The enchanting Capela da Nossa Senhora da Rocha (Chapel of Our Lady of the Rock) on the promontory that extends from the mainland into the sea like a slice of cake, is so picture perfect that it looks like part of film set and I almost expected to see Meryl Streep running along the path towards the chapel after singing ‘The Winner Takes it All’ (as in the film version of Mamma Mia!). The promontory, with the gold- and bronze-coloured rock and the small whitewashed chapel on top, is one of the most photographed images in the western part of the Algarve and, not surprisingly, is a setting for fairy-tale-style weddings. It is best seen from the cliff path above Praia Nova to the west of the promontory, with the sweeping expanse of the beach to the east of Armação de Pêra, which goes all the way to Albufeira, in the distance. From here the chapel looks like a decoration on a slice of wedding cake.
The chapel is a small, squat, whitewashed building, the simplicity of which looks stunning against a blue Algarvian sky. It has a short, hexagonal, broad-based steeple with a simple cross on the top and a single bell to the side of the steeple. There is a small porch with azulejos (patterned tiles) on the walls and an azulejo cross above the porch on the outside wall of the chapel. Behind the glass doors at the back of the porch is a small shrine with a carved wooden panel depicting the Madonna and Child, painted in blue and gold, above a small altar. The azulejos in the porch continue into the shrine. Opposite the shrine is a square, brick niche, used for votive candles, which overlooks the sea and the cliffs behind. From the other side of the chapel you can look down onto the tiny beach, Praia Senhora da Rocha. If you are on the beach, there is a tunnel through the rock which provides easy access between Praia Senhora da Rocha and Praia Nova. The promontory is thought to have been used as a fortress dating back to before the eighth century, but it has been destroyed over the centuries by erosion and rock falls, which continue to this day, evidence of which can be seen in the fissure on the tip of the promontory, giving a sense of transitoriness to the scene.
Buses run to Senhora da Rocha from Portimão via Lagoa and from Albufeira via Armação de Pêra. There is approximately one bus an hour between 7.30am and 7.30pm.