10 things to do in and around Potes, Picos de Europa, Spain

The Picos de Europa are a small mountain range in northern Spain. It’s an incredibly scenic area with jagged limestone peaks and luxuriant green meadows; a world away from the Spanish Costas. Even as I write this I’m not sure why the Picos languished for so many years on my ‘must visit one day’ list as it’s a fabulous place to visit if you like the outdoor life.

Have I tempted you? If so read on for my list of things to do in and around Potes:

1. Discover Potes

Potes is an excellent base from which to discover the Picos de Europa. It’s touristy, but in a positive way. It has great facilities for visitors with plenty of dining and accommodation options, supermarkets and a smattering of souvenir shops. This is probably one of the best places to stay if you’re reliant on public transport. However to get the most out of the area I’d recommend a hire car.

Potes
Potes

Potes is a tourist attraction in its own right with a medieval town centre, bisected by a river and gorgeous stone bridges. Do climb to the top of Torre del Infantado for a birds eye view of Potes and the surrounding countryside.

View from Torre del Infantado, Potes
View from Torre del Infantado, Potes

Whilst vegetarian diners can face a rather limited menu in the Picos (even the side salads come with added tuna) I had a fantastic meal at La Soldreria de Potes. Along with great pastries and people watching at Pasteleria Wences. Both highly recommended.

2. Enjoy the view from Mirador de Santa Catalina, near Piñeres

Choose a clear day and you’ll be treated to a spectacular  panorama of Hermida gorge from this viewpoint. It’s possible to drive the whole way up although we parked by the small chapel of Ermita de Santa Catalina (near Piñeres) and walked the final stretch. It’s a steep walk up though the woodland; keep an eye out for carvings of mythological creatures.

View from Mirador de Santa Catalina
View from Mirador de Santa Catalina

Aside from the view I had an ulterior motive for visiting. I love butterflies so when I heard that swallowtails frequent the viewpoint I had to visit. I spent most of our picnic not looking at the view but watching these spectacular butterflies instead.

3. Ride the Fuente Dé cable car

We rode the cable car as part of a longer circular walk from Fuente Dé. Even if you don’t plan on a walk from the top it’s a fantastic experience to ride the cable car to the top station. Although if you’ve a fear of heights bear in mind this is the longest single span cable car in Europe.

Fuente Dé cable car
Fuente Dé cable car

If you are walking you’ll want to arrive early during peak season (before opening time). If you just want an up and down ride you can be more flexible with your arrival time although you may get stuck behind large tour groups. Choose a cloud free day to ensure you get the views. Even if you’re not planning a long walk do follow the track away from the observation platform for 15 minutes or so to get a flavour of the mountain scenery.

4. Go nature spotting

The Picos de Europa are a fantastic destination for those interested in butterflies, flowers and birds. The butterflies in particular were stunning, with varieties of blue and two different types of swallowtail widely seen. We found the best spots were the Santa Catalina viewpoint, the walk down from the Fuente Dè cable car and around Cahecho.

Picos de Europa butterflies
Picos de Europa butterflies

Mammals are harder to spot but we saw a red squirrel and a badger near our accommodation in Valmeo (just outside Potes). Watch out for badgers if driving on the roads at night. We both had a lucky escape!

5. Walk from Brez (Canal de las Arredondas – PR27)

This was our first walk in the Picos. It’s an easy low level walk with stunning views of the mountains. Park along the road into the village and follow the route outlined on the information board. It’s straightforward to follow and well signposted.

PR-PNPE 27 route, from Brez
PR-PNPE 27 route, from Brez

We saw several families on this walk. At around three miles long, it’s suitable for most people although there are a few ups and downs along the way. The route is circular, initially through trees, and then through the Valley of Camaleño. At the highest point there are great views of the massif. Don’t miss this walk!

Brez walk
Brez walk

6. Enjoy a drink with a view in Cahecho

There are many scenic watering holes in the Picos de Europa but my favourite was from the outside tables at Casa Lamadrid in Cahecho.

Terrace drinks, Casa Lamadrid, Cahecho
Terrace drinks, Casa Lamadrid, Cahecho

We’d initially started out on a walk from Cahecho but it was already late in the day so I decided to curtail and return to the village. Sipping drinks on the terrace, whilst watching vultures circling on thermals nearby, proved a much more popular choice.

7.Walk the Cares gorge, Cain

The trail through the Cares gorge runs from Puente Poncebos to Cain. Whilst most people tend to walk 24km out and back from Puente Poncebos, we drove to Cain and walked part of the route in reverse. Be warned, the drive to Cain is a little hairy, especially the last section from Posada de Valdeon. The walk itself, on a man made track through the gorge, is straightforward but there is a sheer drop down to the river at some points.

Cares gorge
Cares gorge

Now, an admission. The Cares gorge walk was my only disappointment in the Picos. It was stunningly beautiful but also incredibly busy in August. Perhaps I’d been spoilt by the low key tourism elsewhere in the Picos but it was a shock to encounter so many people in the gorge. Do walk the trail but perhaps not in August.

7. Explore the village of Mogrevejo

There’s a reason why this part of Spain is so green, and you can probably guess it. Yes, it’s rather more prone to rain than most of the country. That said, we were lucky with the weather in August and only had one wet day.

Mogrovejo
Mogrovejo

It poured with rain during our visit to Mogrevejo but that didn’t detract from its beauty. This tiny village, has traditional stone houses, a medieval tower and 17th Century church. There’s also a 10km walk signposted from here, best walked on dry days. When it rains head to a bar instead!

8. View from Collada de Llesba, near San Gloria Pass

The San Gloria pass, with an elevation of 1609m, is accessed via multiple hairpin bends, on a route popular with motorcyclists. Hopefully that doesn’t put you off because it’s worth every minute of your journey.

Collada de Llesba
Collada de Llesba

We stopped on the pass en route to and from Cain. It’s a good place to break your journey and take a rest from concentrating on the roads, although be aware there are no facilities. To reach the viewpoint you can either park at the pass itself and walk 2km along the road to the viewpoint or drive up and hope there’s a parking space. The viewpoint is also known as Mirador del Oso, presumably because of its huge bear sculpture overlooking the hills.

9. Visit the national park centre, Tama, near Potes

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it’s useful to get an overview of the Picos de Europa. The centre is housed in a huge building with displays on geology, ecology and the culture of the area. Entrance is free; it’s one of the few indoor rainy day options in this area.

View from Picos de Europa visitor centre, Tama
View from Picos de Europa visitor centre, Tama

10. Iglesia de Santa Maria de Lebeña

This small church is just off the main road though the gorge. It costs a couple of euros to get in and, if you speak Spanish, this includes a tour. If not there’s a leaflet in English which explains the architectural and religious features. The church dates from the 10th Century and is of the Mozarabic style. It is closed Mondays but is generally open mornings and late afternoons.

Santa Maria de Lebeña
Santa Maria de Lebeña

If, like us, you arrive when it’s closed you’ll find a small outdoor kiosk next to the car park serving drinks and (when we visited) fresh tomatoes for sale.

I hope you find this list of things to do near Potes useful. Anything you’d add?

More info:

  • This National Park website has a list of viewpoints and access details in English.
  • We found the Sunflower Guide to the Picos de Europa invaluable. Most of the main walks were too long for us but we enjoyed the shorter routes, driving and picnic suggestions.

Linking up with:

Suitcases and Sandcastles

A walk from Fuente Dé, Picos de Europa, Spain

Looking for a (mostly) downhill walk in the Picos de Europa with incredible views? Then this circular walk, which makes use of the Fuente Dé cable car, is probably perfect for you. Just as long as you don’t mind the odd car interrupting your mountain walk!

The route, taken from the excellent Sunflower guide to the Picos de Europa, is approximately 9.5 miles long. Choose a clear day to make the most of the views but be aware weather conditions can change rapidly in the Picos.

Fuente Dé cable car

The cable car from Fuente Dé is the quickest way to get into the high Picos. It transports walkers, climbers and sightseers up to 1850 metres and is the longest single-span aerial lift in Europe.

Fuente Dé cable car
Fuente Dé cable car

I’d read advice on various forums about arriving at the cable car before its 9am August opening time. So had everyone else. At 8.45am our ticket numbers showed there were already more than 200 people in front of us! Fortunately the ride takes less than four minutes so the queue moved relatively quickly.

As we set off I noted the ladder hanging above us, presumably for mid air rescues. Scenes from James Bond films flitted through my mind, along with the Italy cable car disaster. Sometimes my brain isn’t helpful!

View from Horcadina de Covarrobres
View from Horcadina de Covarrobres

There’s a dramatic change in scenery, and air temperature, when you disembark. The first few minutes were spent taking photographs of the view from the overhanging platform only to realise it gets even better when you walk away from the cable car.

There is only one exit route, a wide stone path. We, and everyone else, followed it around to a junction where it splits off. Those equipped for a more challenging mountain walk could choose the PR-PNPE 23. It looked relatively straightforward but we were walking in trainers and I didn’t want to risk it.

Track beside Peña Vieja
Track beside Peña Vieja

Instead we followed the signposted PR-PNPE 24 for much of our walk. It’s not a difficult walk in good weather, but is long and downhill. And, as we discovered later in the day, had a sting (or rather a bark) in the tail.

The track ran alongside the jagged rocks of Peña Vieja. This is a peak that can be summited by walkers, rather than climbers, but only if you’re comfortable with exposure and scree slopes. It’s firmly off my itinerary.

Track to Refugio de Aliva
Track to Refugio de Aliva

Instead our broad stony track wound down the hill towards Chalet Real, previously a royal hunting lodge. We soon discovered why the track was so wide. Jeeps were using them to transport people and goods from the valley floor to the chalet and nearby refuge. These were joined later on by 4WD tours and, rather incredulously, sightseers in everyday cars. So much for a quiet mountain walk!

Refugio de Áliva

It took an hour or so of gentle downhill walking from the cable car to reach the refuge at Áliva. We sat outside in the sun, drinking coffee, and watching choughs just above our heads. A little further away a griffon vulture circled on a thermal. Mesmerising.

Refugio de Áliva
Refugio de Áliva

From the refuge we walked through the Puertos de Áliva, summer meadows grazed by cattle. These were huge, but seemingly docile, beasts with big horns and tinkling cow bells.

Cow grazing on Puertos de Aliva
Cow grazing on Puertos de Aliva

We ate our lunch sitting on large rocks beside the path. Ignoring the occasional cloud dust thrown up by passing vehicles. This is where we saw our first everyday car. How it had managed to negotiate the mountain track without a puncture is beyond me!

Following the GR-202
Following the GR-202

Gates of Aliva

After walking beside a small stream we crossed a cattle grid which rather bizarrely had small fish swimming under it. Whilst the kids spotted fish I was distracted by a kaleidoscope of blue butterflies. Most of them, I think, were chalk hill blue butterflies but there were other blues in the group too.

Chalk hill blue butterflies, Picos de Europa
Chalk hill blue butterflies, Picos de Europa

Columns on either side of the road indicated we’d reached the ‘Gates of Aliva’. The view opened up with a stupendous panorama of the Cordilla Cantábrica, and the extent of our descent which was still to come.

This is where the PR-PNPE 24 splits off and returns to Fuente Dé. In hindsight, this is the route we should have taken. Instead we took the steep road zigzagging down to Espinama. At Espinama we refreshed ourselves with ice cream, crossed the road and started our return to Fuente Dé.

View from Invernales de Igüedri
View from Invernales de Igüedri

Our return route, on the opposite side of the valley, was undulating and mostly along quiet roads. We passed through Pido and then, on a bridge with just three or so kilometres to go we were faced with five large mountain dogs growling and barking at us. Now, I love dogs and am not generally afraid of them. However these ones meant business. After retreating for a while, looking for alternative routes and big sticks to protect ourselves with, we made the difficult decision to turn back.

Fuente Dé glacial cirque
Fuente Dé glacial cirque

Back to Pido and down onto the twisty main road running through the valley. Our scenic ramble turned into a forced march to Fuente Dé, walking in the gutter edging as there was no path. Cars whizzing by every minute or so. It wasn’t pleasant.

It was a relief to finally reach Fuente Dé. To look back up again at the cable car and mountains we’d walked down from. The route is spectacular, and well worth it. But if I was doing it again I’d stay on the PR-PNPE 24 route the whole way. And hopefully avoid the dogs!

Twixmas walking in Keswick, Lake District

I love the days between Christmas and New Year. Not for the Christmas TV, piles of chocolate or Boxing Day sales. Instead it’s the call of the mountains.

As in previous years I’d booked a short walking holiday with Country Adventures. This year the destination was Keswick in the Lake District.

Keswick YHA

Our base was Keswick YHA. At the welcome meeting on the first evening it was great to see familiar faces from previous trips and meet new ones. Joe, the leader, talked through the walk options and the format of the break.

I shared a dorm room with three other ladies from the trip. However if youth hostels aren’t for you, Keswick is packed with hotels and B&Bs. It definitely has the feel of a holiday town about it. We ate out in town both nights; there’s plenty of options to choose from and I can recommend the Fellpack.

Day 1 – High Seat

Our first walk was a 10 mile route via Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and High Seat.

En route to Bleaberry Fell
En route to Bleaberry Fell

For me, the weather can make or break a walk. Purists might roll out the ‘no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing’ saying but I beg to differ. I’ve been soaked enough times (in suitable clothing) to know I don’t like walking in rain.

I was therefore relieved when the drizzly stuff that accompanied our walk out of Keswick towards Walla Crag eased off.

View from Bleaberry Fell
View from Bleaberry Fell

Once up on Walla Crag the weather started to improve and we were treated to views back over Derwentwater, its islands and the surrounding fells.

En route to High Seat
En route to High Seat

We met another group of walkers at the stile which crosses the stone wall. With typical English politeness each urged the other to go first so it took twice as long as it needed to.

At Bleaberry summit we stopped in the small sheltered area for lunch number one (one of the benefits of walking). Another couple, fully kitted out in walking gear, surprised us by asking which fell they were on. Closely followed by another couple asking the same question!

The boggy bit between Bleaberry and High Seat - about to get boggier!
The boggy bit between Bleaberry and High Seat – about to get boggier!

Between Bleaberry and High Seat the ground gets boggier. Over the years I like to think I’ve perfected my bog walking technique. Move quick, step lightly and when you need to make landfall choose the brown reedy sections. It’s not always successful but I’m pleased to say it worked well on this walk.

Descent from High Seat
Descent from High Seat

I thought we’d escaped any further rain but the presence of a rainbow behind us suggested otherwise. Sure enough the rain clouds caught up with us as we reached the summit of High Seat. Fortunately a rocky platform provided some shelter and the opportunity for lunch number two.

The shower blew through quickly and we started a lovely descent from High Seat. The sun even made an appearance.

Ashness Bridge
Ashness Bridge

At the foot of the hill we reached Ashness Bridge. This is evidently the most photographed bridge in the Lake District. Probably something to do with it being next to a car park! Cynicism aside the backdrop of Skiddaw makes for a great photograph, particularly with the fading afternoon light.

Derwentwater at sunset
Derwentwater at sunset

Our route home took us under Falcon Crag and down and around the shore of Derwentwater. Dusk fell quickly and it was dark by the time we reached Keswick.

Day 2 – Causey Pike

Joe offered two walking options for the second day. An 11 mile walk with 3400ft of ascent  taking us over Sail & Causey Pike, or a slightly shorter lower level option.  As I hail from the flatlands of Oxfordshire there was no hesitation, I chose the higher option.

View back towards Coledale Valley
View back towards Coledale Valley

Setting out from Braithwaite, the first couple of miles took us along a well made track into the Coledale Valley. Our path was an access route for Force Crag Mine, whose abandoned buildings sit at the head of the valley. Lead, barites and zinc were mined here until its closure in 1990.

Descent off of Crag Hill
Descent off of Crag Hill

We diverted off the mine track to cross stepping stones across a ford and started our climb uphill. Looking back down to the mine we could see two large pools which I’ve since discovered were for water treatment. It turns out the environmental impact from the mine was one of the worst in the UK as metal polluted water used to flow into Coledale Beck and onwards. It’s hard to take this in when you’re surrounded by the grandeur of the mountains; somehow you always think of pollution as a city problem.

Into the mist on Crag Hill
Into the mist on Crag Hill

Onwards and upwards. Climbing into the mist. And the wind. In equal measure of hating rain I love walking in the wind! There’s nothing that makes you feel more alive than wind whipping across your face. It was a day to blow the cobwebs away.

Crag Hill
Crag Hill

The first summit, of Crag Hill, arrived in a blur of mist and cairns. We stood beside the trig point for the obligatory group shot. Although the barren plateau could have been anywhere!

From Crag Hill we picked our way down the rocky path, on towards Sail. As we descended the mist slowly cleared and we were able to glimpse the valley below. It’s a fabulous section of the walk, even if the wind was doing its best to take us off  our feet.

Sail to Causey Pike
Sail to Causey Pike

From Sail we followed the relatively new zigzag path down and on towards Causey Pike. Many walkers call this an eyesore; I rather like it.

On to Causey Pike
On to Causey Pike

There’s a short scrambly section to get off the summit of Causey Pike. It’s a straightforward scramble if you’re walking up the fell although a little more interesting descending it on wet rock.

Descent from Causey Pike
Descent from Causey Pike

The only downside to this walk was the 4 mile traipse back into Keswick. It was a perfectly good route but for me the walk is finished once you get off the hill. There was one saving grace, a cafe, serving Rolo brownies. It was dark once more by the time we left the cafe; I so look forward to long summer days again.

Day 3

Joe offers a third shorter day of walking but unless the trip is closer to home I leave early to beat the traffic. Although I’d much prefer to be in the mountains than on the M6!

More info

I walked with Country Adventures. The trip cost £235 including YHA accommodation and breakfast but excluding packed lunches and evening meals.

Joe gets a lot of repeat business (almost everyone on the Twixmas trip was a previous customer) which is a testament to his professionalism. If you enjoy mountain walking in a small group without the hassle of map reading check out his trips for the coming year.

Linking up with:

Suitcases and Sandcastles

My 2018 top five – and the future of this blog

Another year over. Time to reflect on the year gone by and to think about what 2019 will bring. I love looking back at what we’ve done and deciding on my five favourite things of the year. In no particular order they were:

1. Running an ultramarathon – 100km Race to the Stones

Race to the Stones Copyright: Sussex Sport Photography
Race to the Stones Copyright: Sussex Sport Photography

This wasn’t particularly enjoyable but running 100km along the Ridgeway from Lewknor to Avebury was a huge achievement. And one I’ll never repeat! Given that I swore I’d never run another marathon I’m not entirely sure why I decided to run an ultra instead. I guess I like a challenge. It was hot, it was very long and my toenails have only just grown back. But I did it!

2. Driving the Hardknott and Wrynose passes, Lake District

View from Hardknott Roman fort
View from Hardknott Roman fort

It’s a strange turn of events when I count a day sitting in a car driving the Hardknott and Wrynose passes as one of my favourite activities of the year. Despite our incredible summer we managed to coincide our Lake District holiday with a week of rain. All of our wet weather clothing was, er wet, so I decided on a driving tour, taking in the famously steep passes. Fortunately the drive wasn’t quite as hairy as I expected. Instead, the passengers were treated to great scenery (I could only watch the road), waterfall walks and a spectacularly located Roman fort.

3. Exploring Worm’s Head, near Rhossili, Gower Peninsula

View across Worm’s Head, near Rhossili
View across Worm’s Head, near Rhossili

I loved everything about our day exploring the tidal Worm’s Head. How can I fail to enjoy a day with all of my favourite things in? Rockpooling, scrambling over jagged rocks, watching seals and eating sandwiches with an incredible view for a backdrop. A fabulous day.

4. GR221 walks in Majorca

View from Coll de L’Ofre
View from Coll de L’Ofre

This is is the year I finally made it to Majorca. And it was everything I expected. From the moment we left a grey, cold UK at Easter and flew into the warmth of sunny Palma I knew I’d love the island. Things that I remember? The smell of the citrus groves, incredible mountain walks, a Tardis of an apartment (with its own lemon grove) and freshly squeezed orange juice. It was one of those holidays where every aspect was perfect. Even the teens loved it!

5. George Ezra at Truck Festival, Oxfordshire

I’m not much of a festival person but when it’s local (as in, I can sleep in my own bed) and features my kind of line up (read, suitable for middle aged person) then I make an exception. I didn’t actually buy a ticket but volunteered for a few hours and got to watch George singing one of my favourite songs on one of those hot sunny weekends. Pretty memorable.

Blogging in 2019

Regular readers will notice two things – I don’t blog as often as I used to and the kids don’t feature as much. They’re both teenagers now; one is in their GCSE year, the other is Xbox obsessed. We still go out and I’ll continue to write about our walks, holidays and day trips. But I’ll be focusing less on family attractions and more on ‘grown up’ activities, sometimes without the kids.

What will I blog about? Well, I’m still working through my UK bucket list so I’ll be posting about these trips; in fact I have a couple to still write about from recent months. And, in a little over 12 months, I have a big birthday coming up and am planning a year of mini adventures so I’ve plenty of ideas up my sleeve.

How about you? What are your plans for 2019?