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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:

Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret
29 Dec 2013

Celra La Fabrica factory Costa Brava Travelling from Girona to La Bisbal on the C66 route to the Costa Brava, the road and railway line passes through Celra, Bordils and then to Flaça. From the main road, the towns look as if they are just a line of houses and shops built along the road and so seem quite plain motor suburbs for Girona. In fact, as with many towns in Catalonia, the view from the main road is deceptive. All of the towns are actually based around much older village centres, but each centre itself is around one to two kilometres away from the main road and away from the Barri d'Estacio - the estates, modern buildings and industrial units located close to the train station. For instance, many people who catch the train to Flaça to connect to the Costa Brava don't realise that there is actually an older and more interesting part to the town which is separate from the main station area. 

We mentioned Celra's modernista factory in our walk around Sant Julia de Ramos and we'd not visited Juia before this weekend, so it was a chance to explore up into a different part of the Gavarres, so needing to be in Bordils for a sports tournament we decided to take the opportunity to explore Celra and Juia.

Celra street in the old part We parked and started in Celra just by the station and the old modernista factory. The factory itself (La Fabrica) is built in red brick with large windows and two old chimneys and is reminiscent of the harbour buildings on Gloucester old docks. It was a chemicals factory in the past originally for chemicals for the tanning industry, but it's now been coverted into a social centre, town library, and is also the location of an outdoor municipal swimming pool.

Celra view fromthe Gavarres behind the town We walked from the station up towards the old town and into the nucleas of older buildings just along from the town theatre - a building in an 1930s style, so probably from that time. The inner part of the town is much older with stone built buildings along narrow streets that curl around to the church. The older part seems quite large for a village suggesting that the older town would have been an important centre at one point. We follow the older alleys up towards the higher parts just under the Gavarres Hills past horta (vegetable gardens) and lemon trees. On the outskirts is more of a mix of older and more modern houses that look well-appointed for commuters to Girona, and then large masias dotted about looking over the fields around the village.

Our path continues up past Mas Castell, a square built masia with a tower in the center, its stonework fully restored and golden in the sun. Around the side of the mas the path heads up into the woods and we find our first signpost. We can either continue up, or take the track marked to Juia down by the stream. We follow the path to Juia, but soon take a right hand turn up the hill on a broad forestry track. This is an area popular with mountain bikers and every so often one or two come downhill past us.

The path continues up and as we climb we can see the castle of Sant Miquel on the neighbouring ridge (see Girona walk). We continue an easy-going climb through the woods, with views back across the plain of the Ter and the factory buildings of Celra behind us.

Castle of Palagret ruins behind Celra and Juia After what seems a longer time than we were expecting and almost at the top of the hill, our track joins with another broader path at a fork. We turn to the left down the track just a two mountain bikers are coming up - it seems like a long climb, but they don't seem to notice. This path will lead us down to the castle and the views are excellent, firstly out to the sea and Montgri and then across to the Pyrenees - a line of snow clearly visible, with the top of Canigo shrouded in cloud.

The path takes us down the next valley from the one we walked up with the Sanctuari of Els Angels on top of the hill opposite. Close to the bottom the road takes a right hand bend and we get to the ruins of the castle of Palagret. Little more than a few walls and some arched door ways remain of the building which sits above a moat hewn out of the rocks. The castle is being renovated and a wooden bridge with metal handrails takes us into the main keep area. Other stairs have been added and it's possible to walk through the rooms and up to the top of the castle for the view of the valley.

After a brief break we continue the last part of the downhill and on past some terraced fields and a stream close to old masias. We could walk straight back to Celra, but our planned route takes us along the Cami de Juia to the right. As we pass the last gate before returning to the woods we see what looks like a dragon's nest made from reeds wrapped around two trees obviously made for children.

Juia village and view The path curves through the woods and then gently rolls down to the old village of Juia emerging at an imposing farmhouse with views of the church. Juia is a small village/hamlet almost all of original older stone houses nestling together along a small streamway.

The path back to Celra follows the road, but is separated as a combined footpath, cyclepath and bridleway and we pass more perfectly restored farmhouses. At the outskirts of Celra we are back among more modern buildings and a number of apartment blocks as the outskirts of Celra is more modern with estate type houses. Then along past the older centre once more and back to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona) - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Bordils and the tree plantations of the Ter - Rupia and Foixa - Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes

Walking route from Celra to Juia via the ruined castle of Palagret

Canet d'Adri
26 Dec 2013

Canet dAdri under Rocacorba hills Canet d'Adri sits in the hills behind Girona that separate Girona from Olot and includes the outskirts of the Garotxa, the land of ancient volcanoes formed when the Spanish Penisular (which is geologically part of Africa) ran into the European continental plate.

It's an area we haven't explored very much, so a bright sunny Boxing Day seemed a good chance to walk off Christmas Dinner and to try off a new walking map of the Girona area from the ICC and it happens there's a 'green star' on the map indicating 'natural curiosity, beauty spot' - the Gorgues de la Font de la Torre.

Walking a new area without really knowing what the routes are is always interesting - sometimes it's just pot luck as to whether we find something worth visiting or just discover there would be somewhere better to walk for next time. We park just across the road from the old Ajuntament building and walk down the lane towards the river. The map marks two bridges as being of interest and we walk down to the first one. The bridge isn't so interesting, but it sits above a rocky gorge. From the map we had wondered if we could make a route along the river, but the path is marked as private, so we have to go back up towards the village and follow the official footpath past mainly newer houses and a new looking sports centre.

Canet dAdri pools and gorge The path down to the Font de la Torre is easy to find beneath a large old almost warehouse-looking masia, and steps take us down to rocky pools, waterfalls and two streams cutting through the rock in narrow gorges. The area is obviously popular and metal rails run along side the paths. On the opposite corner is a large waterwheel standing above the water now as decoration rather than a working wheel and some of the pools are deep and clear with vertical sides. Under an old bridge, the streams fall away in a series of water falls down through the cut to a river below.

Having chased across the rocks and pools and along the streams, we decide to try to follow the stream at the back into the woods and hills. The path is narrow and haphazard and we skip across the rocks to the other side of the stream to try to find a better route, but the path is the same. The sides are initially like walls but with large ferns growing out of them giving the path a jurassic feel.

Canet dAdri bridge over cutting As we continue, we're not so sure if the path we're walking really is a path and not wanting to get too deeply into the woods and hills as this is a relatively remote area with few roads or routes, we find a path up the side of the stream to the right and reach a forestry garage/picnic area and a track that takes us out to the road close to Can Canet.

We take the track back down before taking a left towards Can Nadal (it is Christmas). This looks like a colonies house and as we get closer we follow the sign that points to Administracio and up into the woods. The idea for the second part of the walk is to visit the old volcano just behind Canet d'Adri, but the paths aren't too clear. We follow the track at the back of Can Nadal into the woods until it emerges at a newly ploughed field.

Someone has driven across the field and so there is a track, and the track exists on the map so we chance it and reach the woods up on the far side. The path takes us past Can Pou (Pou is a well in Catalan), through the woods and out at more of a road on the other side. As we emerge we see the sign from the road says the track we were on was a Pas Particular - a private road. This is something we find regularly - an open path from one end is marked as private from the other. Unfortunately the maps don't distinguish between private and public tracks or routes.

Old village of Adri We continue down the road to the back of the volcano. As we reach the junction we see the signpost for a bigger walk up to Rocacorba and Puigsou. Looking up we can see the arial masts above the cliffs on top of the mountain behind us - so something for another day. We're at the back of the Puig of the old volcano and there are several families walking so we follow the road around the back of the Puig (it means 'hill' in Catalan). There are many isolated masia farmhouses and as is common around Girona, several have been restored as large family restaurants. Sunday lunch at a country masia is very popular for locals - much more than going to the coast or eating in town.

We keep following the road around to Adria a small hamlet of large old houses and a small church that stands above a wooded valley. In the distance we can look out to Girona and the Gavarres. The houses are built in the traditional golden stone of the region and many have been fully restored. 

Though there is a route up to the puig, according to the map there are no routes over the puig and down the other side so we stick to the road as it curves around the base of the Puig finding rocks of pumice along the side of the road. We pass through woods and have more views towards Girona and see the newly erected pylons for the MAT electricity line that is going to be bringing electricity from France as far as Barcelona. MAT (Molt Alta Tensio) is controversial because of the visual impact of the pylons and lines and there are many 'no-MAT' signs and posters in this part of Girones. This is the first time we've actually seen the pylons and they are larger than normal, but not the only pylons in the landscape.

Around the hill we return to Canet d'Adri. We would normally visit the village centre and church, but the older part of the village looks to be just the church and a house, so we return to the car and back towards Girona.

Other visits: Arbucies autumn walk - Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves - Visit to Setcases - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Banyoles lakeside walk - Sant Miquel de Fluvia - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Cervia de Ter - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella)- Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking

Walking route around Canet dAdri

Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta
16 Dec 2013

Sant Climent de Peralta church Costa Brava Just inland from the main Costa Brava coast, between La Bisbal d'Emporda and Llofriu, just after Vulpellac are the two tiny Peralta hamlets - Santa Susanna de Peralta on one side of the road and Sant Climent de Peralta on the other. Both hamlets are very small, but they extend to include a number of very big, and luxurious, old Masia estates with extensive grounds and stables.

Santa Susanna is the larger of the two hamlets and was the starting point of walks to Peratallada and to Clots de Sant Julia. It's the site of a now ruined castle that sits behind a restored masia house. Sant Climent, on the other side of the main road is little more than the church, but has a network of roads leading to very large masias into the Gavarres hills. The church looks like the perfect place to start for a walk, but there is just one road and that leads to a big gate for one of the big estates, so you can't go further on.

View out the Pyrenees from the Gavarres Costa Brava This is actually the second attempt at this walk. The first time we got lost and confused as there are many many tracks, particularly as you get into the hills and it can be very difficult to decipher where you are on the map. We park close to the social area for Santa Susanna. This is right next to a set of three traditional haystacks with hay layered around a central pole. These are visible from the main road, so an indication of where to turn if you want to park.

We walk down the lane and then cross the main road taking care as the cars are fast here. The lane continues on the other side of the road (Cami de Sant Climent), along past the fields with the church of Sant Climant to the left. In early medieval times this would have been a more important area as Sant Climent once boasted a monestary to complement the now ruined castle at Sant Susanna.

The lane continues past a large estate on the right and in the distance we can see snow on the Pyrenees clearly in the bright December light. The masia estates are huge in this area and a searching after the walk I found some of the masias on sale for prices from €5 to €28million.

Water pond in the hills behind Sant Climent de Peralta The lane splits at a smaller masia and we take the dirt track to the left rather than follow the tarmac road. The paths are getting a little confusing on the map so we just follow the one main track past a barn and then along the boundary edge of another large estate in the woods. The boundary is marked with very strong keep out and beware of the dogs signs and would be the back of the estate with the private road leading from Sant Climent church.

The path turns to the left and starts to climb into the hills. As we get higher we can see the Empordan plain spreading out beneath us framed by the mountains in the background. The woods are typical of the Gavarres, all alzina and cork pines. Cork being the main export of this area until the arrival of tourism. We're on the north side of the Gaverres and the ground is moist and leafy - very different in feel to the dry south facing walk above Castell d'Aro last week.

Mas Frigola As we get deeper into the woods and closer to the top of the hill we know we need to turn off. The problem though is finding the right path and keeping track of where we are. There are dozens of tracks and routes in this part of the Gavarres, many used for hunting or forestry. If you're familiar with what leads where it is easy to link and follow routes. But when we're in a new part of the woods for the first time it can be difficult to work out how the paths link through the folds and valleys of the hills. We don't get lost in the sense of not being able to get back, but it is easy to get lost in the sense of not finding quite the path we were looking for.

So close to the top of the hill we take a right down a smaller track following the trail of some cyclists (this area is fabulous for rough cycling) and curve around the side of the hill and down to a stream valley. The valley is shaded and chilly in contrast to the sun on the top. We walk down the track following the stream until we emerge by a big stone rectangular man-made pond by a font. After being in the deepest woods it's a surprise to suddenly find an unusual man-made structure.

As we walk past we can now see a masia up to our right. The path continues around the masia and then we get to a chain across the path. It isn't clear if the chain is stopping us going on, or is there to prevent other people coming in our direction. Since we have no obvious alternatives we carry straight on and the track seems to be part of the drive to the masia. At the end is a half open gate and we get back to the main tarmac road near a huge mas slightly elevated above the fields.

Traditional haystacks at Santa Susanna de Peralta Costa Brava We could take the tarmac road back to where we started but we carry straight on along the gravel track, and then immediately right taking us around the back of the elevated masia. The last time we did this walk, we missed this turning and ended up walking high in to the hills. The track curls around through fields and pieces of woodland. It's easy to follow and quite sandy underfoot.

As we pass a house to the left we hear the sound of bells like those used for sheep or cows. As we turn the corner we meet a man with a gun and two hunting dogs with bells around their necks. The bells are used to keep track of the dogs in the undergrowth when out hunting boar.

The track is easy and we walk at the back of two more enormous masia estates with swimming pools and stables. The number of horses in this area, it's a surprise there isn't a racecourse nearby.

The path reaches the main road just by the side of the Pordamsa porcelin factory. From the main road this is a grand glass and steel fronted building, but from the side on the track we're on it's a little more plain with a simple red-brick factory type structure.

It would be good if we could avoid the main road, but there are no paths back to Santa Susanna except by walking along the side of the busy route. We turn back up the lane we started from, just taking the time to inspect the strange bricked cave that we ignored on the way out.

 Neighbouring walks: Clots de Sant Julia (Vulpellac) - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta

 Size = 581 x 877

Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou
12 Dec 2013

Castle in Castell dAro Costa Brava Castell d'Aro is a small Costa Brava town situated at the end of the Aro valley just up from Platja d'Aro on the coast - officially the area is Castell-Platja d'Aro and the village of Castell d'Aro is the older original village centre before the widespread influx of tourism. Being named after a castle, it's no surprise that the town has a small older part with the Castell de Benedormiens located next to the church. The castle is now a museum of dolls (Museu de la Nina).

The village itself is at the base of the Gavarres and the hills climb to estates at the top that look over the Aro valley as it comes into the Costa Brava from the direction of Llagostera, and out to sea across the bay of Platja d'Aro. The old village centre is relatively small despite the presence of the castle, though well-preserved. Just down from the castle are more modern areas including a train track and one of the old carrilet trains that used to connect Sant Feliu to Guixols to Girona.

Views from Castell dAro Mas Nou Our aim was to explore the hills and get a glimpse of the views, but it would be fair to say there wasn't much at the top of the hill other than an obstructive golf course and the American-style villa houses.

Our route starts in the town with a tour of the older parts then heads up the valley to find a right hand link up the hill. It's marked as a white road ont he map, but as we often find, these white routes often turn out to be gravel tracks. We walk up the track and slowly behind us we get views across the valley, out to S'Agaro and the beach at Sant Pol. The day isn't particularly clear for landscape photographs though.

The climb up is steady and the day is surprisingly warm in the sun for December, but there is nothing particularly special about the path and few distractions or other routes off. As we get to the top, the route splits with the bigger track continuing to the left and a smaller track going straight on. We follow the straight on route which flattens out around with a steepish drop and views across the hills. Unfortunately, though it looks as if the track is well used, at the end it is blocked by a gate and fencing surrounding one of the greens of a golf course. The map had shown the route continuing so it's quite a big let down.

Houses in Mas Nou above Castell dAro Instead we double back to the nearest clearing and spot red markers and a small semi-overgrown track. We follow the track into the woods and undergrowth and it curves around the upper part of a small valley, arriving at the back of some houses in the Mas Nou estate. The estate has views to the south and down the coast and the high rises of Platja d'Aro are hidden by the curve of the hill. Most of the houses look enormous, built in the style of American estate houses.

We're on tarmac now and follow the road path up and along towards the TV-mast. One problem with estates is they tend to curve and run up and down so it can be difficult to spot where the right turning is. We continue around the estate but beyond admiring the gardens, there's not that much to see. So we take the first right and wander back down (looking at the map now, if we'd taken the following right we'd have had a different route down). The road seems to be curling back to our starting point, but we find a track at the bottom and navigate a path, again overgrown and little used, back down the hillside. Eventually we rejoin the path we went up and return back to Castell d'Aro feeling disappointed both by the way the upper path was blocked, but also disappointed by the quality of the walk.

Neighbouring walks: Calonge (Cami de Molins and over Cabanyes) - Platja d'Aro and S'Agaro - Romanya de la Selva - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques - Solius, rocks for climbing and ruined castle - Platja Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols - Romanya de la Selva to Platja d'Aro via Golf d'Aro Mas Nou

Walking route Castell dAro to Mas Nou

One year of walks and activities
02 Dec 2013

It's now one year since we started this blog. Eighty five things later and we still have more to explore, but hopefully it provides some insight into the rich variety of things to do on the Costa Brava.

We should also note the things we didn't do, or write about - the Festa d'Indianer in Begur in September for instance (it was raining on the Saturday night when we were planning to visit), Carnesoltes/Carneval in Palamos or Platja d'Aro. The Festa de Primavera in Palafrugell - which is like Carnival but Palafrugell doesn't really celebrate the pre-lent festivals, preferring instead its own later 'spring festival'.

And then there were the Festa Majors for the local towns, the Havaneres in Calella de Palafrugell, the music festivals nearby, of which Cap Roig is the most celebrated, and the other local festivals like the circus festival in La Bisbal d'Emporda. And we didn't write up activities like visiting the waterparks or trips to Barcelona. And some weekends, it's just a joy to do nothing, just a local walk. And so on to year two...

Visit to Setcases
02 Dec 2013

Setcases village church in Spanish Pyrenees Setcases is a small town/village at the bottom of the valley that leads up to the Valter2000 ski-resort. We like to get at least one trip a year towards the Pyrenees, but it can mean a lot of driving - the actual distance to Setcases is about 120km or about 2 hours drive. But the local snow midweek combined with a need to go to Banyoles for some sports activities gave us the impetus to head towards the mountains to get some proper snow.

For skiers, the Costa Brava is relatively close to the mountains and it is feasible to have a day-trip skiing if you're not too worried about longer car journeys. Valter2000 is the closest ski area - resort would be too grand since it is more of a set of lifts and a cafe, with the main inhabited area down at Setcases - a small village a few kilometres on from Campodron.

Setcases fount in the snow The second closest would be Val de Nuria where you have to catch a train from Ribes de Freser up the mountain to the base station for skiing. Further on still are the Spanish ski resorts of Masella and La Molina, close to Puigcerda. Or you head into the high mountains of Andorra, or across the border into France.

Driving, the roads are relatively easy with dual carriageway all the way to Olot. The exception is the N260 link from Ribes de Freser to La Molina which is very windy and makes travel difficult to the bigger ski-towns near Puigcerda - these are generally easier from Barcelona northwards through the Tunel de Cadi.

Setcases, which translates as seven houses, is in fact bigger than it's name would suggest. The village is along the upper Ter valley from the larger town of Campodron. Campodron is worth visiting for it's museum of the Spanish Civil War and the stories and artifacts from Allied airmen who crashed and crossed the Pyrenees.

River Ter at Setcases with snow Setcases is then the last habitation before the ski-resort some 10km higher up the valley and sits at 1284m or so. The road up to the top of the valley is very bendy and we weren't prepared for full-on winter driving so Setcases was as a high up the valley as we wanted to go. On the drive we had snow flurries from Campodron, but it wasn't unitl just below Setcases that we reached the base of the snowline, though the road itself was clear.

So when we parked in the village, snow was turning everything white and there was sufficient on snow on the ground to make for snowball fights. The village is built in a bluff grey stone and feels like a proper mountain village with slate roofs and thick strong walls to the houses. The main village is built on the side of the hill with narrow lanes and streets connecting the terraces of houses and lots of restaurants and the odd hostal/hotel. There's a lot of walking possible in the area including walks up and over the Pyrenees into France or to the local high peaks (all at about 2200m or higher).

Our tour was more modest as we explored the streets and houses. The town has a number of village craft and produce shops selling local honey for instance. A rushing culvert runs alongside the main street and a small church hunkers down just above the rooftops of the main village. The signs suggested that the area was wealthy in older times, both for the pasture nearby, but also for local silver mines.

The snow though was the main reason for the visit. It's always surprising just how easy it is to get a complete change not just of scenery and landscape, but almost of climate just by travelling a couple of hours from the coast.

Other visits:  Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame - Canet d'Adri - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Olot - capital of Garrotxa

Snow on the Costa Brava
27 Nov 2013

The general perception in the UK of places in the south of Europe, like the Costa Brava is one of year-round warm temperatures and mild winters, but in reality the weather can get colder. Looking out of the window at the moment and it's snowing. OK, that's big wet soggy snowflakes that aren't settling at the moment, but it's very unusual to have snow close the coast in November.

Snow itself is rare, but not so unusual. In general most years have the possibility of a day's snow and the occasional whiteout during December to February. When we were first looking for somewhere to live here, we arrived just after a snow flurry in February and were walking around Pals with snow on the ground. Generally though the snow doesn't settle, but if you we're close enough to the Pyrenees to be able to head to the mountains for a day to get a full winter experience.

The general winter situation is that nights are cold, but days can be bright and sunny and it can be sunny enough to keep a house warm without needing heating during the daylight. As it gets colder in the evenings many people just use a simple fire for warmth, rather than turn to full heating, at least until the deeper winter. So a piece of advice for anyone visiting during the winter period eg over Christmas, is to check whether the house or villa has central heating.

Empuries Greek and Roman remains
27 Nov 2013

Empuries on Costa Brava - Greek part and museum Situated just north of L'Escala, right on the coast itself are the ancient remains of the Greek and Roman towns of Empuries, the major port of the Costa Brava coast in the Ancient world, and along with Barcelona and Tarragona, one of the main Catalan Roman cities.

We'd seen the ruins from the sea-facing side walking between L'Escala and Sant Marti d'Empuries - a very pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll. What we hadn't realised until this year was the extent of the ruins on the other side. Only when we were returning from Cinc Claus on the walk from Escala, St Marti d'Empuries and beyond did we really start to get an impression of the size of the site.

Empuries reconstructed pillars by the Roman forum The whole site has now been dedicated as an archeological site with a modern museum with entrance only €3 for adults and free for children and we were allowed to take in our dog on a lead. What's initially surprising is that Empuries actually consists of two distinct towns. Prior to visiting I was under the impression that the Greeks came first and then their village was taken over by the Romans. In fact the Roman Empuries is distinctly separate from the older Greek part.

The history of the site is that it was first created as an outpost of the Phoenician's and then became a Greek colony and port trading inland with the neighbouring Iber tribes and villages (Empuries and Emporium as a shop share the same derivation). The Greek's travelled throughout the Mediterranean and had colonies in places like Sicily (Syrakuse). The Greek ruins run up the hill and there is a temptation to imagine a white walled village like Mykanos on the side of the Catalan Coast.

Empuries gardens connecting the Greek and Roman parts of the site For this visit though, we visited the Roman part first. This is marked by a long straight wall of about 300m in length, and surprisingly the wall is hollow - there would have been enough space for someone to walk through the middle. On the outside of the wall was the ampitheatre and stadium training ground, while the remaining parts of the town stood inside the walls. The Roman town itself was built within a rectangle with straight streets in a modern block arrangement.

Entering through the gate on the main wall, you walk down what would have been a main street where there would have been shops and traders. The stone flaggons on the floor still show the ruts from carts that would have passed through. At the end of this street is the main forum - the main town square. To help visitors, part of some of the buildings have been rebuilt and stone columns re-erected to give a sense of the town. Past the forum are the remains of the ancient baths and what would have been two or three large villas. Although many of the ruins have been excavated but there is still a large area to be explored.

Empuries stormy view to lEscala We then walked down the hill to the start of the Greek village built 500 years before the Romans arrived. While the Roman part was laid out in a regular fashion, the Greek city is much more higgedly piggedly with houses and spaces seemingly on top of each other. I always find it difficult to construct an image of a town or buildings just from their foundations, but even so it's very clear how large the town would have been. The Greek part also had it's own square and temple and area dedicated as a 'health resort'. The main Greek walls are at the bottom of the hill.

The site also has a modern museum where you can see artifacts. If anything we were slightly surprised at how little there was in the museum given the size of the main site. It is possible that much of the town was plundered when it was abandoned for Sant Marti in the early post-Roman era.

The geography of the site is also interesting in that when the Greeks and Romans were living in Empuries, the sea was a lot farther inshore. The ancient port wall that can be seen on the beach below Empuries would have protected a harbour inside the wall, where the beach is now (suggesting a sea level 3-4m higher than it is at present). In fact the sea was sufficiently high that neighbouring Sant Marti was an off-shore island at the time. Changes to sea-level combined with silting and shifting of the river Fluvia essentially rendered Empuries obsolete as a port, but it is interesting that there are so many Roman ports on the Mediterranean (eg Ephesus, Portus, Carthage, Frejus) which are now dry or a long way from the sea.

Neightbouring walks: Escala, St Marti d'Empuries and beyond - L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo - Aiguamolls d'Emporda (Empuriabrava)

Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter
10 Nov 2013

River Ter close to Torroella de Montgri Costa Brava The river Ter is one of the major rivers for Baix Emporda and a defining feature of the Costa Brava geography. The river rises in the Pyrenees at Valter 2000 - the closest ski-resort runs down through the Plana de Vic, past Girona and then out to the sea at L'Estartit just past Torroella de Montgri.

Gola de Ter at Pals Beach Costa Brava In the early middle ages, Torroella de Montgri was one of the main towns of Emporda and a royal port by virtue of the River Ter. Over time the port at Torroella silted up (and possibly sea levels dropped) restricting sea access from the town to L'Estartit and so in medieval times, the main royal port of the Costa Brava moved south to Palamos. However Torroella remains in many ways a medieval town with narrow streets and the vesitages of its castle, church and town walls. As with many older Catalan towns, the inner streets are too narrow for vehicles, so it is easy to drive past without appreciating the town inside, though it isn't a pretty-pretty town as such.

Isles Medes from the Gola de Ter For the walk we parked outside the main auditori (Espai Ter) in Torroella and walked down to the river by Carrefour. The bank is quite high above the river, reflecting the potential for the Ter to flood - though flooding is much more controlled now with the dams in the higher reaches. The river is broad and natural with willows at the river level and the occasional heron on the bank. Up on the path we're flanked on one side by fruit orchards and then occassional groves of wild bamboo that block the view to the river. The path is a broad gravel track and we pass the odd car parked by one of the small horta (allotments) that sit between the fruit trees.

Aiguamolls de Baix Ter Costa Brava The walk is otherwise unremarkable, though it's good to walk by a river in contrast to the coast or in among the woods. Ahead of us we can see the islands of the Islas Medes which, because we can't yet see the sea, look like odd shaped mountains rising above the land level.

Masia close to Torroella de Montgri After a while the river passes an island then continues to widen almost looking like a small lake as we approach the Gola or mouth of the river. The river itself is big enough to cut through the beach all year around so it's not possible to cross to the beach on the other side without swimming and the natural flow of the river and action of the waves where the river meets the sea at the beach of Platja de Pals leaves sandbanks on the beach that change shape from one visit to the next. The fresh water of the river-lake is also a huge attraction for our dog who just loves jumping in the water then sprinting around on the sand. The light here for photography is often superb with the castle at Montgri, reeds, birds the sea and the islands as a backdrop.

Centre of Torroella de Montgri Costa Brava As we're on the north side of the Gola de Ter, we head along the beach towards L'Estartit but only for a short while. After a couple of hundred metres we turn across the sands and into the Aiguamolls de Baix Ter - sea marshes in among the dunes - a different type of landscape, though a little rough and ragged. We continue back out into the fields and farms that are spread across the area towards Torroella, picking out a route past the fruit trees - most of which have been harvested by now.

Our route takes us past one of the Torres (Towered old Masias) and then back into Torroella past one of the industrial estates. We explore the town briefly as most of the shops are shut for lunch. Torroella has grand hotel in the former castle just next to the church with jazz playing in the garden. The streets themselves are on a grid system and quite narrow and slightly claustrophic, but with the odd square with arcades in the centre. Torroella is also the site of the Museu del Mediterrani - another attraction to visit another day.

Neighbouring walks: L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol - Torroella de Montgri castle - Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret - Pals beach to Gola de Ter

Swimming at Gola del Ter (Pals/L'Estartit)

Walking route Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter close to lEstartit

Arbucies autumn walk
04 Nov 2013

Arbucies church Tardor (Autumn in Catalan) and Montseny beckons. The leaves are just turning colour, there are chestnuts to be collected and the days are bright and clear. Montseny is the grand mountain that sits between Barcelona and Girona, rising to 1700m it's tall enough to see snow during winter, but its great defining quality for us, is that it is full of paths, streams and deciduous woods - sycamore, beech, oak. The ideal place to stomp through fallen leaves. It's about sixty minutes drive from the Costa Brava so really quite close, but it's a different landscape and almost feels like a different climate.

Selling drums and flabiol pipes in Arbucies We're walking on spec plucking Arbucies out of the air as we've never visited before. In other years we'd visit Sant Hilari de Secalm or Sant Coloma de Farners. We don't have a planned route as such and our ICC maps at 50,000:1 aren't particularly good for walking so we're hoping to find some paths and signposts to begin with.

For the drive we travel up from Hostalric - a walled town with a castle that is easily overlooked but woth visiting. The route takes us past the castle at Castell de Montsoriu which we've visited before and is definitely recommended. It's a castle which stands at 600m high on an isolated hilltop and easily seen from the AP7 if you're driving from Barcelona to Girona. It has fabulous views from the top and a good collection of legends and stories associated with it.

As we arrive in Arbucies the giants are out - it's the Festa de Flabiol - a small Catalan wind instrument - and market day meaning the car parks are full. We part close to the Aigua Aguda bottling factory - people are collecting water from the public spring on the other side of the road - something quite common where the water has a good reputation.

Montseny woods near Arbucies As we walk past the spring we notice steps up the hillside and take the path up. The area looks like it was once a park, but water erosion has washed out many lights and path barriers, but it's a fun diversion into the woods. Back on the road we head into the centre past the craft market stalls and into the centre where there's a stall selling drums and pipes. The town has gathered in the main square underneath and independence flag and an orchestra of pipers with drums wearing Barratines, the long red catalan cap starts to play. They're playing the Flabiol with one hand and the drum, slung from their shoulders, with the other and it's extremely good for two one-handed instruments.

Stream in Montseny woods near Arbucies After the music finishes we continue through the town, a mix of older buildings almost suggesting a grander history and typical Spanish apartment blocks. We walk out along the direction of the river. As we're following the road we notice a park below the road to the right and head down into the fallen leaves, following a canalised small feeder stream above the height of the main river below. As we continue the feeder stream meets the lower river and we have to jump across rocks to cross the river to a park on the other hand. Three out of the five of us got wet feet (four out of six if you count our dog).

The river runs through the valley with a children's play ground on one side and there are lots of families out walking with young children. It's probably because it's that type of day, the autumn sun is scattering through the leaves of the trees and sparkling on the river water flowing in the valley. Underfoot is dry and scrunchy and the woods feel like they are just enjoying the day.

Log bridge over stream in woods near Arbucies We follow the river crossing once and then twice on small bridges, throwing stones into a mill pool by a tumbledown factory mill, its walls down to about a quarter of their original height. As we follow the river we disturb a grass snake sunbathing on the path. It seems to wake up and slides quickly away into the undergrowth.

The path crosses a tributary and to get to the other side of the river we have to take a makeshift bridge that has been made from a log supported by two trees with a handrail nailed above it.  Eventually we start to worry we're heading too far out. The next crossing is a road bridge - little more than a gravel track above some concrete pipes. There are signposts and we turn up the hill and away from the river.

Autumn view of woods and hills near Arbucies At the top of the path we come to a masia with wide eaves - almost in a Swiss way where the eaves would be used to keep the snow off the path.  We follow their track out only to find a cami particular sign at the end - it wasn't marked that way from the bottom.

At this point we have an option straight on into the woods, or left and back to Arbucies. We take a chance and head upwards into the woods, and keep going on and on and on. After a while we realise that we're not getting over the hill and we seem to be getting more and more into the woods. Unfortunately on the map we have it's not clear enough to see exactly where we are. We decide to go down to the previous junction, and then continue down and into the town.  It's lunchtime now and the town is empty apart from the craft market stalls. The man selling fuet and salamis has his eyes closed and is sleeping at the stall. A little further down, children are doing handstands in the middle of the road. We continue back thoroughly refreshed for the evening.

Nearby: Palafolls castle - Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves

Walking route for Arbucies and woods close to Montseny

Colomers and Jafre
28 Oct 2013

Colomers view from walk Colomers and Jafre are small villages that sit along the river Ter just to the west of Verges, so a little off the beaten track. The main reason you might visit Colomers is to hire a kayak from the canoe centre and gently paddle along the languid undeveloped Ter to Verges where the canoe centre will pick you up - a great alternative day out to the seaside. Alternatively you might come to Colomers for the ballooning centre next door.

We're here to see the villages. We've had fun with the canoeing in the past, but didn't stop to look at the village so this time we park at the field by the double-decker London bus that houses the canoeing centre and walk into town. Colomers itself is a typical Empordan walled village rising from a height above the river (in the past the Ter would have flooded badly) to a church, a tower and then into the hills. The houses are generally being renovated, but there are still a few as yet untouched with the charm of grass growing on the roof and flowers growing out of the walls.

River Ter near Colomers Canoe Centre After a brief tour of the village we follow a pebbled path up the outside of the what would have been the old walls to the top of the village and then cut onto a track that takes us into the woods beyond. It's a pine wood with sandy ground under foot and very open and spacious. For October, the day is surprisingly warm - into the upper 20s and the shade from the trees is welcome. A little way of the village a red squirrel scampers up one of the pines with our dog barking at it loudy from the bottom of the tree.

The path through the woods is one of those walks you like to take without necessarily having any highlights. Just an enjoyable hike surrounded by nature with no-one else about. We pass the top of a field and then come to a crossroads. The one problem with the woods, is that it's not quite clear which path is which, so we just follow our nose straight on, not particularly worrying if we get slightly lost. However, we're about right and we wind our way into the woods. At the next junction a little further on, the tracks are bigger to give access to timber lorries and there are signs of wood clearing all around. In these sorts of woods, during summer fire is a continual risk, so the woods need a level of management to reduce the fire-risk. However, the lumbar tracks don't help with directions so we continue, just about making our way to a path that runs along the top of a wooded hill turning south towards Jafre.

View over Jafre from the walk The path emerges into fields and a pig farm. Across the fields are buildings - these were going to be a thermal spa. Apparently at one point they were doing test drilling for oil, but they didn't find it. Instead they discovered hot water. So the intention was to build a baleanari fed by the hot water. At least that was the plan until the money ran out.

We walk into Jafre along the upper road. From the geography it seems that this might have been on the upper bank of an ancient lake from millions of years ago. Maybe the Ter or the sea were much much higher then. But enough speculating, we enter what is a relatively linear village and walk to the church, with the old castle building attached. Jafre is more work-a-day than Colomers but retains it's older buildings.

Hot from the sun we rest on a bench next to the church, before walking down the hill and out to the flat of the Ter's floodplain. The path doesn't connect us to the river though and we walk through fields recently stripped of maize across to Colomers, stopping to visit the bird hide that looks out over the river and weir.

Neighbouring walks: Vilopriu and Valldavia - Rupia and Foixa - Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya - Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes

Size = 424 x 701

Girona - Festa Major of Sant Narcis
28 Oct 2013

Girona Barri Vell across the Onyar river Girona is the closest city for the Costa Brava and capital of the comarca of Girones which takes in the whole of the north eastern corner of Catalonia.  It's about 40-50km from the coast and so an easy day-trip for shopping or visiting. The city itself is famous for its old quarter - a collection of unspoilt streets with old arched arcades and trendy shops that sit above the Onyar river and climb up the Capuchins hill. This old quarter contains the Cathedral, to the massive old city walls, a number of other churches and former monestaries and leads to gardens around the newer medieval walls.

Girona has a long and hard-fought history. The city sits at the edge of the Gavarres hills, which rise up behind the city, on the confluence of the river Ter (from the Pyreneeds) and Onyar (from Montseny). It is therefore historically and strategically on an important gateway into the Iberian Peninsula. Over the years, Girona is a city which has been besieged about 26 times with the ebb and flow of Spanish and French influence on the area and in the Napoleonic wars was briefly the capital of the French department of Ter.

Streets of Girona Barri Vell We're visiting at the festival of Sant Narcis, the patron saint of the city in what is Girona's Festa Major. Legend has it when Girona was occuped or beseiged by the French, huge flies emerged from the sacred remains of Sant Narcis and attacked the french soldiers and horses causing many deaths. As a result, across the streets and on the floor are banners with flies - the city's symbol.

Girona city gate with huge city walls It's useful to understand the geography of Girona as it helps explain where the key parts of the city are. Girona has Iber origins, but the start of the city of today came with the Romans who created the first town (Gerunda) in a triangle formed by the Onyar, the stream of Sant Daniel, and then up into the hill of the Capuchins. This is a relatively small area and the current situation of the Cathedral and Casa del Alemanys. Over time the city grew to the South along the river Onyar in what has become the Barri Vell old quarter. It was also heavily fortified, but in the 19th century the fortifications were removed and the city grew on the opposite side of the river. As a result the train station side of the town is quite modern and a contrast to the old original city areas.

Girona Arab Baths or Banys Arabes Girona's location as a gateway to Spain and a key route for invaders from France, is combined with the importance of Girona as a religious centre meaning a large number of historic buildings, fortifications and churches in a relatively small area.

We're broadly ambling through the city looking for nooks and crannies so pretty much like tourists starting from the batch of Cortes Ingles buildings just south of the train station. Cortes Ingles is the main Spanish department store, comparatively expensive but with relatively high quality products - sort of like a House of Fraser or John Lewis.

Girona view to church of Sant Pere de Galligants We walk up to the station to see a bricklaying competition which is part of the Festa Major. Teams of bricklayers are making copies of a complex chimney structure. All the teams are making the same structure from the same plans and it includes slopes and diagonals and by no means easy to construct. Each one is freestanding with verticals and angles carefully marked out with wooden splints so as to get the lines correct, and the teams sweating to build the structures as quickly as possible.

From the station we zigzag through the new part of the city. The modern area has the main shopping chains and standard clothes shops. As a result, the first impressions that most people get of Girona from the station are of a work-a-day city. It's not until we get to the Onyar and cross the bridge that we get to the classic Girona view of tall terraced houses standing over the river with the cathedral dominating in the background.

Girona Cathedral above the valley of Sant Daniel We cross the river at the stone road bridge, browsing at the craft market stalls on the bridge for the festivities. Immediately on the other side of the river we have the older part of the city. Deep arcades provide shade from the hot sun and restaurants have tables out on the pavements. The Barri Vell is practically car free except for the odd intrepid local resident. The streets run in three parallel routes towards the Cathedral area with lanes and arched link paths connecting the roads and steps and climbs on the leftmost street linking to the higher parts of the old town. The shopping is ecletic with many small boutiques and specialist shops mixed in with bars and restaurants. We weave through the alleys and streets festooned with colourful banners marked with a housefly graphic, gradually making our way towards the Cathedral area at the end. The past the Cathedral and out through the enormous old wall and main city gate. Parts of the wall here are roman and the wall itself is both extremely thick and high.

Girona eating at the steps on the Capuchins hill We turn back towards the Cathedral, drawn towards the church of Sant Pere de Galligants with its romanic tower just at the end of the Sant Daniel valley. The area is quiet with gardens at the back of the Cathedral and we realise we're standing close to the Arab Baths. The baths are part of Girona's medieval heritage built to imitate muslim style baths.  The baths now are a series of rooms lit by open geometrical skylights that bring light flooding into the space and a pool of water under columns that reach to a skylight. Unlike the rest of Spain, Catalonia was only under Moorish control for about 80 years (718 to 801), however, Girona cathedral sits on the site of a mosque from that period. Girona also has vesitages of its Jewish inhabitants in the Call Jeue.

(In 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus discovered America, Spain also expelled non-Christians from its lands with Muslims and Jews being forced to leave or convert. The process of investigating 'converts' was the role of the Spanish Inquisition. Many muslims left to North Africa only to come back to raid the Spanish coast as Barbary Corsairs.)

From the Arab baths we wander out to Sant Pere. A guitarist is playing classical guitar in the courtyard just outside the church. The lane behind the church links up to Sant Daniel path and up into the Gavarres. Though we are in the heart of the city at this point it's almost like a finger of the countryside is touching the ancient heart. The gardens at the back link up to the Cathedral now dominating above us on the hillside.

We climb through the steps in the gardens to reach the Casa del Alemanys, then follow the paths back down into towards the city seeming to pass church then monestary then church. The area now houses the University of Girona but previously there were seminaries for priests. The monastic buildings were also used as makeshift jails during Franco's time.

The paths and steps down run back into the Barri Vell and, as it's lunch time, everyone seems to be eating outside. For October it's unseasonally warm. As with most of Catalonia, when lunch comes everything bar the restaurants shut down. We leave Barri Vell by the metal bridge into the main square where stalls are selling meats and cheeses. A man with a clowns nose is playing trumpets and drums as a very tuneful and fun one man band with a handful of children dancing to his song.

We cross over the road to the Devesa Park hoping to see something on the stage, but being lunchtime it's closed - only a few stalls selling roast chestnuts are open. Further down into the park are the fairgrounds but we give those a miss and gently wend our way back.

Girona walks: Girona valley of Sant Daniel - Gavarres Montnegre and Montigalar - Ruta del Carrilet - Girona cyclepath to the coast - Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking - Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona) - Girona - Festa Major of Sant Narcis - Girona Temps de Flors

Nearby: Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Banyoles lakeside walk - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles

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Comments

adam@veggingoutwithadam.com
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
Adam
Saul
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
Saul
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
Hi,

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
Sven
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