian castle on the Rhine.
From this vantage point nearly 1,500 feet above sea level, Lisbon can be seen on a clear day.
"This glorious Eden"
The 403 bus quickly leaves the town behind, winding through the rolling countryside on its 35-minute drive to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe.
Along the way, we pass a few clusters of white- and cream-colored houses and produce stands. Squat Old World windmills contrast with cell towers and satellite dishes.
At the point, a short cream and red lighthouse and a stone marker topped with a cross stand as sentries. The view of endless blue-green ocean is surprisingly dramatic, dotted by islands of sunlight formed by breaks in the clouds.
It's the clouds that enhance Sintra's mystique and magic, teasing us with its charms. And when they part, we find a beautiful, romantic, timeless land─as Lord Byron called it, "this glorious Eden."