Overview: A tough but spectacular circuit that takes in one of the most beautiful sections of coastline in Portugal.
Distance & Difficulty: 35km (22 miles). Tough. This ride provides some beautiful views but you need to do a lot of climbing to earn them – from sea level to almost 390m above. Some of the riding is quite gentle but climbs hit gradients of almost 17%. (There is an option to cut out one section of ascent.)
Traffic may also be an issue. Most of the road is quite narrow – with a rock wall along the edge on some sections – and this area can get busy at weekends and during peak holiday times.
Leaving Setubal: The ride begins from the main avenue in Setubal and takes you out west. You’re soon on a winding road climbing up out of town. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster but you’ll soon start getting glimpses of the gorgeous coast that lies ahead.
There is a turn-off to the beach at Albarquel less than a kilometre out of town. The beach here is quite pleasant but not a patch on what’s to come.
The coast: You do a dogleg around a creek and carry straight on at the next junction (the road from the right is where you’ll come from on the way back). Go past the campsite at Outao and head through the cement works. Don’t be put off by this section – it only helps make the contrast with the coast to come even more extreme.
There’s a bit of a climb as you pass the Orthopaedic Hospital and then the drama really begins. As you go over the summit and turn the corner you’ll get an amazing view of the Arrabida Mountains and the coast below. If the tide is low, there are also great sandbars stretching out into the sea at the mouth of the Rio Sado.
There are new shelters to protect road-users from rock falls along where the road runs right along the water’s edge, taking you past some beautiful stretches of beach.
About 9km into the ride, the road starts to turn inland through wooded hills and climbs steadily in two sections (inclines of up to 8-10%) for just over 2km. There’s then a downhill for about 1km to the turn-off for the Portinho da Arrábida. If you want to cut out some of the climbing you can go straight on here as it’s 1km down to the cove and the return climb at 16.9% is the steepest part of the ride.
If you do go down, it’s an extremely pretty spot with a couple of restaurants (always packed at weekends) and some small villas and a tiny fort set at one end of a sweeping beach.
Continuing from the turn-off, there’s about 3km of steady climbing (6-13%) up to a T-junction where you go right and start going back on yourself but at a high level – and still climbing. The next 3km are fairly level, taking you to the turning for a convent, which is set on the wooded slopes below.
From the convent turning there’s about 1.5km of further climbing to do, hitting inclines of almost 16% as you climb to the ride’s highpoint. You’re then right up on the crest of a rocky ridge with stupendous views out to sea and south along the coast to your right and views back inland to your left.
As you pass a group of radio/phone masts on your left, the road begins to drop and you’ve now got 5km of downhill – including a few hairpin bends – down to a T-junction on the N10-4. Turn right here and you’re soon back on your route out and on the way back into Setubal.
Accommodation – there are hotels and guesthouses in Setubal (I’d happily recommend the Residential Bocage – small but clean and smart en-suite rooms). Shops & supermarkets – plenty of shops in Setubal, including a Pingo Doce supermarket on Ave Luisa Todi just to the east of the ride’s starting point.
Cafes & supermarkets – again plenty in Setubal, there are also cafes at several of the beaches along the first section of the ride. There are also a couple of restaurants at Portinho but it’s a long steep hill to get down there – and back up again!
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