If you want ‘boutique hotel chic’, covet a place in the Funchal tourist herd, and want expensive packaged hotel day-trips this probably isn't the place for you. On the other hand, if you want a comfortable base for discovering Madeira, a superb location in a lovely Funchal suburb, a warm welcome and a fast-track to some of the best inside information on walking Madeira, you should seriously consider T J Walking.
We stayed with T J Walking for a week in March, arrived as ‘Madeira walking newbies’ and, thanks to the hospitality of Trevor and June Franks and their two charming cats, went home feeling like one of the family. An enjoyable stay began as soon as Trevor welcomed us off our flight at Funchal airport (stay for a week or more and your transfers come with the package). Twenty minutes’ drive later, we received an equally warm welcome from June, and a lovely mug of tea, when we arrived at Trejuno in Livramento.
Our double room was comfortable and came with everything we needed for the week (a proper safe, tea and coffee-making facilities, hairdryer, well-stocked fridge, plenty of storage etc.). The room was clean and serviced thoroughly every day and there was plenty of piping-hot water for showering whenever we wanted it (even when Trejuno was full, as was the case during most of our stay). My wife and I are seasoned independent travellers; over the years we’ve done everything from 5-star hotels to sleeping rough on station benches; Trejuno offered everything we wanted or needed for our stay.
Over the last 20 years, Trevor and June have built-up an amazing knowledge and expertise of Madeira walking. The welcome they’ve provided over the years is borne out by the positive endorsements in several visitors’ books. What’s more, one of their longstanding Madeira walking regulars was staying while we were there and provided further unprompted testimony to the Franks’s kindness and generosity. Trevor and June are warm, enthusiastic people with strong personalities and a great sense of humour. We had some great laughs with them, not least during the very filling breakfast we enjoyed every morning (fruit and cereal, fresh avocados from the garden, a choice of three different fresh breads and rolls, jams, tea, coffee and fruit juice…).
And when it came to evening dining, there was a good choice of local bar/restaurants within a few minutes’ walk of the house (we enjoyed two meals, complete with a stunning view over Funchal, at Vasco de Gama across the road) as well as down in central Funchal. Of the latter, we’d particularly recommend Gaviao Novo, Arco Vehlo and O Portao in Funchal’s old town, and O Funil on Rua de Carrieira in the business area. Whether you’re on your way home after a day’s walking or you specifically choose go into town to eat, we found a superb choice at reasonable prices. And when you’re finished, Trejuno is just a few minutes’ ride up the hill on the No.19 bus (with two stops close to the house). The bus service is frequent and offers an easier alternative to the steep 25 minute downhill walk into town (probably even steeper if you decide to walk back to Livramento!). Trevor and June are a mine of useful information about the buses in Funchal and Madeira in general; they also loan guests Giro cards to use on the town’s buses (good value and easily topped-up throughout Funchal).
And then there is the special walking knowledge that comes with your stay. Between them, Trevor and June Franks have probably done all the walks in Madeira; whether it’s levadas, high peaks, town walks or coastal hikes, they know them intimately. This knowledge and experience means they’re ideally qualified to advise on each walk’s suitability for different abilities as well as on the current condition of each route.
Over the years, Trevor has gone to huge lengths to explore and document a huge range of walks (complete with all the background information and bus connections you’ll need); each is detailed on an easily carried A4 sheet that you can take on your day out. We particularly enjoyed the Levada dos Tornos and Levada dos Piornais in Funchal, as well as the north coast walk from Machico to Porto Cruz via Boca do Risco and the stunning headland walk along the Ponta de São Laurenço. Charming Monte (pronounced ‘Mont’) with its Tropical Gardens and top station for the cableway down to Funchal’s seafront, is also just a short bus ride from Trejuno.
Would we visit T J Walking if we were walking in Madeira again? Absolutely (especially if we were walking the south and east of the island). We loved the simple but very adequate accommodation and the welcome we received. We had everything we wanted as well as the benefit of being in ‘real Funchal’, rather than the sanitised ‘hotel and cruise ship world’ experienced by so many visitors to Madeira.
If your top priority is a brand new room and this year’s décor you may find something more to your taste elsewhere; but if you want to be welcomed into a clean, character-full home by two lovely hosts who could write a book on walking in Madeira (and will share their knowledge with you at the drop of a hat), stay with T J Walking.
You won’t regret it; we didn’t.
- Also Known As:
- TJ Walking Funchal, Madeira