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from Comporta to the Parque Natural da Arrábida

On Sunday morning we set out in search of the beach at 0900 as it was going to be hot. Parking up we had breakfast in the van and spent a lovely morning swimming in the Atlantic breakers. It was too hot for a bike ride in the noonday sunshine so we drove up the 11-mile peninsula to Troia and had lunch at a Cuban bar in the marina looking across the Sado Estuary. For €25 we took the car ferry operated by Atlantic Ferries to Setúbal, saving the 70 mile drive round (with motorway tolls). We’d decided to stay at the EcoParque campsite at Outão in the Parque Natural da Arrábida . . . the approach from Setúbal took us through the works of the huge Secil cement factory, founded here in 1906. Having checked in to the site with a pitch overlooking the Sado Estuary we went for a bike ride to Praia da Figueirinha. The road wasn’t too bad, but is closed for the next section due to rockfalls.

On Monday 15 April we decided to stay for a few more days. It’s still seriously hot, even at 0830 so we planned a drive up into the mountains, with lunch at Praia da Figueirinha, visited by bike last night. We then took the higher road, N-379-1, that’s still open, along the spectacular ridge caused by tectonic movement. Stopping to look at the Convento da Arrábida, we met a tour guide with his client who told us it was founded in the 16th century and the series of towers we’d assumed were some sort of defence system were from an older convent for monks to be in solitary isolation. We risked the tight single track road down to Portinho, and finished the day off with another swim at Praia de Galapinhos and a beer at the bar. Before returning to the campsite, we found the road down to the abandoned gun batteries overlooking the entrance to Setubal.

The weather’s still fine and the campsite’s great so we stay another day to explore the Lagoa de Albufeira, a pretty deserted lagoon with white sand forming a ridge with the Atlantic Ocean, just north of the natural park. There’s plenty of parking and, having found a supermarket for some essential shopping earlier, we have lunch in the van overlooking the lagoon. It’s really too shallow for swimming so after a waist-depth paddle we walk on the shore between sea and lagoon. Bev loves lighthouses so we drive down to Farol do Cabo Espichel and the Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel. Running out of time to explore further, we return to cook supper in the van and plan our route north – we need to be in Bilbao for the ferry next Tuesday.