It’s about time for the next ride report… and another posting from fellow cyclist and Portugal fan Ian Mitchell, writing about his latest trip to the Algarve.
Ian’s previous guest post was in June 2014, when he sent in an account of his ride through the Intoxicating Algarve Hills.
Now, he’s just back home and has kindly contributed another post. This time about a ride through the area north of the resort of Albufeira and east of the ancient Moorish capital of Silves, covering about 92km (57 miles) and with over 900m (around 3,000ft) of ascent:
Olhas de Agua to Silves
This will be a familiar training ride for local cyclists and seasoned tourists in and around the Albufeira and Olhas de Agua area. I can see why: there is fantastic scenery which kicks in immediately north of the N125, the quality of roads are excellent and it has just the right challenge of climbing and fast sections (if you are that way inclined).
There are adaptations but the route followed (see map) starts from the N125 near Boliquieme. You can add on another one to 10km or so for the total trip depending how much further down nearer the coast you are.
As a start to the ride you cannot really avoid the N125, which is the main west-east route through the Algarve. It is undoubtedly a busy road – and you have to stay alert with all sorts of vehicle movements on and off the road – but it generally has a reasonable shoulder and is not a problem in short stretches.
It was nonetheless good to leave the traffic noise and begin some immediate climbing up through the town of Boliqueime. A rather unassuming town perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, the former prime minister and current president of Portugal.
The one way system takes you over the cobbles and up through the town. The N270 road surface is fantastic as you wind your way up on to the ridge before dropping on a very fast downhill over the A22 motorway. After another short, sharp climb, you sail downhill to the village of Paderne.
A happening little village, Paderne has a castle – constructed in the 12th century and the subject of conquests and counter conquests between Moors and Christians. The rectangular Bridge of Paderne with its distinctive three arches is a little out of the village but worth a visit if you have time. There is also a watermill and a modern fountain with a millennium sculpture at the bottom of the hill on the left.
Staying on the N270, the route crosses the bridge over the Quartiera stream and swings north with a steady rise all the way up to the junction with the N124 just west of Messines de Baixo. A real feel of being out in the countryside and the road is relatively quiet. Going underneath the A2 motorway and then turning left at the roundabout, the route crosses another north-south route, this time the IC1, before rising again with a punchy little climb to just over 600 feet, the highest point of the day, at São Bartolomeu de Messines.
Along the ridge for a short spell then a delightful downhill section dropping all the way down to the town of Silves, the lowest point of the day.
Silves is impressive: steeped in history with its jumble of red pantile roofs set on the slopes above the Rio Arade. The dominant feature at the top of the town is the russet-red Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), Lego-like with its tiered structure. The castle walls are made of red sandstone (grés de Silves) and were restored in the 1940s.
Another interesting feature of Silves is that it is built on top of one of the largest underground aquifers in the south of Portugal, the Querença-Silves Aquifer.
A café stop was more of a priority than the local landmarks this time around. You can make your way up the narrow streets into the town for a choice of restaurants but there are two excellent, no nonsense cafes on the right as you sweep into town (with the river on your left).
Heading out of Silves it was left on to the bridge over the river Arade and left again – take care, this is a busy junction – there is a steady climb with the legs needing warmed up if you have stopped in town. The route then heads back east on the N269 and a gently rolling section: a joy with a tailwind.
You can take this road all the way to Algoz. A more interesting route is to turn right just after Alcantarilha railway station, then next left for a quiet road called ‘de fonte Negro’ all the way into Algoz.
Algoz is another busy little market town and a shorter route to the coast would continue to head east through Tunes and join up with the outward route near Paderne. It is, however, worth a detour on a sunny day to head north on the N264. You get a real sense of the range of produce the Algarve delivers. There are the scented orange groves, resplendent and in full fruit in spring. There is also the production of wheat, almonds, figs and olive oil.
Vineyards are visible along with hot houses for growing tomatoes, cauliflowers, strawberries and other fruits sent to the big local markets. The blooming of bright red poppies just tops it all off. The entire route gives a sense of a working region – flour mills, olive pressing and the manufacturing of bricks, tiles and other ceramics.
There are two or three options to turn right off the beautiful N264 and cross back over the IC1 and the A2 motorway re-joining the route out. Heading back south to the coast you cannot avoid another pull up over the fringe of hills guarding the coast.
For a more forgiving route: avoid crossing the river back into Paderne and head south, rising at first then under the A2 to Ferreiras. There are several excellent cafes and eateries on or near the roundabout. There are several options from here depending on where you started. The route shown takes you a quiet road – Estr. De Nora – out of Ferreiras and across the busy N125 into Albufeira and the start of the day near Olhas de Agua.