Now you probably need a car to get to Estói, but it would certainly be worth hiring one for a day to visit the Roman ruins, and there is also a small 19th century palace in Estói, now a hotel, with stunning gardens which is well worth visiting. You can see the Palácio de Estói, from the ruins of Milreu. The ruins are of what is considered one of the most important Roman villas in the Algarve. Walking around this extensive site, it is evident this was once a luxurious manor house and farm. You enter the site through the visitor centre, walking up a flagstone path which was once the road to the villa and nearby estates. Whilst the walls of many of the buildings are no longer there, there is enough of the base structure from the 2nd & 3rd centuries to get a feel for the size of the complex. As well as the villa & farm ruins, there is a temple/water sanctuary. The water sanctuary is very impressive, and is what now dominates the ruins and my photographs. There is a mix of Roman and Christian cultures here, and the words ‘cult’ appear in much of the writings about these ruins. It began life as a water sanctuary, which if I have understood correctly means they worshipped water or nymphs. The cult was eventually banned, and at that point the building converted into a temple. The temple I think I read somewhere was damaged in an earthquake, but if you sit down with the guidebook or take some time in the visitor centre it is very easy to imagine was it once looked liked. You can certainly see why the site was chosen for a villa, as the river is not far away away and there are also water springs in these hills. Milreu would have been on the main road from Ossonoba, which is now Faro. There are wonderful views from the complex.
There is also a large bath complex, which dates from the 3rd century. Those niches we are sitting one would have probably been used to store clothes and also the oils for anointing and massage. As well as the entrance hall and large pool there were smaller immersion pools. We found this a lovely place to sit and socialise even as ruins, so it must have been stunning in the 4th century as there was also an atrium with a fountain. What caught my eye though was the amazingly well-preserved mosaics. The oldest mosaics (2nd century) are quite simple with black wavy lines, but the newer ones (4th century) are quite elaborate. What amazed us was just to see so many of the mosaics open to the elements, reminds you why Algarve weather is so much nicer than what we have in England! There is also a farmhouse on the site, built over some of the ruins. The farmhouse dates from the Middle Ages, and apparently was in use until the early 20th century. They have removed much of the floor when you go inside so you can see the Roman ruins underneath. I think the only thing to add is that if you are interested in learning more then it is definitely worth purchasing the small guidebook on sale in the visitor centre!