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Costa Brava Living - blog area

Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - click for a larger version One of the joys of the Costa Brava is the variety of landscapes and we like to visit places and walk (a lot), particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.

These then are write ups of walks, hikes and activities that we've done since November 2012, with photos straight from the original walk or activity.

We like to make circular walks and our walks range in length from about 4km (an hour) to around 16km (four hours) - but probably about 2 1/2 hours on average - though if you want to reduce the length, there are usually shortcuts.

To find walks by location, click on the map, which goes to a full sized map with links to individual walks and visits. To our surprise, we were listed in the Sunday Times' Essential Costa Brava (Feb 2017).

The most visited walks are:

Calonge (Cami de Molins and over Cabanyes)
24 Mar 2013

Calonge view to the church The road from Calonge up to Romanya de la Selva follows a small stream up the valley. Along this stream is a path known as the Cami de Molins which runs at the bottom of the Cabanyes urbanisation just outside Calonge. This estate seems to fill the whole hillside as you drive past on the dual carriageway and isn't immediately that inspiring as somewhere to walk.

Ford near Calonge In fact, the urbanisation is both mature and well maintained and sensibly spaced out, though it still suffers as most urbanisations in Spain do, from being too separate from the main old historic centre of Calonge. The buidling of estates in isolation, means they have relatively few facilities such as shops or bars, while the old town centres fell into a little bit of decay as the population moved out into the newer more luxurious houses in the surrounding estates, but then have to rely on driving to reach even the most basic amenities.

Cabanyes urbanisation The walk though, mostly passes along the fringes of the estate running along the stream and then into the Gavarres and over the top, only coming through the estate for the last part of the loop. We parked on one of the estate roads and walked along the main Romanya road (not much walking space) to a clearly marked footpath junction (we're following yellow-white flashes). The path was more of a gravel road and passed through a ford. Unfortunately we've had some rain recently and the ford lacked stepping stones - so crossing meant taking shoes and socks off and walking through.

We then walk along the stream past houses and a few tarmac roads before the path turns into a proper track only suitable for walking. We're at the start of spring and we saw the occasional asparagus hunter in among the trees by the stream. The first leaves were budding on the trees and meadow flowers were coming out.

Cami de Molins near Calonge As the path runs beyond the final houses of the estates it runs past a series of brick wiers with water gushing over into mill ponds. The path runs up and over the valley of a tributary before rejoining the main stream passing through fields and then an old mill.

From the old mill it turns up to the main Romanya road and we cross the road and start upwards into the hills. It's a typical Gavarres gravel road with deep water tracks gouged out of the surface making them only really suitable for high-mounted 4x4s. We walk past a couples of renovated masias and an old farm with peacocks sharing a paddock with donkeys.

At a junction at the top we follow the signs towards Calonge. We keep going up, but finally reach a flattish path across the top. The trees are too high to give us any views, but there is a viewpoint marked and we scramble onto the top of some flat rocks to look out over the valley below and parts of Romanya in the distance.

View from path above Cabanyes over Calonge The path continues and we come to a block in the path - a chain across the direction we should go. This isn't that common particularly on officially marked paths, but it does happen - there are infamous cases of foreign buyers putting up fences to walkers, in one particular case on the GR92 leading to local officials cutting the fence and leaving notices. So we double check both on the map and for the yellow and white flashes. Despite the barrier, the path does go on. It takes us along past some vineyards then along past an old masia on top with fabulous views out towards Palamos across Calonge. The path becomes the masia's drive and we continue out and down the hill. A big gate is in front of us, but space has been left to let us past. As if to double confirm it is the right route, the yellow-white flash has been painted right next to the gate and 50m further down the road is another official waymarker sign.

We now continue down the hill all the way until it reaches the first tarmacked roads of the estates then navigate through the estate finding a series of stairways down through the zig-zagging roads.

Neighbouring walks: Romanya de la SelvaCalonge into the Gavarres - Bell-lloc and Castell de Vila-Roma (Palamos) - St Antoni de Calonge, Torre Valentina to Platja d'Aro (almost) - Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou

Walking route calonge, cami de molins and over Calonge

Romanya de la Selva
18 Mar 2013

Romanya de la Selva When we first moved to Catalonia, we had never visited before and knew practically nothing about any of the places.  Like most people our impression was much more of coming to Spain, than coming to Catalonia. We started in Barcelona and the first year we were here, we took a holiday up in Val Repos - a meandering urbanisation just outside Romanya de la Selva. Our impression from a few summer days was that the Gaverres was hot, arid and easy to get lost. Now we've been here a while, it is true that in the heat of summer, the Gavarres can see an unbroken stretch of cork trees and dusty roads, but there is a lot more to explore and particularly in the wetter months, the Gaverres becomes a great playground of muddy tracks and hidden views.

The Gavarres are also surprising because of how quickly the landscape and terrain changes. At the lower levels of the hills at the bottom of the valleys, it's common to find meadows, streams and fields and farmhouses. As the path rises through the valley it typically gets a little steeper, then turns a corner and suddenly you're in unbroken woods with stones and rocks around.

Romanya de la Selva is a small hamlet with a church and some old pretty building at the top of the Gavarres with a grand vista looking out across the Vall d'Aro and a number of popular restaurants. We were a little limited for time so the walk is relatively short - a little over an hour in length (we'll come back to do more). The aim was to walk up to Puig d'En Ponç. Puig means hill in Catalan, and Ponç (ponce) - is the name of numerous counts of Emporda (a long stream of Ponç and Hug I, II, III).

View from Romanya path The walk runs through the village past the chapel - go to the courtyard for the views. The path to the Puig is very clearly marked (yellow-white stripes) to start with on the road, then running down into the valley into the woods. The path is pleasant, but not really photogenic - wooded paths are always difficult to capture with a photo. Occasionally there are views out towards Palamos and the sea in the distance. After descending for a while, the path turns back up the hillside and climbs up - for long enough to make you puff. At the top it meets a road (this feels quite surprising given the feeling of remoteness in the woods. Following the path again, we go up the path to the top of the Puig. And now we're disappointed. The peak is marked as a viewpoint and it has a triangulation point on top, but though there is a clearing on top, the trees all around mean it is impossible to see anything of a view - even climbing on the triangulation point doesn't help.

So we wend our way down the route we came and turn to the left down the road (very quiet). The road actually has better views than the path we were on. It runs along a ridge with views down into the wooded valley on one side, and out into the more open developed valley of St Christina d'Aro on the other side. In front of us is a radio mast and we take this road to try to get the best views. Then follow the track into the urbanisation. We get slightly stuck as it seems the only route is to go through the garden of an empty house. Then it's a simple urbanisation road back to Romanya de la Selva.

Neighbouring walks: Calonge (Cami de Molins and over Cabanyes) - Solius, rocks for climbing and ruined castle - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques - Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou - Romanya de la Selva to Platja d'Aro via Golf d'Aro Mas Nou - Llagostera to Sant Llorenç

Walking route Romanya de la Selva

Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent
18 Mar 2013

Church at Llofriu Llofriu is a small village that sits just off the main road between La Bisbal and Palafrugell. The main road passes through a small collection of restaurants - this is La Barceloneta of Llofriu, while the main older village heart of Llofriu is set a little way off the road. On the hill above the Llofriu-Torrent roundabout is the small chapel of St Llop. It's visible from the older village, but I don't think you can see it from the main road. The aim was to try to see the chapel.

Now technically (and on the map below), we actually started in our neighbourhood of Mont-ras and then walked to Llofriu, but for practical purposes most of the places we wanted to see were in the Llofriu-Torrent area, so you'd be better off with the smaller walk on the map. The long route from Torrent back to Mont-ras is fine as a bike route, but as a walk you find yourself walking a little below the height of the fields to the sides, which means there's not so much to see.

Chapel of Sant Llop outside Torrent/Llofriu We start just outside Llofriu old village between the main road and the village itself. Next to the large individual house is a track that runs to Llofriu Barceloneta allowing us to reach the nest of restaurants without needing to go on the main road. As we approach the back of the buildings and the first houses, the path splits to the left by a field towards the gate of a house. We follow this path along the field, then at the gate a bigger path takes us into the hills. A little way along it forks again and we take the right hand fork eventually reaching a line of electricity pylons with a road track and path under the pylons up the hill. It's a steady climb and eventually at the top we reach a fiveways point.

Llentiscle tree of Torrent Now one problem we have with both Llofriu and Torrent is that the maps don't mark the paths very well. From Llofriu many paths aren't on the map, and around Torrent there are lots of paths and tracks, but it turns out when you try to walk them, many are closed or private. So at the top it wasn't entirely clear either where we were, or which path we should take. After a few minutes orientation, we take the road-like track to the left. This climbs up and when we reach the crest of the hill we can see a radio mast ahead of us. The track runs along the top of a ridge and has two houses taking the views - on one side to the sea and out to the Isles Medes and on the other side across to the mountains, full with snow.

We walk past the radio mast continuing straight-on (on the footpath, not on the track) and it winds off the hill. There are glimpses of views through the trees in all directions but no single clear spot  to stop and admire the view.  The footpath runs down until it meets another track. Again we're not entirely sure where we are but we know the chapel is near. After exploring we realise the chapel is to the right next to a farmhouse - it wasn't clear if public could go along the road to the farmhouse.

The chapel is quite plain and there is a board outside which explains that St Llop became venerated as a saint against the plague (black death). Like England the plague wiped out a large proportion of the population in the 1300s devestating medieval Catalonia at the time of its ascendency on the Mediterranean. (Also as in England, Catalonia suffered against the in the 1600s the time of the Great Fire of London).

View across Torrent and Pals to the Costa Brava coast We follow the track down past the chapel, past an odd curved ball-type house and down to the main Torrent-Llofriu roundabout. Across the road are the vineyards of Mas Oller - one of the vineyards of DO Emporda - with large vats outside. We cross the road and head up the old, now disused, roadway that would have been used before the new main road was instigated. On this road is a tree with a sign (which is also marked on the maps) - but we're not entirely sure why it's celebrated. Reading later it is the Llentiscle of Torrent. Llentiscle is a tree that produces a mastic gum which was chewed in ancient Greece and Rome.

From the old road are excellent views across Torrent towards Pals and beyond, but there's no easy link to the proper footpath below so we scramble down a slope under the electricity wire to get to the path. We now head along the path - we thought there was a connection directly to Torrent, but again the map is deceiving. Instead we have to carry on to the north, then find the roadway back. The roadway itself is a little odd as it's marked by pillar-lights of about four feet high all the way down to the Torrent Hotel at the bottom (there's actually an exclusive estate at the other end of the road). The hotel itself is also pretty exclusive - another inland wonder for those in the know.

Archway at Placa Major in Torrent Torrent is another small medieval village, though with some modern stone houses in the centre. It feels well manicured as villages go, though it's main point of interest is the Museum of Confiture (yes, a museum of jam) just outside the main square. We pop our head round the door, but don't go in. It looks as much a shop as a small museum.

To make the loop we head out of the village to the main Pals road and have to walk along the road for about 100m before crossing to find a track through the fields opposite the Paint-ball centre. This cuts across to a masia and then meets with a road-track that would head towards Llofriu and complete the loop.

The route we take to get to Mont-ras is a bit longer. We cross the road and follow the path, firstly past a renovated masia and across a field, and then into the woods. The aim is to meet the Pals to Mont-ras path which we eventually get to after a couple of mistaken diversions. This is a good cross-country route, especially for bikes as there is no traffic and it avoid the main roads which can get busy, but for us it was a bit of a long-way round. We join the main Pals-Palafrugell route near the orange masia. At the next farm in the woods, the path forks - the right hand path runs along a dry stream bed before forking to the left off the streambed down to La Fanga. This route isn't particularly noteworth - the path sits below the level of the fields so there's not so much to see. (If we'd take the fork to the left by the farmhouse, we'd have come through the woods to the industrial estate by Esclanya which is much nicer).

At the bottom it emerges back to a main road by the farmhouse of La Fanga. This is also the name of the new shopping mall and cinema complex which is just in the process of being built just outside Palafrugell which is just across the road. Our path crosses the road and continues along the lane that runs past Mas Pla - the former house of Joseph Pla who is the most famous Catalan writer from here. The lane comes out by the dogs home Rodamon which was where we found our dog. Rodamon is a refuge for abandoned dogs and they are always looking for homes or, if you're on holiday, for people to walk the dogs. This last stretch is quite long, so if you just want to see Llofriu and Torrent, do just take the shorter route marked on the map.

Neighbouring walks: Evening walk Pals to Sant Feliu de Boada - Mont-ras Fountain walk - Mont-ras 'boar' walkPalafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and Esclanya - Regencos to Pals via Quermany Gros and Petit - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac

Local blog in Catalan (suggested from a comment):

Walk Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent (from Mont-ras)

Palafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and Esclanya
11 Mar 2013

Ancient tower/castle in Esclanya Palafrugell is the main town for many of the coastal villages and unlike the coastal villages it remains busy all year long. On Sundays there is a big market with fruit and vegetables plus clothes and ancillary items. This walk starts in Palafrugell and takes the old road down to Tamariu (Cami Vell de Tamariu). It would have been the main access route to Tamariu in the early 20th century and though the top half to the Boblia (brick factory), past the deixillaria (tip) is tarmacked, the lower section is a sandy track barely wide enough for one car. It's difficult to imagine the route as a main road.

We start in Palafrugell and head out on Carrer Begur to the new apartment blocks by the new school, turning down past the school to meet the road to Tamariu. Around the back of Palafrugell are a number of tracks and hidden roads and hidden estates in among the hills and farmlands between the main town and the coastal villages. To start with the path follows the road and is more of a country stroll. After the factory we bear to the left to follow the main track down towards Tamariu. Tamariu itself is in a hollow, so whichever way you approach the village you have to go down, and in converse, getting out means climbing out of the hollow and depending on route this can be quite steep.

Cami Vell to Tamariu The sandy road seems to have been cut into the hill with big banks on one side, then the other with occasional glimpses over the fields when the banks disappear. There are trees around and nearby we hear the ratatatat of a woodpecker. The path gets a bit steeper (not so great if you're thinking of cycling up) before reaching a clearing in the woods. A small footpath forks off to the left along by a stream. We follow the footpath past an ugly font, then down the stream, criss-crossing over stepping stones as we go down. Eventually the path reaches a meadow and we continue following the track and it emerges by the side of Tamariu Campground. There's a chain across the path, so we're not entirely sure if the path we just came down is private, but there were no signs and it seemed well walked.

Meadows outside Tamariu From the campsite we walk down in towards Tamariu. We could visit the town and go to the beach, but this time we follow a left hand road back up into the estate to the left above the village. We've included the walk from Tamariu to Sant Sebastian which has more about the village. Tamariu also has a route via the GR92 to meet up with the Aiguablava-Fornells walk but we're not so keen on the path between the village and Aiguablava.

The path up through the estate follows the roadway right to the top where the road ends and a small narrow path heads into the woods. We run along the top of the ridge with the main route from Tamariu to the Palafrugell-Begur road to the right beneath us (this is a gravel road, surprisingly untarmacked, but not so good to walk along). We meet the broad gravel path and walk up to the house by the junction, then across the main road towards Residential Begur.

View from Begur residential Now we are on hard footpaths by the road of the estate. We miss the path we would have liked to take towards Esclanya and instead walk in among the houses. At the brow of the hill we are greeted with a view over the Pyrenees in full snow-capped glory. We follow the roadway through the estate. Though we guess the estate was originally built as a holiday area, most of the houses have permanent residents. Many are out in their gardens enjoying an early spring day. The road heads down before turning into a gravel track down to Esclanya. In summer, the gravel tracks can get very dusty, particularly if you're passed by a car.

Esclanya In Esclanya we reach a T junction and take the left-hand direction towards the old part of Esclanya. Esclanya dates back to Roman times and the old hamlet of no more than 20 or so houses has a very pretty church and castle. The main part of Esclanya consists of more modern estates with a small school as a small commuter village for Palafrugell.

Rather than head back towards the newer part of Esclanya, we cross the main road again towards Blanquers/Cemeterie. This road also peters out into a track and we follow the track at the back of the woods to find our way to the back of the new apartment blocks and from there back into Palafrugell.

Neighbouring walks: Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and LlafrancFar de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to TamariuFornells and Aiguablava walk (GR92)Regencos to Pals via Quermany Gros and Petit - Eulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega)

Swimming: Swimming at the beach at Tamariu

Walking route Palafrugell, Tamariu to Esclanya

Day trip to Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis in France
11 Mar 2013

Villefranche de Conflent exterior One of the advantages of being on the Costa Brava is how easy it is to get to France for a day out. The border is about an hour away and in another thirty minutes you can be in Perpignan. Historically speaking this is still Catalonia, and is now rebranded as Catalonia North, but culturally it feels French and there is a strong sense of being in a different country and culture to the Spanish side of the border. One of the big differences is rugby which is the main sport (in league and union forms) north of the border, but practically non-existent on the Spanish-side of the border.

Villefranche de Conflent portcullis The other big change is in shopping. Though the French supermarkets Carrefour and Al Campo (Auchun in France) have crossed the border, the selection of products can be very different in range and quality to the products you would get in France. So from time to time we go across the border just to fill up with things we struggle to find locally, like syrup for squash, a joint of beef, duck or some more exotic cheeses that just don't seem to cross the border. And it would seem a shame not to make a day of it.

Villefranche de Conflent tower and walls So this time we crossed the border, reached the outskirts of Perpignan and then turned towards the mountains in the direction of Prades and Andorra. It's currently ski season so there is snow across the top of the Pyrenees and a steady stream of cars coming towards us with skis on their roofs.

From the Costa Brava there are really four possibilties for skiing. The closest is to Valter 2000 which is above Camprodon about 4-5 km above the closest village of Setcases. The second is Val de Nuria above Ripoll on a fenicular railway both are a little less than 2 hours from the coast. Next on the Spanish-side, the next is La Molina/Masella, but this is a very bendy road from the Ripoll-side and is best reached from Berga through the Tunel de Cadi, and if you're going this way you could also reach Andorra. The alternative is to cross the border into France and head up to Font-Romeu.

Mont-louis in the Pyrenees We weren't going skiing ourselves, but more sightseeing with the aim of visiting Villefranche-de-Conflent which is a walled town/fort situated in the valley that leads up to Font-Romeu that dominates the access to the valley. It sits just beyond Prades which is famous as the adopted home of two notable Catalans - Pau Cassals a world famous cellist, and Pompeu Fabra who wrote the first description of the grammar of the Catalan language. They came to the French side of the border as exiles from the Franco regime.

 Villefranche-de-conflent sits on the confluence of two rivers and is a world heritage site. The area of Roussillon/Catalonia Nord has changed hands several times between the Catalans/Spanish and the French, finally becoming part of France in 1659.

View from Mont-Louis to the mountains The town as it remains is unspolit in original condition reflecting the strengthening of the castle by Vaubon in 1700s. It's not large - about four streets wide each of about 150m length, so it doesn't take long to walk around and there are several cafes and artisan shops. At the sites of the drawbridge and portcullis you can still see the chains inside the gate house. There is a higher fort across the railway bridge above the town, but we chose not to visit.

Instead we decided to continue another 30km up the vally to Mont-Louis. This is another Vaubon fort but sits just above the col at the highpoint of the road - about 1600m. To reach it, the road curls up the valley and is bendy in places and broad double lanes in others. As mentioned, there was snow on the mountains and so when we reached the top there were the remains of snow piles built up next to the walls and houses, a huge contrast to the warm spring conditions back at the coast.

Mont-Louis is another fortress town, but with relatively few houses and a still occupied army barracks right at the top. From the ramparts you can look across to the mountains which were covered with snow at the top, and across the valley you could see chair-lifts and ski-ers on the pistes opposite.

On the way down we visited Ille-sur-tet, an old catalan town in the Spanish style, but not quite as interesting as it looked from the road as we passed. The shopping we did in Le Boulou (Le volo in Spanish) which is close to the border and saves having to go all the way to Perpignan.

Walk nearby: La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France

Neighbouring visits

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Collioure (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Ceret (France) - Andorra La Vella - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Visit to Setcases - Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame

Escala, St Marti d'Empuries and beyond
04 Mar 2013

lEscala Platja del Rec L'Escala is one of the major towns on the Costa Brava and is famed for its anchovies. It is also the location of Empuries, a large ancient Roman town with Greek origins that sits just outside L'Escala. The town is sort of into two parts - the original fishing town/village which is to the north and the more modern estates of Riells that cluster around the southern beach of Riells and run down to Montgo. The two blend into to one another but there is a strongly different character between the more holiday focused modern town and the more work focused old town centre.

Bays between lEscala and Empuries For this walk we started at the fringes of L'Escala old town as we really wanted to go north past the Empuries archeological site, on to St Marti d'Empuries and then onwards along the coast. The path is made for a Sunday stroll with tarmac underfoot and paths across and around the dunes on purpose-made wooden paths. This strollers path runs all the way to St Marti and is perfect if you have a pushchair or are just looking for a passeo.

Ruins of Empuries from the beach path As mentioned we started at the the outskirts of the town and the path follows the coast past low rocky cliffs and then around to the four or five small sandy bays that lay nestled under the dunes, with rocky outcrops reaching out into the sea. We walk past the Hostal d'Empuries hotel and restaurant where it can be pleasant just to while away the time watching the sea and the passersby.

Immediately after the Hotel is Empuries. Founded by the Phoenicians and then extended by the Greeks and Romans, you can see the layout of the Roman town from the path as you pass, but to visit properly you have to go inside to the museum. You can tell from the outside that the town was very large, but in fact the part you can see from the beach path is only about one third of the entire site.

Empuries was a very important trading town and would have been comparable size and importance to Tarragona and Barcelona during the Roman period. The word Emporium for a large shop shares the same route as Empuries, and ancient writers mention the city and its contribution to the Punic Wars, giving some idea of the importance of the city to the Roman Empire. After the Romans left, Empuries remained the chief town in Emporda and was the seat of the counts d'Empuries until the 10th Century, at which point raids by Vikings(!) and muslim navy led to the town being abandoned in favour of Castello d'Empuries to the north.

Portwall at Empuries showing the change in sea level Just after last houses of Empuries, if you look to the sea you'll see the remains of the ancient Greek/Roman port wall standing on the beach. Originally, Empuries would have had a very impressive harbour. The position of the walls relative to the sea level also show how changing coast lines have directly affected the history. At one point Empuries and Sant Marti were on an island surrounded by water. But drainage, sedimentation and changing sea levels now mean the surrounding area is fertile farmland.

Sant Marti dEmpuries full for Sunday lunch in early March After the port, the path continues up to St Marti d'Empuries, a small walled Catalan village. We walk up into the village to see the church and around the old houses, and even in early March it's teeming with people visiting the restaurants. Behind the restaurants, you pass the remaining walls of the town. Being on the sea, Sant Marti would have been at risk of attacks from pirates. From there we head out towards the long broad beach that extends all the way along to Roses about 20km to the North, taking in the path we walked by the Aiguamolls and still going round.

Bridge from Empuries to beach To reach the main beach you have to cross a metal bridge over the river. We walked along the beach watching the campsites to our left. There are two very large campsites that run along the beach. The first is the Balena Allegre (Happy Whale), and the second Les Dunes. In the summer they would be full with people, but out of season we're almost the only people on the beach. Just a handful of long-distance walkers making the hike down to L'Escala walk past.

Cortal Gran near the campsites of Les Dunes and Balena Allegre The only problem though is the size of the campsites. On the map there's a break point between the two campsites, otherwise you're hemmed in all the way almost to Sant Pere Pescador. The challenge from the sand is working out where Balena Allegre ends and Les Dunes begins. Fortunately we find the right spot. As you're walking there's a big blue building labelled as the Discoteque Fata Morgana (a Fata Morgana is a mirage). The path runs from the beach up by the side of the disco and from here we're out onto a small narrow road. There's a path behind the crash barriers that's used by cycling campers in the summer. We walk north, hoping to find a way to link to the GR92. There's a path marked on the map that reaches down towards the road. Unfortunately, to reach the path you have to cross a broad stream and there's no bridge link.

The only place to reach the GR92 is to go further north past the fields of espaliered fruit trees. The only problem is the path runs out and you have to follow the road which is precariously narrow with little space to pass pedestrians. Fortunately it was quiet and we walked on to reach a left hand turn past the big house of Cortal Gran.

Village of Cinclaus outside Escala From this point the walk is very very flat and relatively long, through the fields and past more fruit-trees with relatively little variation. After a couple of kilometres the path finally arrives at Cinclaus - a small nest of masias with a chapel built at the site of a former castle, which itself was built on the site of a former Roman villa. Like many old masias, one has been converted into a restaurant and families are just leaving after their Sunday lunch. Cinclaus is also the point where the GR1 path from Finistere in Galicia meets the GR92 long distance coast path.

We walk back to L'Escala past the riding centre and up, off the road and past a farm. From the crest of the hill we realise that we are right next door to the ancient walls of Empuries - not the part we walked past on the seaward side, but a different part of the town. The walls are 3-4m high and several hundred metres in length. We can just make out the ampitheatre built outside the walls. We follow the path down and walk past the entrance to the Empuries Museum/Archaelogical site, then back along the beach to L'Escala.

Visit: Empuries Greek and Roman remains

Neighbouring walks: L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo - Aiguamolls d'Emporda (Empuriabrava) - L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol - Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons - Castello d'Empuries - Sant Pere Pescador river Fluvia - Sobrestany, Montgri and Bellcaire d'Emporda

Walking route Escala, Empuries, Sant Marti, campsites and Cinclaus

Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura
04 Mar 2013

Tower in Cruilles In the early Medieval period La Bisbal was important because it was the seat of the Prince-Bishops of Girona and the area and villages around, rather than being under the control of the Count of Empuries (Comte d'Empuries), were directly under the control of the bishops. As such a number of the bishops had names associated with the local villages (de Monells or de Cruilles). One of the most important of these was Berenguer de Cruilles - the bishop of Girona in 1349 and the first president of the Generalitat de Catalunya - the government of Catalunya - in 1359. People named de Cruilles occur numerous times in Catalan history including important participants in the conquest of Mallorca by the Catalans and as inquisitor general for Spain.

Monells street The town of Cruilles now is another pretty, stone-built Catalan village with a large tower in the centre. It's not so large and easy to walk around, though with the exception of the tower and church it's mainly smaller houses so it's not as illustrious as its forebears names would suggest. On this visit, the church tower was under cover behind scaffolding. However, a short walk away is St Miquel de Cruilles, an early Romanesque monastery. We come back this way on the walk.

From Cruilles we head out towards Monells. As far as we can see on the map, the only option is to follow a road that links the villages. We tried to make a diversion up the hill then navigate a couple of dotted line tracks, but got stuck and ended up having to walk by the edge of fields to get back to the road, so it's probably best to stick to the road.

Monells square and arcades Monells we have mentioned before in the walk up to Montnegre. The village from the road doesn't look very interesting, but the centre hides arched arcades and stone gates. We walk down one of the old streets to the gate at the bottom to see the stream, before going back under the arches and into the inner court yard where people are eating under the arches.

Sant Sadurni church We follow the path out along the stream (similar to the other Monells walk), but take a left hand road past a small cluster of farm buildings. This takes us towards Sant Sadurni de l'Heura, the third of the towns on the route. Sant Sadurni has an impressive 18th century church, and is the chief village of the poblacio made up of the three villages, but compared to both Cruilles and Monells feels a little more run down with fewer hidden streets to explore.

We leave the village and cross the main car road, going past two or three restaurants. The car-parks are full with locals out for lunch. We continue on the track indicated to Cruilles, passing the small chapel of Sant Joan de Salelles (named after Saint John the Baptist - Joan is Catalan for John, a boy's name). As we pass a large masia we reach a crossroads and the flat fields spread out in front of us, framed by the Gavarres hills in the background with views to La Bisbal.

Chapel of Sant Joan near Cruilles Along the track we turn up to the left to visit Sant Miquel de Cruilles. The monestary is famous for being one of the early Romanesque buildings (Romanesque is known as Norman architecture in England). Built in 904, the style is quite muscular and plain, but is characteristic of many older buildings in Catalona and is a style that almost emerged from this part of the world. It was superceded by the Gothic style - much more pointed arches. Sant Miquel itself is a small hamlet of 10-15 renovated buildings. The path then runs down the hill, past the pig farm (which sort of ruins the view of Cruilles) and back to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Monells and Mont-negreCorça, Casavells, Matajudaica - La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Canapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Cruilles and masias and streams

Walking route Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni

Bell-lloc and Castell de Vila-Roma (Palamos)
04 Mar 2013

Castle of Vilaroma (Palamos) and Bell.loc In the walk from Calonge into the Gavarres, the aim had been to reach the Castle of Vila-Roma just to the north of Palamos. The castle itself is long since ruined, but beneath the castle is the old convent of Bell-loc which has now been converted into a private residence, hotel and vineyard.

This is a walk we've done several times before, but we like to do it in spring when the ground isn't so dry and the flowers and wild asparagus are starting to appear in the woods.

The castle itself sits above a stream and looks down the valley to St Joan de Palamos. You can see it from the dual carriageway if you know where to look, but it's very easy to miss the rust-coloured stone in among the trees if you're just passing for the first time.

To reach the castle it would be an easy walk from either La Fosca or Palamos itself - there is a footpath under the new dual carriageway by the La Fosca junction up into the Vila-Roma area.

Castle of Vila-Roma Instead, we start a little closer and park just outside the Hutchinson factory which is a little incongrous to see the factory in among the fields (the company is French and makes advanced materials for things like pipes and seals and clutches among other things).

Walk along the lane past the picnic area and take the signposted path to the left and into the woods. The road forks a little way along and we take the right fork (we come back down the left side). The path climbs into the woods and curls around the valley side to give the first view of the castle.

The castle itself only has about one and a half tower-bits standing, so it's quite decrepit, but it looks like a proper ruined castle, albeit on the small side.

Below the castle is a white building and vineyards. This is the old convent of Bell-loc which we will pass on the way back.

There would have been castles and towers along all the eastern edges of the Gavarres in medieval times. To the south is Castell d'Aro. On the coast is Torre Valentino. Palamos itself was a royal garrison port, but before this had the castle of Sant Esteve at La Fosca. Mont-ras had a watch-out tower and there was a castle at Sant Susanna de Peralt and obviously the castle at Begur.

View to Bell.loc and down to Palamos The path continues right to the edge of the castle itself. It's relatively overgrown inside with masonery on the floor, but with some arches and windows still standing.

The castle is open to explore (update: signs say keep out now) and gives views down the valley and out to sea.

On the far side from the footpath, the castle stands on a bluff above the stream below (a sharp drop so watch if you're with small children).

Having explored and taken a few photos we continue along the track. A signpost points to the dolmen to the right, but we continue. There are two paths from the castle both marked with poles topped with yellow in an attempt to stop mountain bikes.

We take the upper path which is now a narrow track into the woods above the stream to the left.

At the first left junction we turn down the valley. A sudden burst of noise and screeching brakes as a coven of mountain bikers come heading down the path. The tracks very small and bumpy but they some how manage to get their bikes down the tracks and pass with a 'Bon Dia' salutation.

At the bottom is a small stream, swollen by the recent rain and we have to skip across the stepping stones to get to the other side. Then we follow the stream down through what seems like a wide river bottom littered with branches and bits of old trees as if it's a valley that gets sudden torrents of water rushing through it at times of peak rain.

Underneath the castle, the path turns up and out to Bell-loc convent now hotel and vineyard. The signs outside say there is a small chapel and the people of Palamos used to come up to the convent once a year for a festival. Now it's a simple walk along the lane by the stream and past the vineyards. We see the path up to Calonge we would have arrived at if we'd continued the other walk.

Finally we return to the fork and back past the farmhouses and picnic area and back to the car.

Update (June 2014): The Fire on the Costa Brava in March that we reported affected most of the area around Bell.lloc and Castell de Vila Roma with much of the woods burnt by the fire.

What's remarkable is that walking in June while many trees are still black from the fire, vegetation is returning and the fire-resistent cork trees are showing foliage from behind the black-burnt bark. With much of the undergrowth and scrub having been burnt away and trees still recovering, the area is much more open with big vistas out towards the sea, particularly if you go up from the Castle to the Dolmen on top of the hill (Montagut).

What's more remarkable is that in clearing the ground, the fire has revealed a hidden history.

In the woods to the back of the castle, it's possible to see man-made terrace walls and the outlines of buildings that would have been in what is now forest suggesting that in the past the valley might not have been wooded to the extent it is now.

Neighbouring walks: La Fosca to Palamos - Calonge into the GavarresMont-ras 'boar' walk - Platja de Castell and La FoscaCalella de Palafrugell/Cap Roig to Castell - classic wild Costa BravaEulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega) - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac

Walking route for Palamos Vila-Roma to the castle and Bell.loc

Vilopriu and Valldavia
25 Feb 2013

Vilopriu castle from the village February is the month most likely to see snow. It also marks the first signs of Spring with the first blossoms in the almond orchards, and meadow flowers starting to appear in the fields. In past years the snow has reached right down to the coast and in one year it combined with a strong wind and took down electricity pylons leaving a few towns without electricity for a few days. Having said that, snow is normally so fleeting and unusual by the coast that it is greeted by an almost childish enthusiasm and excitement.

The weekend of this walk was the one the forecasters estimated as being the most likely to have snow. We were looking forward to it and then the day turned out to be just hung with overcast cloud. Which meant that for the walk, the views and landscape tended to disappear into the haze, which obviously doens't make for great photos.

Valldavia from the radio mast viewpoint Vilopriu is a small village off the beaten track in the hills between L'Escala and its motorway junction at Orriols. It's an area we'd not visited before as the roads skirt around the hills, either to Colomers to the south - which is where you can hire canoes to meander down the river Ter to Verges, or past Camallera to Viladamat to the North. The village itself is small but perfectly preserved. There are no vilas or urbanisations nearby just the old stone houses of the village that have been restored. We parked just under the castle in the 'main' square. The castle itself is not the ajuntament building and there is even a lift access for wheelchairs to get to the main level of the castle where there are views across the fields and out to the Gaverres in the far distance.

The walk starts to the west of the village and we had to go around the bottom of the castle to find the start of the track as it runs past a farmyard. The track is broad and easy to follow out towards the woods and fields around the village. It's a rolling countryside, with meadows adjoining small copses and has a feel of a walk in the UK or even Germany or France. It's a very big contrast to the much more Mediterranean walk of Espolla. We follow the path through the woods. It reaches a tarmac road and we turn left down into the hamlet of Les Pins - little more than 2-3 old masias and a chapel, but it seems that almost every other field has horses. At this point, the walk picks up the GR1. This is the first time we've been on this route. The GR (Grand Radonnee in French, Gran Recorrido in Spanish) are a network of long distance paths in Europe. The GR92 coastal path is the one we are most familiar. The GR1 runs from Finisterre at the most western point of Spain in Galicia across the country to Empuries.

View across to Vilopriu castle on a hazy day The GR1 takes us on a gentle incline up the hill past ploughed fields and with hazy views into the distance. As we reach the top a radio mast appears and we make a right hand turn. At this point going onwards would take you down into Valldavia. There's a castle marked on the map, but while we saw what looked like masia's we didn't really see a castle as such. It could have been than we needed to go down to the village to find it. From the area round the radio mast there are views out across St Pere Pescador and on towards Roses, but it was too hazy to make for a good photo. The area around the mast had obviously been subject to a forest fire and all the trees had been cleared. Summers are normally very dry, and the slightest flame can set of a rapidly spreading wild fire. Last summer, a wild fire that started with the borders of France spread over 40km almost to Figueres and was visible from Begur. The smoke reaching down even as far as Barcelona, so there are very strong prohibitions on fires in the woods and forests during the summer months. However, having had the fire, and without the trees, the views were much more extensive than they might have been.

We walk down from the viewpoint and out along past the municipal open-air swimming pool. The GR1 takes us to a tarmac road and we cross the road, while the GR1 would head to the left. The path continues through the woods giving a view of Vilopriu through the trees, before we turn back to the village.

 Neighbouring walks: Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya - Colomers and Jafre

Espolla to Rabos
20 Feb 2013

Vineyards close to Espolla This time we have something different from the green fields, coast and cork hills of the Baix Emporda. Espolla and Rabos are towards the mountains that border France in the Alt Emporda region. As you move northwards off the Empordan plains, the routes into the mountains both at Espolla and out towards Cap de Creus become more barren with sharper stones under foot. The fields give way to vineyards and olive groves built on levelled fields surrounded by dry-stone walls that look as they were built hundreds or thousands of years ago.

We headed towards Espolla on a whim after having visited Peralada. Our map at 1:50000 wasn't so great so we really lacked any good walking directions, but the route between Espolla and Rabos seemed as if it would at least give a taste of walking in this area and perhaps provide some experience for planning some other walks up towards the Albera mountains.

Espolla is a small town surrounded by vineyards with a small castle and a prominent church. It's feels far from the tourist track and is more of a regular work-a-day Catalan village. The paths are well marked from the village and there is a route over the mountains to Banyuls sur Mer (Banyuls de la Merenda). The day was quite overcast - February is the month with the greatest chance of snow and days oscillate between warm sun-filled days and chilly evenings presaging the start of spring, and overcast days with threats of rain or sun.

Rabos village and church The path follows a track among the vineyards and olive trees into the hills. It feels quite dry and isolated and there aren't many specific points of interest. The olive groves and vines are well tended   though (we discovered later than Espolla olive oil is renowned in Catalonia) and there are shotgun cartridges almost all the way along the path indicating its attraction to hunters - when we got back to Espolla a large group with dogs and 4x4s was preparing to go out. As the path turns over the hill and back down towards Rabos, there are the first glimpses of views down towards the sea and the Emporda plain, though it was too overcast for us to be able to see clearly.

The path runs down to Rabos. Rabos is a village built on the slopes that runs down to an old bridge and river. From the bridge, Rabos has some charm with what looks like a church crossed with a castle, with parapets above the nave. There are footpaths and roads towards the monestary of Sant Quirze de Colera

For the walk back to Espolla we followed the road. It wasn't busy, but next time we come up here we really have to have better maps.

Neighbouring walks: Peralada - La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Port de la Selva - Roses and Roses Ciutadella -  Llança - Cadaques and Port Lligat  - Port de la Selva - Cadaques to Roses - Sant Pere de Rodes - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella) - Castell de Requesens

Walking route Espolla to Rabos

19 Feb 2013

Peralada castle Peralada is a town located to the north-east of Figures just off the road to Llanca. The town is the home to the castle of the counts of Peralada and Rocaberti (Rocaberti is a castle, now in ruins, close to the modern French-Spanish border at La Perthus) and the wines of Peralada, part of the DO Emporda wine appelation.

Square in Peralada In around 1000 (so close to the time of William the Conqueror in England), Peralada was the capital of Alt Emporda. At this time Catalonia was a collection of counties (literally ruled by counts). The history of Catalonia and its formation and development is bound up with the counts of Catalonia and feudal lines of homage, caught up with marriage and alliances. The count of the County of Barcelona was the dominate county, but this did not stop disputes with counts such as Urgell or Empuries (the count of Peralada was a vassal of the Count of Empuries). Marriage between the Count of Barcelona and the daughter of the King of Aragon, lead to the creation of the Aragon empire which, at its highpoint in the 1300s included Sardinia, Southern Italy and Sicily, and even out to Athens and parts of Greece. A succession dispute led to the crown of Aragon being entwined and then finally joined with kingdom of Castille, to the disadvantage of Catalonia. As Castille rose in importance and promenence though both the discoveries in America (which were only accessible to Castillans), and the joining of the Spanish crowns and the crown of the Holy Roman Empire under Carles V - which gave Spain its Dutch and Milanese territories in Europe, Catalonia became relatively peripheral. The Castillanisation of Spain causing simmering resentment in Catalonia that eventually blew up in the Reapers Wars of the 1640s. The role of counts, their marriages and their disputes and feuds is then a key part of Catalan history.

Storks and parrots outside Peralada Castle walls Modern Peralada has the, still privately-owned, castle of Peralada still in the possession of the original family. The current castle is was built in the 19th century on the site of the original 9th century castle in a French Chateau-style so compared to most of the Catalan castles we see which retain their medieval origins, this one is quite refined. In keeping with the Chateau style the castle has grounds and gardens. We had hoped to be able to visit, but these were closed to the public. In the summer, the castle has a museum that is open to the public, and also has a number of music festivals. The best we could do was to visit the courtyard, just off from the casino entrance - the casino is open all year around, at least to get a glimpse of the castle.

The town itself is just behind the castle and has its own town walls. It is a typically Catalan town with a church on the high point, and a network of squares and small streets through the centre. The town museum has the well preserved remains of a cloister from an abbey that was in the town - you can just get a glimpse from the back streets. Unfortunately being Sunday much of the town was closed so we couldn't explore much further which meant that we just did a lap of the town. Though we did get the remarkable site of parrots sheltering under stork nests as the storks used their beaks as castanets to chatter to each other.

Originally we had planned on walking direct from Peralada, but the only map we had was a 1:50,000 which doesn't give very good walking resolution and the marked paths seemed to be walks of 6-7km with no obvious circular-route back. So instead we decided to go on into the hills.

Neighbouring walks: Espolla to Rabos - La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Port de la Selva - Roses and Roses Ciutadella -  Llança - Cadaques and Port Lligat  - Port de la Selva - Cadaques to Roses - Castello d'Empuries - Llança - Castell de Requesens

City visit: Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran

Palau-sator and Peratallada
18 Feb 2013

Palau-sator Palau-sator and Peratallada are small very picturesque medieval towns/villages situated just outside Pals (which is itself very picturesque). Of the two, Peratallada is the prettiest and for me, is actually prettier than Pals, though because it sits in a shallow valley, it lacks the prominence of Pals village. Peratallada (which I believe means cut stone - pedra tallada) has a moat around one side literally cut into rock, and walls and gates surrounding a maze of cobblestone streets and golden stoned houses. Palau-sator is smaller and less refined and has rings of houses around the central castle/tower.

Clocktower and gatehouse at Palau-sator A feature of the two villages, and a number of other rural villages and masias (farmhouses) is the number of restaurants. Both villages, though small, have a disproportionate number of restaurants in the villages. Though tourists use them, in reality, unlike the coastal resorts which are mostly geared towards the influx of foreign holidaymakers, these restaurants are much more local and authentic. And so on a weekend at lunchtime they tend to fill up with Catalans out for lunch.

We sometimes hear of people looking at holidays on the Costa Brava who worry about coming out of season in case places will be shut. Well yes, some places in the coastal resorts do close through the winter months, particularly the more tourism-focused places. The better restaurants and bars that can and do attract a more local and year-round clientele tend to stay open. And in practice you find many more of these inland than you do at the coast.

Castle building in Peratallada However, to appreciate and get to the restaurants you have to be appreciative of the Catalan hours and eating habits. Broadly speaking, people in Spain do not eat in the early evening and in particular, around the Costa Brava, locals will tend to have their main meal during the middle of the day and will take their time over the meal - so say start at 2pm and finish some time at or after 4pm (the Catalans have the same breakfast-dinner-tea-supper pattern as Northern England - alternatively imagine every day is like Sunday or Christmas dinner, eaten in the middle of the day). If they go out again it will be after 9pm and often only at the weekends.

Cart tracks worn into the rock in Peratallada You would think, having been here for a while and having done a reasonable amount of walking, a simple walk like Palau-sator to Peratallada that we've done before on bikes couldn't go wrong. The distance between the two villages is around 2-3 km, so not far The idea was to make a circular walk - the main route would be the GR92, but there's a path past the church outside Peratallada so we should be able to make a loop. We got hamstrung with two problems - firstly we took the wrong map, and secondly we took the wrong turn, so we didn't quite do the walk we wanted and ended up having to track across fields to make the link.

Cobbled street in Peratallada The other thing is, that by our standards, it's actually not that great a walk - the countryside is fairly flat and level and mainly fields, so it's much more of a gentle stroll through the farmland without many points of interest on the way, unless you count the pig farms and the wafting country smell they generate.

We started at Palau-sator. Palau means palace, but really refers to a large house or castle in the town (Palafrugell and Palamos have the same Palau root). The restaurants were busy, so parking was haphazard though there was space. We took the time to take in the town including the odd stone igloo well and clock tower. From the village we followed the path towards Ullastret to start with - this is mainly tarmac but quiet. Having bought the wrong map and relying on memory we knew we needed a left-hand turn. Unfortunately we took the turn too early and looped around the village. Which then bought us back to the GR92. This was supposed to be the route back, so instead we took the flat walk down to Peratallada.

Bridged street in Peratallada Peratallada is one of the hidden and lesser-known gems we always take relatives too. Often they've heard of Pals, but know nothing about Peratallada. We followed the river to the ford, and then entered into a small square with an arched arcade that represents the main entrance. In summer or when they have craft markets, the town throngs with people. It's then a question of exploring the myriad of narrow streets, archways and bridges over the road and the part where carts have worn tracks into the stone of the road. The exit point it to the north, the roads in the town wind their way to the top and a stone gate. If you go through the gate, you find yourself on a bridge above a moat cut out of the stone. What with the French, pirates and brigands almost all catalan villages had to be able to defend themselves from attack.

Leaving the village we head past the church and out to the north. This path is slightly raise with a wood to the left, so has a little more character. Once again though we got lost. We thought we could find a short cut and took a track to the right, only to find ourselves at the edge of a field. Rather than go back we went around the field to link up with the path we came on. If we'd continued on the route would connect to the Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles walk to the north. Or for another extension, from Peratallade, it connects to the Clots de Sant Julia walk to the south.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta - Canapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Clots de Sant Julia (Vulpellac) - Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret - Evening walk Pals to Sant Feliu de Boada - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada

Walking route Peratallada to Palau-sator Costa Brava

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17 Feb 2014 19:46
What a great blog. I am planning a walking holiday in the region and wonder if you can recommend the best walking maps, like UK ordnance survey ones.

I shall be reading more of your walks over the coming days as we plan.

Many thanks
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
13 Jul 2017 12:46
Sorry I missed the comment, so I hope it's not too late - use the contact box if you'd like to send a message. For the coast, the GR92 is best and if you have driver you can just take it piece by piece. For hikers, around Cap de Creus is great, though it can be dry and hard walking in summer. For us, the stretch between Palamos and Palafrugell and on to Begur is the prettiest part of the whole Costa Brava and really good for walking. I'd probably also take the walk up and over Montgri, possibly starting at Pals, or L'Estartit to L'Escala. And though you said you prefer the coast, don't overlook inland routes as there are some wonderful villages and countryside out towards Girona, La Bisbal, or Olot.
Sven-Gunnar Furmark
24 May 2017 11:43

My name is Sven Furmark. I am from Sweden. I plan to go to Costa Brava with some friends (totally about 10 people) for hiking for one week (5 walking days). We are experienced hikers and we usually walk 4-6 hours per day. We prefer to walk along the coast as much as possible. We plan to rent a house and travel to each days hiking with a bus & driver which we plan to book for the whole week. Which five hikes would you recommend for us.

Warm Regards
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