Spain Spring 2005: Walking in Asturias

('From the Picos to the Sea' and 'The Coast & Hills of Asturias')

So, we set off yet again on another Inntravel walking holiday. This time we drove over to London Stansted on the afternoon of Tuesday May 10th and checked in to the nearby "Express by Holiday Inn" Hotel (what a silly name!) for an overnight stay. We had arranged to leave our car parked in the hotel car park for the duration of our trip. An excellent decision, as it turned out, the hotel is to be recommended. Just a 10 minute transfer in the Hotel's own shuttle bus to the airport next morning and we were able to check in for the 12:55 Easyjet flight 3075 to Asturias/Oviedo in good time. Front row seats in the Airbus A319-200 ensured lots of leg room and the flight arrived at Oviedo Airport right on time.

After collecting our luggage we met up with our pre-arranged taxi, driven by Natalie from 'Taxi Carbajal', outside the Arrivals Hall. Another of our hilarious "taxi driver conversations" followed during the next 90 mins, the 'common' language this time was again French (Natalie, of course, spoke fluent French, we spoke our own version of Pidgin...). Eventually we arrived at the very comfortable 3-star Hotel Picos de Europa in Arenas de Cabrales. The weather was grey and overcast, the taxi journey should have provided us with lots of brilliant views but we were sadly out of luck due to the low cloud. We had a very good evening meal in the hotel restaurant, Claire had a Salmon & Cabrales Blue Cheese salad followed by Sea Bass cooked in olive oil and garlic with new potatoes and Mike had Red Peppers stuffed with seafood followed by Escalopinnes of Veal also in a Cabrales Blue Cheese sauce. We were pleased to find a Marqués de Cáçeres Rioja on the Wine List and so just had to have a bottle! We went off to bed in good spirits.

Wednesday May 11, 2005: Day 1 - Along the Cares Gorge to Caín

Guess who forgot to reset their alarm clock to Spanish time! We woke an hour late, missed breakfast and had a mad dash in order not to miss our pre-arranged lift. The day had dawned damp and misty but Naomi, today's Receptionist (who lives in a mountain village high above Arenas), told us not to worry as, once we had climbed up out of the cloud, the weather, she assured us, would be excellent. She was to be proved correct! The 'Patron' of the Hotel, a splendidly dapper little man, gave us a lift in his Chrysler 'Voyager' some 5 km south to the village of Poncebos where we commenced our day's walk up the wonderful Rio Cares Gorge.

Walking was excellent, we followed a spectacular path cut into the western side of the gorge through tunnels and under huge overhangs along the route of an impressive and fast flowing man-made (in the 1940s) canal. The canal feeds a hydro-electric plant down the valley in Poncebos. 

We carried on until we were high in the central massif of the Picos at a dam near the the village of Caín. On the outskirts of the village we found a very welcome beer (the first of many!) before retracing our steps back down the gorge.  The salmon ladders built besides the dam to aid the upstream annual migration of these wonderful fish were most impressive. The weather, which had been excellent during our trek up to Caín, worsened on the way back and we reached Poncebos in drizzle.

The taxi collected us at 17:45 and we arrived back at our hotel in Arenas in time for a relaxing shower before dinner. That evening Claire had a very filling Asturian Bean Stew followed by Chicken in a Blue Cabrales Cheese Sauce whilst Mike had a starter of lightly scrambled eggs with Sea Urchin, Shrimp & Spring Garlic followed (again!) by Veal Escalopinnes. We ached in every muscle & slept like logs!

Day 1: 26.0 km, 26.0 km in total

Thursday May 12, 2005: Day 2 - To Bulnes via the Funicular

No mistakes with the time today! After a leisurely breakfast our trusty taxi took us once again to Poncebos, this time to the lower terminal of the underground funicular railway which was built in 2001 to link the remote mountain village of Bulnes with the outside world. The tunnel is 2.227 km in length and the railcar carries 28 passengers at a time at a max speed of 6 m/s very efficiently up through an altitude change of 402 metres in some seven minutes. The single tickets cost a rather expensive €13.13 each and we caught the first train of the day just after 10:00 hrs. It was quite an experience. Arriving at the top we walked up the path to the small village of Bulnes. The clouds were low and views were very restricted. We started to walk steeply up above the village but soon turned around and retraced our steps as the mist started to close in. We strolled around Bulnes for a while and then headed down the well signposted path back to Poncebos. It took over two hours to reach the bottom of the valley, we dawdled as usual taking lots of photos and watching the Griffon Vultures wheeling above us. After a very enjoyable walk down to and across the Rio Cares we reached the Bar on the edge of Poncebos, where we were due to meet our taxi, at around 15:00 hrs. We had a few beers and watched the world go by (including a very large herd of wild goats - led by an extremely bolshie billy goat - that blocked the road for a while!). A short sharp thunderstorm (we were luckily under cover at the time!) soon passed and our taxi turned up, on schedule, at 17:30 hrs.

We strolled around Arenas in the evening before dinner marvelling at the antics of swallows demonstrating their unbelievable flying skills whilst playing high speed, low level, 'chicken' with the traffic on the road outside our hotel. Dinner for both of us consisted of Noodle Soup followed by a huge plate of Lamb Chops!

Day 2: 8.0 km, 34.0 km in total

Friday May 13, 2005: Day 3 - From Arenas de Cabrales to Besnes

We had a choice of two routes today, our walking notes recommended that the first, a high cross country route, should not be attempted in bad weather. Today's receptionist at the hotel, Anna, advised us against tackling this walk as the clouds were very low and rain was forecast. We therefore opted for the easier (but longer) low level route which would take us along a quiet country road following the contour at the foot of the Sierra de Cuera mountain ridge. As we headed north out of Arenas the weather brightened and it stayed fine until about 14:00 when the heavens suddenly opened in a torrential thunderstorm. Stair-rods! We were caught out in the open, had chosen not to put on our waterproof trousers and so were very quickly soaked through!

Eventually the rain stopped and our Rohan trousers dried on us quickly. Mike, however, ended up with a LOT of water inside his boots and became very grumpy. He squelched as he walked… Reaching Alles we took a grassy track downhill from the edge of the village until we eventually reached our next hotel, La Tahona de Besnes, at the end of a long cobbled drive. We were welcomed by the manager, Alberto from Venezuela, who spoke excellent English. Alberto made our stay most enjoyable, nothing was too much trouble and he arranged for our boots and washed socks to be dried out in the hotel boiler room overnight.

We shared a table at dinner with Ron & Lin from Farnham who were on the same Inntravel itinery as us but were a day ahead. Mike again tried the Scrambled Eggs, Sea Urchin, Mushrooms and Spring Garlic regional speciality - it was quite different from the version he had in Arenas, but was still good. Claire had huge wild Mushrooms in Garlic and we both followed our starters with excellent Sirloin Escalopes. A storm raged all evening and most of the night, the electricity went off a couple of times and, just before dinner, we had to rely on candles. Luckily the outages were short and didn't detract from the enjoyment of our first night at La Tahona. As Claire's notes put it, "Both of us v. achey..."

Day 3: 21.0 km, 55.0 km in total

Saturday May 14, 2005: Day 4 - Besnes to Alles to Besnes

We planned to visit the Aula de la Miel ('School of Honey') in Alles today to have a guided tour showing the processes involved in the arts of bee-keeping and the production of honey. Included in the three hour experience would be a lunch of honey-based products. The place opened at 12:00. We had had a very leisurely breakfast at La Tahona and a slow start to the morning which meant that we had to get a move on as we hurried uphill along the grass track into Alles. We reached the Aula at exactly 12 noon. The woman who opened the door in response to our knocks was trying to bottle feed a (probably) orphaned lamb. She summoned a much younger woman who spoke a little English and who went off to make some phone calls. We were obviously the only visitors of the day and so were causing some consternation! Eventually the younger woman came back and managed to convey to us the fact that they had been unable to locate an interpreter to assist with our visit, if we were to return that evening, however, there would be no problem. As the tour was going to cost us some €18 each and we didn't really want to return later we decided to give up on the idea. They were all very friendly and sad that they couldn't help, but we thanked them, bade them farewell and strolled back down into the town for a few beers sitting outside the local Bar. The Bar's "guard cat" closely supervised our visit and insisted on escorting us all the way to the town limits when we left! We were convinced that she was going to follow us all the way back to La Tahona but, luckily, she didn't. Back in Besnes we tried to get some lunch at the nearby Casa Juana, but it was closed. So, it was back to La Tahona to sit out in the garden to read and eat fruit for the rest of the afternoon whilst enjoying the sunshine.

We were ravenous by dinner time (21:00), Claire had the Scrambled Eggs with Sea Urchin, Mushrooms and Wild Garlic followed by a rather scraggy Roast Chicken. Mike's Spaghetti with a Cabrales Blue Cheese Sauce was followed by another excellent Sirloin steak, cooked to perfection. A good bottle of Rioja accompanied the meal (we had to pay all of €2 extra to 'upgrade' to a Crianza!). Alberto had promised to demonstrate at the end of the evening the very specialised Asturian way of pouring the local cider (known as 'sidra') from a bottle held over one's head into a glass held down by one's side without looking. Being a Saturday night the Restaurant was very busy so, in the end as things were still buzzing at 23:30, we gave up on the idea and as a consolation, he gave Mike a glass of a thin honey-based liqueur the name of which we totally failed to remember (despite being told twice) - it tasted a bit like Grappa... (hic!).

(Guess who hates having her photo taken ...)

Day 4: 8.5 km, 63.5 km in total

Sunday May 15, 2005: Day 5 - Besnes to Alevia

We left Besnes at about 09:45 after an excellent breakfast. The weather kept fine and sunny most of the day as we headed north along a track that had been very badly eroded following some very bad storms in November 2003. The track was difficult to follow at times and on many occasions we found it partially blocked. We saw evidence that many bridges had been destroyed although at no time could the path be described as impassable. Crossing the ridge over a high saddle we descended into the next valley. Our route took us via Arroyo Padrino, Santo Tomás, la Candellega and Llonin where we walked around the village for a while and climbed up to the church. We headed south from Llonin and diverted slightly to Molinuca for a couple of lunchtime beers at the Hotel Molinuca on the banks of the Rio Cares. From the small and rather shaky suspension bridge we watched fishermen standing in water up to their thighs in the river below.

Back on the route we took to the woods again following a path waymarked by strands of orange polypropylene bailer twine. Our picnic lunch was an experience, we had some of the biggest ham and cheese sandwiches ever seen by man (see photo!).

Logging activities in the Eucalyptus forests had almost destroyed the paths, huge muddy ruts caused by the massive logging machinery made the going very difficult. Large tracts of the forests had been laid waste as the timber had been felled and removed for turning into paper. Eventually we emerged out of the trees and headed down into the village of Alevia just as the rain started.

We quickly found La Casona d'Alevia and checked in at about 17:30. Despite the notes stating that today's walk was about 11 km we found that the GPS showed that we had walked over 19 km! We had learnt many walks ago not to trust Inntravel's estimates...

The World's biggest ham sandwich

The Casona was splendid, parts of the building date from the 15th century and the whole place has been beautifully and sensitively restored both inside and out.   Our room (no. 1) on the ground floor was tastefully decorated and had a very modern en-suite bathroom that was most welcome.   We had to chuckle at the "Spanglish" Guest Notes that we found in in the room.  Our delightful host, Gregorio Sánchez, spoke very little English but we found that we were able to communicate in French with very little difficulty.  We met up again with Ron & Lin who had been here for a day already and we shared a table at dinner with them that evening.  In common with all the Casonas it was a set menu, we had an Asparagus with Cheese Sauce starter followed by Roast Duck with an Apple/Sultana Sauce and Boiled Rice.  We finished off the meal with a very rich Chocolate Tart with Pineapple.

Day 5: 19.3 km, 82.8 km in total

Monday May 16, 2005: Day 6 - Around Alevia

It rained solidly all night long and was still tipping it down as we had breakfast. We headed 3km down the long winding road away from Alevia into the valley to the town of Panes. We crossed the Rio Cares by the suspension bridge in the pouring rain and bought some provisions at a Supermercado in the centre of town. The route took us south and up a long very muddy track to the remote village of Cimiano where we stopped for a breather and sat outside the world's most run-down bar and had a couple of beers and some tripe tapas (we weren't all that keen on the latter...). A dog with a tail which, instead of wagging, rotated frantically, entertained us immensely! Back downhill to the busy main road we walked along it for some 500m and then branched off towards the river across the flood-plain fields. A road sign had indicated the route to the site of some prehistoric caves Cuave de Lojo. We followed the trail and eventually found the site which was, of course, closed. Luckily we found some shelter from the persistent rain under the Visitors Centre so were able to eat our lunch in relative comfort. The weather worsened as we ate and so we decided to cut our losses and completely abandon the day. We walked back to the main road and followed it back into Panes. Across the river we then tackled the very steep 3km climb back to Alevia. We arrived at the Casona exhausted and soaked to the skin. The rain continued unabated for well over 24 hours.

We were the only guests in the dining room this evening. Gregorio served us with Seafood stuffed Red Peppers, a very large portion of Asturian Bean Soup and cold Rice Pudding with Lemon & Cinnamon. The food was good but taken as a whole the meal was rather stodgy. Mike finished off with a café solo and Claire had her usual poleo menta. Gregorio gave us each a very sweet but palatable home-made liqueur prepared especially for him by a lady in the village. We discussed the making of this drink at length with him but never really found out just what it was!

Day 6: 16.0 km, 98.8 km in total

Tuesday 17 May, 2005:Day 7 - Alevia to Villanueva

After another excellent bacon and egg breakfast we left Alevia under dark and very overcast skies. It wasn't actually raining but it was cold and damp. We headed off steeply uphill on a concrete path for some 900m. Almost at the top of the pass we turned left and back along the southern flank of the Pico Llueres with a tall radio mast on the summit to our right. It was really cold and windy at this point as we contoured around to the west. Once back on the broad ridge we followed the line of the mountains towards the west towards ruined cabañas and grey stone-walled corrals. As we reached the first corral, with some abandoned manganese mine buildings off to our right, we could see far ahead of us on the skyline the 'pimple' of the Hermitage de San Antonio alternately disappearing and then reappearing in the the cloud. The weather was getting steadily worse and the bitter wind and driving rain helped us make the decision not to head for the Hermitage. Instead we headed north past the mine working (las Minas de Pilar) and started to descend east. We ate our picnic lunch in a small group of walnut, plane and eucalyptus trees near an old barn. Some 2.5 km further downhill we joined the AS-343 road and walked east along the road into the village of Noriega. A brief stop for a beer in a Bar in the village before we pressed on via a grassy/muddy track, which conveniently bypassed the main road, until we reached the village of Villanueva (the last 400 m being through a very muddy building site!).

La Casona de Villanueva was the most unusual of all the places that we stayed in this trip.  Converted from an 18th century Baroque-style house, it was not the most attractive from the outside.  Several of their rooms were very grand indeed but unfortunately we were allocated  a very compact double room with an extremely compact en suite bathroom.  It was a good job that we hadn't brought a cat with us because there would have been absolutely no room in which to swing it!  Reasonably comfortable and, despite the creaking bed and floorboards, and the tiny window, it was adequate.

Our stay was made thoroughly enjoyable by the delightful manageress, 22 year-old Diana, who could not have been more helpful or attentive. Evening meals were served in a rather ramshackled, but quaint, 'shed' in the garden! We met up with Ron & Lin again at dinner and met John Turner from Stafford who, with his wife Ann, had just started a motoring holiday. We found out that John owns a vintage Cooper Mk 9 JAP-powered 500cc Formula 3 single-seater that he has raced for many years around the UK circuits, we took great pleasure in talking to him about our common interest. Dinner started with Pumpkin Soup followed by a main course of Trout stuffed with Bacon with an omelette and side-salad. For dessert we had Pears with Chocolate Sauce and accompanied it all with an excellent Rioja. The meal was very filling!

Day 7: 12.3 km, 111.1 km in total

Wednesday May 18, 2005: Day 8 - Villanueva to the coast and back

After breakfast we set off first to the north and then soon turned east at La Calleja to eventually reach the Rio Deva river at the village of Vilde. Following the river north-east through La Taberna and Murlances we reached the busy town of Bustio, where we found the river to be teeming with both saltwater and freshwater fish and watched swallows swooping and diving low over the water. On leaving the town we crossed the main N-634 road and then followed the narrow gauge Oviedo to Santander railway line walking generally north-west past a long abandoned pill-box (a relic of the Spanish Civil War). We were pleased to see that we were now following the very familiar red and white waymarks of the GR19 'Grandes Randonnés' (long distance path). Some 400m after leaving the railway we turned right just before the hamlet of El Jairín and walked steeply up for almost 2km through a eucalyptus forest up onto the Sierra de Tina. We had lunch at the top before reaching the outskirts of Pimiango where we turned right, away from the village, and started a steep descent down through yet more eucalyptus trees along one of the many pilgrim ways (Caminos de Santiago) that make up the pilgrimage route to Santaigo de Compostela.

The Kitchen Sink that Claire forgot to pack...

The path was well maintained and took us past several ruins including that of a 13th century church that is all that is left of the monastery of Santa Maria de Tina. We emerged at La Fuente (the Well) de San Emetario close to the site of prehistoric palaeolithic cave paintings at Cueva del Pindal. Despite the guidebooks indicating that the caves were open on Wednesdays, we unfortunately found them firmly barred & shuttered. We could see through the locked bars down into the caves and it all looked tantalisingly dark and spooky. We walked through the woods right to the cliff top edge overlooking the Mare Cantabrico (Bay of Biscay) and then headed west as far as the gates of the lighthouse Faro de San Emetario. The lighthouse buildings were very firmly out of bounds and appeared to be guarded by a fierce looking Alsatian dog.

It was now very hot as we climbed the steep and dusty road back to Pimiango, stopping briefly at the Mirador del Picu for a magnificent view all along the coast. From Pimiango we rejoined the route that we had left some hours earlier and tracked back down through the eucalyptus forest for 1.6 km and then turned off right to El Jairín and Molledal and then took a small road down to Bustio. Crossing the main road on the outskirts of the town we climbed up high onto a ridge following the scallop shell waymarks of one of the ancient Caminos de Santiago trails west all the way to the large town of Colombres. We had a well earned beer in the town square and briefly strolled around the grounds of the imposing blue mansion which houses the Archivo de Indianos which records in detail the colonisation of much of South and Central America by the Spanish and maintains records of the mass emigration that took place. After a fairly strenuous 'force march' walk south from Colombres along the AS-344 we arrived back at La Casona de Villanueva. Despite the walking notes saying to expect 12-13 km for today's walk we found that we had actually trekked some 24km…!

The delightful Diana!

As the only guests in the hotel that night we had a rather solitary, but nevertheless enjoyable, evening meal of Lentil Soup, Chicken Casserole with Rice and Lemon Mousse served by the delightfully chatty Diana. A decent bottle of Rioja rounded the day off perfectly.

Day 8: 24.0 km, 135.1 km in total

Thursday May 19, 2005: Day 9 - Villanueva to Pereda

Diana came out to see us off after breakfast and gave us a very nice bottle of Rioja Crianza as a parting gift, we were quite touched. The gardener/handyman from the Casona gave us a lift in his ancient VW Golf GTi to La Franca some 4km to the NW of Villanueva and dropped us off at La Cajigal just outside the village at the start of another of the Caminos de Santiago trails near to the Oviedo to Santander railway line. We climbed up to and then along a ridge (across Llano de Buelna) which afforded magnificent views of the snow-capped Picos de Europa mountains far away to the south behind the Sierra de Cuera range. To the north we could clearly see the coast and the sea.
a Stonechat

The day was hot and cloudless and after almost 6km of ridge walking we were glad to begin the descent to Buelna where we crossed the main road and strolled down through the village towards the sea. We ate our packed lunches by a small sandy beach, Playa Entremares.

Half an hour later, following the coast path west, we soon reached the village of Pendueles where we joined up with the LLN-3 road running through the centre of the community. We found a refreshing and much welcomed beer at a café near the junction.

Leaving the main road we walked up a track out of the village towards the north west and back to the coast to rejoin the GR route. We reached open land which followed the coast and soon came across the remarkable bufónes, these are large naturally formed swallow holes which extend deep into the limestone. The noise of the sea crashing into the cliffs far below is transmitted up through these swallow holes as a distinct, loud and very low frequency 'whoomph'. Today the sea was relatively calm so we were spared the soakings that apparently often arise from standing too close! Rejoining the path inland we dropped down steeply to a wooden bridge across the inlet at the mouth of the Rio Purón.

Following the GR waymarks into and through the village of Andrín leaving to the south west on the most southerly of the two roads. Crossing the very busy main N-634 we walked down into the hamlet of La Galguera entering a maze of small lanes. The walking notes had anticpated that we would get lost here and sure enough we did. The advice of the notes was to keep heading generally west following a line of electricity pylons through the village of Soberón. By this time we were very tired and our feet were very sore. Eventually we turned left onto the LLN-6 road and dragged ourselves into the village of La Pereda. Some 800m through the village we at last reached La Posada del Babel at 7.20 pm. This had been our longest day by far.

We met up yet again with Ron & Lin for an excellent (although rather rich!) dinner of Paté de Fois Gras, Braised Veal Cheek with Polenta and home-made Nougat Ice Cream. We slept soundly that night in our apartment in the very comfortable and private annex to the main hotel.

Day 9: 27.3 km, 162.4 km in total

Friday May 20, 2005: Day 10 - Pereda to Llanes and back

Much refreshed, we woke early and after breakfast briefly explored the hotel grounds. The weather was set fair with blue sky and plenty of sunshine. We decided to spend the day in the nearby town of Llanes and left at about 11 am for a leisurely stroll to the town. The gentle walk took an hour and it was very hot. We checked out the location of the railway station from where we planned to catch a train the following day.

Claire's 'Cockchaffer'

Reyes, the Cook

The port of Llanes was very busy and bustling, quite a contrast to the peace and tranquility of our previous few days! Lunch was at a splendid street café in the centre of town, we both had huge multi-layered sandwiches of ham, cheese, tomato, tuna, mayonnaise and fried egg! After exploring the town and the harbour we walked back to La Posada in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading and allowing our sore feet to recover. Our apartment was very comfortable with a large, well equipped bathroom. The hotel is run by Lucas and his wife Blanca who were very friendly and helpful. We had a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant late in the evening before retiring for another comfortable night.

Day 10: 12.0 km, 174.4 km in total

Saturday May 21, 2005: Day 11 - Pereda to Collia

After an early breakfast we left La Pereda at 9.30 am to walk again to Llanes retracing our steps of yesterday. The morning was damp and overcast as we arrived at the railway station where, after a half-hour wait on the platform (during which Claire nearly froze to death) we caught the 11:06 narrow gauge FEVE (Ferrocarriles de Via Estrecha) train heading west to the town of Arriondas. The train passed through Ribadesella and after about an hour arrived at Arriondas. The town was busy and bustling with some sort of festival going on. We found a beer and bought the makings of a snack lunch.

As we headed South out of the town we passed a group of people who were setting off a succession of very large and noisy signal rockets. We guessed that they were signalling the start of a carnival procession or some similar event. The town was quickly left behind as we headed up into the hills again towards the village of Pendas. Good views back over Arriondas but our walking notes were quite confusing at this point and we did a couple of needlessly extra kilometres trying to find the correct route. Despite the confusion and our attendant frustrations we eventually found the village of Collia and it didn't take long to locate our hotel a kilometre or so further down the road. We arrived at the Hotel la Posada del Valle at about 3.30 pm with the weather overcast but dry.

Leaves for the 'poleo menta' infusion

We had an excellent twin-bedded room on the top floor with a large modern bathroom. Nigel Burch, the British owner of the Hotel and his wife, Joann, were delightful and could not have been more helpful. They run an 18 acre EEC registered organic farm and take pride in their flock of rare indigenous Xaldas sheep. Dinner was excellent; Tapas Appetisers followed by a Mixed Salad, Potato Soup, Organic Chicken with Potatoes & Spinach and a Raspberry & Almond Torte. We very briefly met and chatted to Helen and Jason at dinner - they were due to leave at 5.30 am the next morning to catch a flight back to UK from Santander.

Day 11: 12.7 km, 187.1 km in total

Sunday May 22, 2005: Day 12 - Collia to La Playa de Vega and back

We left the hotel fairly early and headed North away from Collia climbing steeply up through the hamlet of Adeyes for over four kilometres before starting the long descent through the Sierra del Fito.  We followed a track which led through a col between two small hills.  At the col we got our first glimpse of the coast ahead.  The weather was turning out much better than forecast, it was hot and sunny and the visibility was good.  Several times on the trail we came across cows with young calves plus several highly agitated young bullocks that insisted on running just ahead of us for quite some distance.

Our descent continued with splendid views of the coast. We skirted Berbis Golf Course passing the small club house. It had now become extremely windy and quite cool. The track carried on until we reached a main road which we crossed and then followed dirt track down towards the sea. A 'navigational error' (!) caused us to miss a turn and we ended up walking some three kilometres more than was planned. Needless to say we found the wild and windy La Vega beach at last where we met up with Ron and Lin who had arrived well before us. They had already summoned the taxi to take us all back to the hotel and so, whilst we were waiting for it to arrive (at least 30 minutes we were told), we decided to grab a quick beer at a bar just off the beach. Unfortunately, no sooner had our beers arrived than so did the taxi. Abandoning the beers we all hastily piled into the cab and were soon back at La Posada del Valle.

another Stonechat

The restaurant was quite busy at dinner in the evening. After Tapas we had an excellent Avocado, Pinenuts, Asparagus, Olives & Tomatoes Salad followed by Pumpkin & Chickpea Soup. Our main course was Organic Beef in Cabrales cheese sauce with Potatoes & Cabbage. For dessert Claire had a Passion Fruit Sorbet whilst Mike had the Raspberry & Almond Roullade. We ended the evening chatting to some of the other guests over coffee/tea in the bar.

Day 12: 18.5 km, 205.6 km in total

Monday May 23, 2005: Day 13 - Collia to Pico Pienzu & back

For our last day of walking we started off by taking a taxi from the hotel up to the Mirador del Fito from where we had spectacular views of the Picos de Europa to the South. We had to compete for access to the viewing platform with a couple of coach loads of OAPs who were planning to take no prisoners!

From the Mirador we walked across the flanks of three small peaks of the Sierra del Sueve range with views across to the Picos to the south and to the fine stretch of coastline between Gijón and Llanes to the north. We carefully skirted a herd of wild Asturcon horses led by a very aggressive white stallion.

Eventually we started our ascent of Pico Pienzu (1159m). The climb was steep and mostly grassy. The summit was hidden most of the time such that we missed the path at one point and set off up a near vertical track. Luckily a friendly Spanish guide with a couple of Germans walkers turned up and she very kindly put us onto the correct route. Although hazy we still had spectacular views all around once we reached the summit. We stayed on the top for about thirty minutes before setting off on the very long (6+ km) trek back down into the valley.

Claire talking to son David!

The walk back, despite being mostly downhill, was very arduous, our knees and hips were really painful by the time we dragged ourselves back to La Posada del Valle. Inntravel threw us their usual end-of-walk curved ball by making sure that the last 800m were very steeply uphill. We arrived back at around 19:00 and were able to thoroughly enjoy our last beers of the holiday on the outside terrace as the sun went down. We had an excellent final dinner that evening starting with Hot Peaches stuffed with Cabrales Blue Cheese, Garlic & Egg Yolk served with a green salad. This was followed by homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and then homemade Sausages with Cabbage and Potatoes. Dessert was cold Asturian Rice Pudding with a hard sugar coating. A good bottle of a very nice Rioja rounded off the very last evening meal of what had been a superb holiday.

Day 13: 15.1 km, 220.7 km in total

Tuesday May 24, 2005: Day 14 - Collia to home

A leisurely early afternoon taxi ride courtesy of Taxi Carbajal took us back to Asturias/Oviedo Airport where we caught the 16:25 EasyJet 3076 flight back to Stansted. We arrived at 17:25 and caught a shuttle bus trip back to the Holiday Inn car park where we collected our car and, after an uneventful drive back to the Midlands, we reached home by 22:00 at the end of an excellent holiday!

As with all our walking holidays to date we arranged the trip through Inntravel who are based on the Castle Howard estate in Yorkshire. They provided maps and suggested route notes, arranged all flights, taxis & accommodation and transported our luggage efficiently between each stop. All in all on this trip we trekked some 220 km (137 miles) in 13 days of walking and stayed in 9 different hotels/hostels. We highly recommend Inntravel, their service is second to none and we'll be using them again…!

Our Walking Holidays Spring 2003 - Spring 2005
total km
total miles
Spring 2003 'Along the Catalan Coast'
Autumn 2003 'From the Pyrénées to the Med'
Spring 2004 'An Andalusian Adventure'
Autumn 2004 'The Grand Cerdagne'
Spring 2005 'From the Picos to the Sea' & 'The Coast & Hills of Asturias'