One of the finest stretches of coastline in the country flanks the Pinhal de Leiria, a sprawling pine forest west of Leiria and stretching north of São Pedro de Moel. It’s what passes for an ancient forest in Portugal – the pines were first planted by farmers in the fourteenth century as a protective measure against encroaching sand dunes. Later, the trees were an essential resource when it came to fitting out ships during the Portuguese “Discoveries”. There are bike lanes and tracks throughout the forest, while beyond the dunes lie vast white-sand beaches soaking up the thundering breakers from the Atlantic. By public transport, the only realistic target is the small resort of São Pedro de Moel, though bikers and drivers will be able to find better, more isolated spots. Expect any of the beaches near São Pedro to be packed in July and August – the straight, fast, coastal road north and south has been upgraded to cope with heavy summer traffic. Come any other time and you’ll have the sands to yourself.

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