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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:

Via Ferrata at the Gorges de Salenys
05 May 2014

Gorge de Salenys main gorges less than 1m wide Via Ferrata or 'iron routes' are combination walking and climbing routes that run across rock faces and up and down steep slopes using iron pins, ladders, rope bridges and safety wires for carabinas. The Costa Brava has three Via Ferratas, with the easiest at the spectacular Gorges de Salenys in the hills close to Romanya de la Selva and Bell.lloc just outside Santa Cristina d'Aro. However, knowing it exists is one thing and finding it another. Although we knew where it was on the map, we didn't entirely know what the best route was to get there or what it would be like when we arrived. (See the update below - but basically if you're on the Romanya-Llagostera road, it's marked as Font Penedes - nothing about the gorge).

Knowing it would be in the valley of Salenys we started just by the Urbanisation of Bell.lloc just outside Santa Cristina D'Aro just off the road up to Romanya de la Selva. We parked just by the intriguingly named Font Picant (spicy fountain - its actually ferruginous - containing iron). Like many natural springs in Catalonia, it's quite common to see people collecting water and filling large plastic bottles with the spring water. Agua de Salenys was once bottled and sold as for medicinal purposes as water from the Costa Brava (update: and is back on sale on the coast as of 2018), as can be seen on the faded advertising painted on the side of the house just at the bottom of Bell.lloc.

Fields between Bell-lloc and Romanya de la Selva We weren't very sure of our route to start with or where the Gorges started or connected. So to begin with we headed into the woods above Font Picant generally trying to head north and east. The path turns and then continues to the north through woods and past fields with corn flowers and poppies and maturing wheat giving views back towards the sea at S'Agaro. It's a steady up hill and we continually wanted to break off to the left, down to where we thought the gorges were, but there were no routes.

Instead, we eventually reached the road that links Bell.lloc to Romanya de la Selva. The road has been upgraded recently at the higher parts so it is broad with new tarmac and looks like it is made for hundreds of cars. Unfortunately we have to follow the road up, which though it looks like it should be busy is actually very quiet. Along the road we can see the valley dropping away to the left, but still no paths down. We can though hear, but not see, a cuckoo which almost seems to be following us as we walk.

Gorges de Salenys plank bridge On the map we reach the first of the potential paths to the gorges only to see that it is a Cami Particular (private road). We carry on and join the GR92 cutting through a small copse before again joining a road that links to Romanya. The second potential path to the gorges is also a Cami Particular with the same sign as before. At this point we're close to Romanya de la Selva and at this stage it seems this would have been a better start point.

We follow the GR92 (red-white flashes) to the left into the woods. We know from the map the gorges are to the left of us still and some tracks and paths go in the direction we want, but there is no sign post and when we try one it seems to get too narrow in among the lower trees to be a route.

The actual access route we find just after passing a farmhouse - a path to the left is marked with a signpost to Santa Cristina d'Aro and the Via Ferrata. The path heads down a narrow river valley emerging at a picnic site where two large families are taking lunch, their cars parked nearby. We weren't expecting cars here and as we pass them and continue on the narrow pit-holed track they must have driven on, I don't think I would have brought a car.

Gorge de Salenys Via Ferrata The valley though is quite deep with a small stream with water at the bottom and tall deciduous sycamore or plain trees. It's quite verdant and green being narrow and sheltered it doesn't feel as arid and mediterranean as the more open south facing slopes of the Gavarres, instead being more northern European in character without the normal cork trees and alzinas normally found on the Gavarres.

To get to the Via Ferrata we have to take a signposted track down into the valley, and at the bottom we turn to the left, almost back on ourselves. We had assumed the gorges would be on the route to Santa Cristina, but in reality it is more like its own separate secret route.

A few people are coming up out of the valley. The entrance is more or less a stream with some rope bridges and a path but at the far end it starts to get rockier and we can see the first of the wire-walk bridges above our heads and the valley narrows to rocky walls. Ahead of us the stream runs through a narrow crack between two rocks - less than a metre wide and along this section is are the wires of the Via Ferrata so you can take yourself through the narrow pass. To reach this part you have to work your way around pins stapled into the rock at a height of about 3-4m up. This is where you need climbing gear to do the Via Ferrata, which we don't have.

A sign on the entrance also says that helmets, harnesses and carabinas (and climbing insurance) are necessary to do the via ferrata with the suggestion that they can be hired from Sant Feliu Adventures. However, the via ferrata is not the only route up. There is a path to the right which takes you over the rocks - it's a bit of a scramble and we go up and discover that the valley is like a series of levels or steps with water pools on each level, then rocks to scramble up again at the back and further via ferrata routes up.

We do a little exploring but then work our way back down and out, exhilarated by the possibilities. At the point we turned into the gorges, we turn to the left and take the path marked towards Santa Cristina at the stream level through the valley. The walk is really pleasant with light dappling on the trees and the sound of our cuckoo in the distance.

Eventually we pass the Aigua de Salenys bottling plant and reach a bigger gravel road, which then connects to the Carrilet Via Verde - the old train route between Girona and Sant Feliu de Guixols which has now become a long distance bike route. We follow the Via Verde almost as far as the old station (now restaurant) for Font Picant and turn back up to the park.

Update June 2018

Having been a while since we last visited the gorge we decided to try again - twice. Thinking that we knew where we were going, we didn't take a map. So the first day we parked at Romanya de la Selva and walked down the road, and walked and walked. Once we got to the crossroads which connect to Sant Miquel d'Aro, we stopped and did a different walk through the estate. We hadn't gone far enough down. We drove down, but didn't see the gorge signposted...

So we tried again on the Sunday, but this time from the bottom of the valley. There is access from the C65 dual carriageway just before the Els Tinars restaurant and the path is clearly marked. The first thing is the bottling plant is back working. You can buy Aigua de Salenys in some of the restaurants on the coast. There was a group climbing - the Via Ferrata runs all the way to the top, but since it needs climbing gear, we haven't been that high.

And at the top, we found the signpost to look out for from the road (our original walk connected via a footpath). At the top it's marked as "Font Penedes", and there is no obvious marking saying gorge from the top.

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

Walking route for Bell-lloc to Gorges de Salenys

Tossa de Mar north to Cala Pola
24 Apr 2014

Tossa de Mar beach of Mar Menuda Tossa de Mar with its castle and walled older part over looking the sea is one of the most popular Costa Brava destinations but it is separated from Sant Feliu de Guixols by the Massif de Cadiretes and high cliffs with a single very windy road that makes coastal walking challenging. However, having walked the GR92 routes to the south last year of Tossa de Mar last year, our aim this time was to explore more of the northern parts and into the hills at the back of Tossa.

Our starting point was parking near to the river just outside the centre of the town. Despite being Easter Monday, parking was very easy and the town itself felt like a place slowly still waking from its winter hibernation. The main tourists seemed to be French in small groups rather than the sea that washes over the town during the main summer season. At this time of year, the sea is still too cold for any but the most hardy of swimmer or those with wetsuits. Normally there would be enough sun for a few sunbathers on the beach, but the Easter weather has been relatively overcast this year.

Tossa de Mar view from cliffs We almost follow the river down to the beach past blocks of rented apartments and hotels with early visitors visible on the balconies. Tossa is very popular because of its beach and compact historic centre and is full of low rise hotels and bars and restaurants, maintaining its traditional character, but still more focused on tourists than the Costa Brava villages of Emporda.

At the beach we follow the road around to the left towards the beach of Mar Menuda in the opoosite direction of the castle. For this walk we want to explore newer areas so we're heading out to the hillier north.

Just before the Mar Menuda beach, we take the last junction to the left and head up the hill past the back of a couple of hotels. The road reaches a switchback corner and according to the map we should be able to continue straight on, but the road looks more like a private driveway. As we're pondering whether it's the right way some Catalan walkers catch up with us and tell us it is the right way. Looking closely we can see a green flash painted on the post next to the entrance to the path/drive.

The path turns into a track and splits in two. To the right the route is now signposted to Cala Bona, Cala Pola and Cala Giverola which are the coves we are heading for, but we can see from the map that the path must go down (To the L'Infern d'en Caixa) and then back up to meet the path ahead of us, so we continue straight on.

Tossa de Mar - Cala Pola Our path climbs up towards the road above us, but firstly we pass a viewing point marked by a clearing and a wooden pole from where you can look back to Tossa. It's actually high up on a cliff top over the sea (about 150-250 feet up) and I discover I'm rather closer to the edge than I'd like with the result that I catch a dose of vertigo.

We climb the track up to the viewing point on the road and then have to follow the road for a while. The road is quiet. Though it is the most direct route between Tossa de Mar and Sant Feliu de Guixols, it is an extremely bendy road across the cliff-tops and in and out of the bays and so extremely slow going, and with no turn off alternatives. The main visitors who use it are tourists and so it has traffic in summer but few cars now. In fact the main travellers we see are club or pro-cyclists out for a day trip (the route Girona, Sant Feliu, Tossa is about 100km/60 miles round trip).

The road climbs to the next corner and we see a sign-post for the path to Cala Bona down into the next bay. Unfortunately I'm still feeling spooked by the earlier cliffs and we're a little higher now so as the road is relatively quiet we choose to stick to the road as it turns inland and around the back of the natural little cove of Cala Bona down towards the sea.

On the far side of the curl we find the path again as it rejoins the road, though there is also a path below the road that comes into the next bay of Cala Pola. Cala Pola is an odd mixture of developed houses, what looks like a hotel, and campsite above a sandy beach in Cala Pola itself. It feels quite isolated as there are no other facilities nearby other than the resort itself, which at this time of year has just a handful of people around - with 5 or 6 down on the beach below us.

We walk around to the back of the campsite across a bridge and then start our route into the hills. The path loops round the back of the campsite and at times it's not clear what is private and what is public, but there are signmarkers around if you look.

The path climbs up into the hills at the back and we leave the sea and the bay behind us into the pines. The path climbs to a col where we meet the GR92 path as it heads up into the Cadrites hills as it continues to Sant Feliu. The GR92 between Tossa and Sant Feliu does not follow the coast probably because it would have to follow the same route as the road. Instead it climbs up into the higher Cadrites above us (500m) - about the same height as the Gavarres, but from our path it looks higher and steeper.

We turn down the GR92 and head down the hill back towards Tossa de Mar with a typical walk through Mediterranean woods along a gravel track. As we reach the bottom of the hill we emerge by the river which at this time of year has running water and tadpoles and connects to a small park at the back of the sports area for Tossa de Mar. 

Update: Cala Pola was used for the 2014 summer's Estrella Damm advert (it was Pals/Platja del Roca beach in 2013).

Neighbouring walks: Blanes, Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar by GR92 - Tossa de Mar to Cala Llorell - Sant Grau and Cadiretes near Tossa de Mar - Llagostera to Sant Llorenç - Swimming and beaches of Tossa de Mar

Walking route Tossa de Mar to Cala Pola and the Cadiretes hills

Vulpellac to Castell d'Emporda
21 Apr 2014

Vulpellac cobblestone street Vulpellac is one of the many villages with honey-coloured stone houses that can be found close to La Bisbal d'Emporda - almost like the Cotswolds by the Mediterranean. This is a variation of a walk we took from Vulpellac around La Bisbal, but we keep to the flatter fields to the east, rather than walk along the ridge top to Castell d'Emporda. The route back is not much different from the route out, so an extra variation would be to go via Canapost and Clots de Sant Julia.

Vulpellac Castle and Church We park in the car park just by the roundabout just off the main Bisbal-Palafrugell road just below the village. We walk through the village to start with past the new ajuntament building built in the traditional stone of the rest of the village. There is some new building here, but it is all in a stone-style to keep the look of the village.

Castell dEmporda We walk through a small lane and emerge at the main centre with cobblestone streets and a run of pretty terraced cottages linked to a fortified tower. Over the wall we can just make out the castle and we go through the tower to loop back to the church. The castle itself is a private residence built in the 13th Century so no access is possible. The castle also has a story in that a former lord heard a rumour that his wife-to-be was unfaithful and he was so jealous that he locked her in a tower and tortured her until he realised he had been misled. In his distress and penance he sought an audience with the Pope and left the inscription Ego Sum Pecavi (I am he that has sinned) around the castle.

Sant Marti de Llaneres From the main street we keep going north into the fields. This is part of the walk we have done before on the loop through La Bisbal, but at this time of year there are poppies everywhere and long grasses along the lanes. The lane continues slowly more becoming more and more grassy until it reaches a stream and we have to cross via some wobbly stepping stones. On the other side, the grass is thick. Around us are small plantations of lime trees among the flat fields. To the left is the hill ridge for the Castel d'Emporda and we can see the castle jutting up above the ridge.

Our grassy path reaches a more substantial track and we turn left across the stream again directly towards the castle. The castle stands high, but a series of cottages seem to tumble off the hill down to the plain below untouched by modern developments.

Vulpellac poppies We reach a tarmacked road beneath the castle and quickly visit the castle for views over the fields. Tractors are out today, one ploughing followed by a line of egrets picking out the insects from the newly turned soil.

After our diversion to the castle we continue on the road northerly to start, before it turns to the right past the farmhouse and old chapel at Sant Marti de Llaneres - part of a former walk between Canapost and Ullastret.

An option is actually to come back via Canapost and then past the Clots de Sant Julia again, but we decide to keep the walk short and turn to the right towards a house under a lime plantation. This connects with the paths we had come on, so for variation we link around the fields. It's not too exciting just walking through flat fields, but it makes for an easy connection back to Vulpellac.

See also: Corça fields and views - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada - La Bisbal d'Emporda - La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, FontetaCanapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Palau-sator and Peratallada

Walking route Vulpellac to Castell dEmpuries

Esponella and River Fluvia
16 Apr 2014

Esponella Church Out towards Banyoles and Besalu, the countryside of Catalonia changes from the broad plains and Mediterranean hills of the Costa Brava to the start of a more Swiss Mitteland type landscape with rolling hills, forests and river valleys in the pre-Pyrenean countryside. Esponella is just north of Banyoles (famous for it's lake) and a few kilometres downstream from Besalu (famous for its bridge and as one of the prettiest towns in Catalonia). However, our choice of Esponella was based more on its geography than on any recommendation as the village sits just above a bridge just after the river passes past an escarpment.

Esponella Church Door Our starting point is just outside the adjuntament building just off the main road to Crespia and to start with we head up through the village to towards the church. We were slightly expecting more from the village given it's position. It is pleasant enough with stone built houses and narrow streets climbing up the side of the valley to the church and a host of newly renovated buildings, but we're a little bit spoiled for choice of pretty villages closer to home.

We reach the church with it's ornate hinged door, then continue straight on into the woods past the colonies house of Can Que. The woods are green and deciduous with a mass of flowers and grasses growing in the damp undergrowth. Down to the right is a campsite on the side of the river. As we're walking we can hear a cuckoo in the distance and it feels like a summer walk in a more northern European country.

Esponella weir and hermit hole in cliff The track continues gently downwards and is marked as a BTT route for mountain biking. As we get closer to the river we're passed by a group of four riders coming up the track. The BTT route forks to the left, but we continue down to a weir and electricity generating station now able to see that the river is quite broad with deep pools and cliffs on the opposite side of the bank. In the wall of the cliffs is a wall with a hole - marked on the map as the site of a former hermitage.

The weir itself is high, like a small dam with water rushing over the top. Behind the weir the river forms a broad tranquil lake in amongst the trees. We keep walking now level with the river next to a plantation of regularly spaced lime trees. The path seems like we could continue walking all the way to Banyoles following the river, but instead we take the first left up the hill into the woods and walk up to the top to find fields and views towards the Pyrenees.

We rejoin the BTT route and follow it as it turns to a tarmacked road past farm houses and an old people's centre. The road passes fields now - of bright yellow rapeseed and growing fields of wheat. In the distance the hills ebb and flow rolling away to the distant mountains.

Esponella views We reach the upper part of Martis and cross the road through the back of the hamlet following the track down the hill to the castle ruins just above Esponella. The castle would have been quite large, but now is little more than thick tumbledown walls.

We continue down to the village and past the church once more. Since the bridge is marked as a feature on the map we go down to the river to find a narrow but relatively modern looking bridge of stone arches and metal before returning to the square by the ajuntament.

Nearby:  Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Banyoles lakeside walk - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles

Walking route Esponella and the River Fluvia

Torroella de Montgri and Ulla
16 Apr 2014

Torroella de Montgri centre square Torroella de Montgri is a historically important town and former royal port that that sits below the iconic Massif de Montgri and castle of Montgri, one of the most iconic and distinctive markers of the Empordan part of the Costa Brava. It is three or four kilometres from the coast at L'Estartit but remains an important crossing point for the river Ter.

Modern Torroella as a town is an odd mix. The outer parts of the town - where most people drive is a collection of modern town houses and apartment blocks. The inner part is much older and more medieval, but unusually for older towns is laid out on a grid pattern which can make for a confusing set of smaller narrow streets.

Our walk is also a mix - taking in the town, out to the dry and rough lower levels of Montgri with its rocky olive groves and harsher scrub, then coming down through Ulla to the extremely fertile banks of the Ter with apple trees in full blossom and hortas (allotments) showing their first crop of the year.

Castle of Montgri by Torroella We park at the southern end of the town in the municipal car park next to the CAP on the opposite side to Carrefour.  The older centre is straight on, along Carrer de Hospital and almost immediately we pass the old hospital building. The way older Catalan towns were built was with flat fronted terraces with the front of the house directly on the street, instead of separated by a garden or space. The result is that the street looks like a uniform collection of buildings like the older Victorian terraces in English working towns. However, unlike English terraces, the buildings in a Catalan street can vary enormously and often extend deeply at the back into gardens with older houses having Boveda ceilings (vaulted ceilings). This means that on a old Catalan town street you might walk past an old grand Palau building one moment and a small 2-up 2-down the next. The facade initially looks the same.

Ulla inner street This is the case when we pass the old hospital building. Looking linearly down the street you would struggle to say which building was which. But as you pass and look laterally, the find carved windows and size of the frontage and the quality of the doors show the the ancient hospital building was a rich and important part of the town.

As mentioned Torroella de Montgri is laid out on an old grid system. The inner streets are relatively narrow - little more than one car's width and with the the layout of the facade, the only way to explore is to walk the street - a simple look along the street doesn't show you what you will find.

We walk along the Carrer de Hospital until a left turn that takes us into the main town square - an area with arches and vaulted arcades with tables and bars. From here we continue up to the main church and the old castle (now a hotel in front of the church). Skirting to the left of the church, the back streets lead to one of the old town gates. Prior to the silting up of the Ter, Torroella de Montgri was a royal port and so an important walled town, though now only a few of the rampart towers are remaining.

Torroella River by weir point Across the main road we walk through some of the newer streets with houses and apartment blocks. For many who just drive through Torroella these newer buildings will be their only impression of the town. We're heading up and follow the road to the right as it curls up towards the Montgri hill.

The road comes to an end and we have the choice of several tracks into the scrubby and rough terrain of the lower part of the hill. Above us we can see Montgri Castle on top of the mountain of Santa Caterina built by the Count of Barcelona (also King of Aragon) Jaume II, around 1300 as part of a power struggle for control of the Empordan lands with the more local Count of Empuries.

We take paths up towards the hill, but generally heading left where the paths split. The original aim was to go over the saddleback and walk around the base but we miss the connection up the hill and instead follow a side track past the rough olive groves that run around the base. The mountain is dry and dusty underfoot with grasses browning in the April sun, and we pass a farmer trimming the trees ready for new growth.

River Ter close to Torroella de Montgri We navigate by eye finding routes around the base before emerging at a road that looks like it will take us to Ulla just past an isolated metal recyling site. On the road are two climbers, who are just packing up. We can hear the shouts of voices higher up. Looking to the top of Puig Rodo we can just make out tiny figures abseiling down the rocky cliffs.

We take the track we've found down into Ulla. By car the main road between Torroella and Ulla is a collection of warehouses and shabby apartment blocks used by the migrant workers who find employment picking apples and other fruit from the espallier orchards along the Ter. From our path we enter into directly into the older part of Ulla.

Avenue from River to Espai Ter Ulla centre is an old stone village of narrow streets with a small romanic church in the centre and houses with wisteria climbing up the walls, with many renovated houses. The village seems larger than might be expected from the road and the interior part has a sense of improving prosperity.

We leave the village toward the main road past slightly untidy breeze-block walled farms, arriving at a roundabout on the main Torroella to Verges road.

Crossing the road we walk into the orchards. The apple trees are in full blossom. The grasses are verdant and butterflies flit around our feet. The orchards and fruit are a huge part of the agriculture along the Ter with miles upon miles of espallier frames with bound netting ready to keep birds off the fruit. The abundant fertility is in marked contrast to the drier rougher mediterranean hillside we have just left.

Torroella de Montgri church and castle The path is clearly marked as both a cycle route and for walking, though warning signs explicitly prohibit leaving the path to enter the fruit trees. The path runs straightdown, then turns to the left and we start to follow the line of the Ter.

Our first sight of the Ter is at an old stone built weir station from 1650 (the name of the maker and date is carved into the stone). I'm not entirely clear of the purpose, but part of the waters of the Ter has been channelled through the weir station with rushing streams passing underneath, possibly to power a mill, or for irrigation or an early form of flood control. The weir itself is delightful with rushing water and translucent greens from the sun coming through the leaves of the trees.

The path continues, now following the Ter and we can see how big and wide the river is. On the other side of the path are allotments with gardeners busily preparing for the spring season. Just after a bird viewing platform that stands above the river, the path turns back towards the town and we walk through a small avenue of pollarded trees which emerges by Espai Ter which houses the Tourist Centre in Torroella.

We traverse the centre again. Shops are opening at 5pm as the long weekend lunch break (1pm to 5pm) comes to an end. On the far side we reach the main avenue that drivers would see coming through the town and walk the avenue back down to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - Torroella de Montgri castle - Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons - L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol - Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret - Ulla to Canet de la Tallada and civil war remains

Walking route Torroella de Montgri to Ulla

09 Apr 2014

Brunyola village As we had to be at Girona Airport at the weekend, we looked for a walk nearby and found the village of Brunyola just off the main road to Vic. Brunyola is a tiny hamlet sitting on top of an isolated hill with views all around; south to Montseny, out towards Cassa de la Selva and the Gavarres to the east, and of course views to the hinterland of Girona and the Pyrenees. The village itself is barely more than 30 houses, but has a castle, church, restaurant and children's colonies auberge and for time we were there, it seems quite a number of visitors who had come in for Sunday lunch.

Access to the village is pretty much one road in and one road out so you have to come from the west off the C-63 road. Driving into the centre the few streets that are below the church are full of cars with visitors who have come for the local restaurants. So we park just around the corner on a patch of rough ground that looks out towards the airport plain. The village stands above the plain for the airport and we can look out towards Girona in one direction, or turn and look towards the mountains in other directions.

We firstly walk up to the church and then around the corner to the conjoined castle which looks more like a private house now. The hamlet only consists of 3 or 4 streets so there is not too much to see, so from the castle street we continue past a row of new houses and into the woods at the end. We could take a small windy road down off the hill, but we cut into the woods and track the road through the woods working our way down the hill before re-emerging by the small road at the bottom.

Brunyola from hill above with view We follow the road around the bottom of the hill by fields full of crops bursting into growth in the warm spring sun - certainly warm enough that we don't need to wear jumpers or coats. The road itself is very quiet, really just connecting a few farms and the hamlet and is marked as part of a longer footpath from Sant Colomers de Farners to Angles. It's pleasant good walking countryside in among hills, but without being spectacular.

The marked footpath leaves the road and takes a track past two expansive masia and we could continue, but as we want to make a round trip, we take a left down the track back towards Brunyola's hill. At the end of the track we are back on the road, but this time we practically just cross over and go back into the woods across a small stream and follow the path as it snakes around the bottom of the hill. We're looking to climb the hill and for a while it looks as if there is no path up, but as we're approaching another farm by an olive grove, we see a switchback to our left that takes us up the hill.

As the path climbs, the views get better, but we're starting to feel the heat from the sun now so we're perspiring as we get towards the top. There's a viewpoint right at the peak, but we cut around the edge and follow the path along the top of the hill as it slowly descends to Brunyola. As we get back, the colonies house seems full of families after their lunch with children playing in the playground.

Nearby: Palafolls castle- Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Arbucies autumn walk - Caldes de Malavella - Volca de la Crosa - Sant Dalmai (Girona Airport) - Castell de Montsoriu

Walking route for Brunyola

Cadaques and Port Lligat
24 Mar 2014

Cadaques view of the town from the Cami de Ronda - Costa Brava Cadaques is one of the most famous coastal villages in Catalonia and was where the surrealist painter Salvador Dali lived and worked in his coast-side house at Port Lligat. The town is on the Cap de Creus penisular and is really quite isolated separated by 12km of winding narrow roads over the hills from the neighbouring towns of Roses or to Port de la Selva. The remoteness, the narrow streets - some less than a metre and a half wide - and white washed buildings and arid hills behind makes Cadaques feel unique. In some ways it is almost more like a Greek Mediterranean village than Spain. It's this remoteness and uniqueness combined with the pure light of the coast that lures people to Cadaques

Cadaques island For us this is only our second visit so we're not aiming for a complex route - something simple and straightforward to get a feel for the area is perfectly fine for us, so this is just a standard easy-to-follow Cami de Ronda route.

Arriving in Cadaques by car there are big signs about the general lack of car parking with the advice that cars should park in the main paying municipal car park which we did, but it's a little expensive - close to 3 euros an hour. If you are walking, we discovered there is free parking out towards Port Lligat and the cemetery which is far enough out of town to be a good 10 minute walk to the centre and would have space out of season.

Cadaques Port Lligat Bay The old part of Cadaques sits on a small hill with the church at the top. The main car park sits just behind this hill, but lower down, so to start we head up the hill towards the church, through the very narrow streets lined with terraces of white-walled houses that give Cadaques its distinctive look. The streets themselves have a stoned surface, though unlike cobblestones these are narrower more slate-like stones with edges upwards in diagonal or herring-bone fashion and in places the road itself is actually the raw rock of the hill.

Cadaques northern bays The church, being the high point of this part of the town, has views from its small courtyard in the front towards the sea and along to the cliffs and lighthouse in the distance on the right. Taking our fill, we head down towards the sea through the lanes passing by houses with plant pots outside their windows and pots lining the street edges.

At the beach, the town suddenly seems busier. The beach at Cadaques is a rock and shingle beach - people generally wouldn't come here for a beach holiday - the town has much too much character for that, and the area is generally rocky and stony, with the sedimentary layers of the rocks occasionally turned vertical and eroded and sharp, but perfect for diving, fishing or water sports. The beach itself has plenty of people even for March, though wrapped in coats against the wind. Around the beach area are restaurants and bars and a central statue of Dali looking back towards the town.

Port Lligat fisherment boats We continue across the beach and then around the Cami de Ronda. To begin with the path shares the road as it runs next door to the sea. We're on the leeside of the bay so the wind has dropped and each time we turn back we get another picture postcard view of Cadaques.

Towards the end of the bay we cross another small rough sand beach and take the path around the outside of a house as it runs around the top of the final set of rocks that have views back to town. Across the bay we can see the cliffs and an isolated lighthouse. There is more walking in this area including routes to Roses about 16km away - too far for a family round trip.

Dali Museum heads at Port Lligat Around the house and the headland, Cadaques disappears and the scenery changes - becoming bleaker with much more rock stringing out into the sea. Across from us is a small island with a house and a watch tower on it. From behind it looked like another headland, but we can see now there is open water between the beach in front of us and the island.

The path continues around any number of rock headlands - perfect for hunting crabs in the summer or for skimming stones from the beaches. The sea in the distance from us is stormy with white horses, but close to the bay the water is smoother. Just inland from the sea front are newer houses and modern architecture villas that seem a little out of place from the wildness of the coast.

At the end of the headland we cross a rise and get the full blast of the wind in our faces. The sea below us is much more open to the elements with waves crashing against the rocks, but with a deep blue sea that we can see all the way to France.

Cadaques street We follow the road down past a row of seaside houses that seem to be snuggling next to each other to keep out the wind. The headland is more like a spit so we have to turn around. Fortunately we see the Cami de Ronda sign which takes us down a narrow track into the woods and a scramble down to the bay between the spit and the main land. In front of us we can see a wild, almost Scottish landscape with the huddle of houses of Port Lligat in the distance, but no other buildings nearby.

We cross the beach in the bay and follow the track along the side of this new bay. Above us are ancient looking terracing for olive or vine cultivation that look as if they could have been on the hill since Roman times. The path is still narrow and 2-3 metres above the sea. At one point we have to cross sloping rocks that seem to want us to make us slide into the sea.

And then we arrive in Port Lligat, a handful of brightly coloured fishing boats on the small quayside and then around the corner at we're at Dali's house. We're not visiting the museum and from the port side it looks like a large traditional Catalan house, but with white walls with a few neighbouring houses. We take the chance to enjoy the view and the location then take the road up the hill. As we go up we can see the Daliesque touches like ceramic eggs on the roof and two silver heads, but it is much more subtle touches than Figueres for instance.

Then back into town, cutting into the confusing network of small lanes to see if we can navigate our way back. We arrive at the main square with trees wearing knitted sleeves and navigate through more streets and back to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Cadaques to Roses - Roses and Roses Ciutadella - Roses - Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera - Port de la Selva - Sant Pere de Rodes - Llança - Collioure (France)

Walking route for Cadaques and Port Lligat

And now an earthquake...
19 Mar 2014

Having just had a large forest fire on the Costa Brava, now we've just had a small (3.9 Richter Scale) earthquake with an epicentre just off the coast between Palamos and Palafrugell. It's quite unusual - the Costa Brava is definitely not an earthquake zone - and the size was nowhere near large enough to cause any damage, but enough to shake the house a little and raise a few eyebrows. We have building work next door and had assumed it was connected to the builders digging out foundations creating some ground movement until we saw the news that confirmed it was a genuine seismic event.

Fire on the Costa Brava
17 Mar 2014

Fire at Vall.llobrega Costa Brava from Quermany A big plume of smoke rising out of the Gavarres at about 2.30pm yesterday put our walking plans on hold as a huge forest fire had started in Vall.llobrega which is about 2-3km from us. Forest fires are relatively common around the Emporda area but still quite devastating when they happen and one reason for being very careful not to start fires in the woods. For March to October, fires are banned from wooded areas or their vicinity because of the risk of a large scale incident and ironically yesterday was the second day of this year's no-fire season.

Forest fire at Vall.llobrega Costa Brava The second major factor in the bigger fires is the northerly Tramuntana. wind. This is usually a very strong and very dry wind that blows from the north and yesterday's coincided with a very dry hot day with temperatures reaching 27C in March. The wind whips across the woods and helps the flames to spread. Thankfully we were just to the north of the starting point for the fire, so the smoke and flames were heading away from us an area that we frequently use for walking and exploring.

We did sneak a trip down towards Palamos and could see both the smoke and flames in the trees just above Vall.llobrega which, from where we were sitting, looked dramatically close. However, though around 400 people were evacuated, reports suggest the fire didn't reach houses. The fire though subsided in the evening, though there are still fire crews around and reports that it is not yet completely extinguished.

We postponed our planned walk and instead went to Quermany - the hill behind Regencos on what was a fabulously clear day (the views from Quermany across Pals and Peratallada to Canigou in the Pyrenees are spectacular) and watched the fire and helicopters and planes from the safe distance.

Gavarres Montnegre and Montigalar
10 Mar 2014

Montigalar summit in the Gavarres close to Montnegre Montnegre (black mountain) is a name that is found several times in Catalonia but for today refers to an area in the heart of the Gavarres above the town of Quart and not too distant from Girona. It's possible to cross the Gavarres north to south by one of four roads - over Els Angels from Girona to Madremanya, over the centre from Cassa de la Selva to La Bisbal, across from Calonge to La Bisbal, and the area we're exploring today which is the route from Quart to Monells - though this is only tarmac for the Quart side of the mountain.

The central part of the Gavarres is quite large, mostly wooded, but with masias, churches, the occasional modern villas and surprising hidden fields from time to time. We're visiting an area we haven't really explored before so rather than start at the base, we decided to bring the car up as it would add about 16km up and down to the walk if we were to start from Quart. The roads up and across the Gavarres though are famed as cycling training routes for professional cyclists, and it is possible to cycle up - the gradients aren't too bad, it's just the 8-10km of climb that makes it a challenge.

Sant Matteu de Montnegre church We decided to start at the church of Sant Matteu de Montnegre. This is a small church perched on a promentary with huge views across the Gavarres to the Empordan plain to the north and the Girona plane to the south. There are routes down into the valley to the left and right and but our goal though is to find the hamlet of Montnegre on the neighbouring promentary, and unfortunately that means following the tarmac road that links the two. There should be crossings through the valley, but even with a map there are no clear paths for crossing the valley.

From Sant Matteu we pass a number of houses - despite the relatively remoteness there are scattered modern houses in a sort of extended urbanisation with more infrequent older farmhouses around. The road is modern and done up and curls around the ridgeway that connects the two promentaries.

It's March, but warm and there are lots of hunters out who have driven up with dogs. It's always slighly unnerving to see someone cradling a rifle as you walk past and as we're dressed in green jackets (the hunters wear orange) it's slightly worrying for when we come off the path into the woods just in case they don't see us. The object of the hunters quest are wild boar - senglars in Catalan. The Gavarres teem with them and anywhere you walk you'll see signs of disturbed earth where the boar root around for food. To hunt, dogs are used to locate the boar - dogs with bells or wireless transmitters are let loose in the undergrowth to sniff out the animals - the bells acting so the hunters and locate the dogs later. When the dogs find the boar, they start barking so the hunters know where to go.

Views across the Gavarres from Montnegre We leave the road and head for the viewpoint at the top of Montigalar. The path cuts into the woods and from the voices and ringing bells we can hear, but not see, the hunters in the woods to the left and right. We can also see the hunters cars some of which must have driven up the narrowest paths to find somewhere to park.

Our route though takes us up the hill until we reach the top which is marked by a triangulation point and the Estrellada Catalan Flag. At the bottom of the flagpole is a small pessebre nativity scene to mark the spot. The views are glorious out across Monells and La Bisbal, or across the folds of the Gaverres in the other direction.

We take a moment to wait until the encroaching hunting noises including the sounds of several shots echoing through the hills, start to recede and continue down around the bottom of the hill beneath the viewpoint. At the bottom it joins with the path that we had taken from Monells up and then links to the tarmac road. We could turn right strat back to Sant Matteu, but since our objective was Montnegre we go left for the few hundred metres it takes to reach the small hamlet of houses. There's a small church/chapel here and we walk down the lane to find it, but it's not clear if there is public access.

Instead, we turn round and follow the road back, seeing a couple of road cyclists making their first ascent of the day. The sun is out. It's warm and we have the first butterflies in among the wild hyacinths so it's a shame we have to walk the same road back as we'd taken out.

Gavarres walks: Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Calonge into the Gavarres - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Monells and Mont-negre - Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques

Walking route Gavarres Sant Matteu de Montnegre to Montnegra via Montigalar

Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes
24 Feb 2014

Sant Jordi Desvalls Costa Brava The river Ter is the main river that runs from Pyrenees through Girona to the coast of the Costa Brava by L'Escala and Torroella de Montgri where it feeds the rice paddies around Pals. The Ter has water all year round and is broad by the time it gets past Girona making a natural barrier that has to be crossed to get from the southern towns like Palafrugell to the more northern towns like L'Escala and there only a limited number of crossing points, with bridges at Verges, Torroella de Montgri and Girona.

Sant Jordi Desvalls centre However, there is a hidden extra crossing close to Flaça and this is actually a raised ford rather than a bridge. When the river is low, the water runs under the ford, but if it gets higher water will run over the top. From our walk near Colomers we also discovered from signposts that there is another crossing for bikes and by foot close to Colomers. This walk then creates a loop linking the two crossings and the neighbouring villages, starting on the hill of Sant Jordi Desvalles.

River Ter by Colomers We parked on the outskirts of Sant Jordi Desvalles which stands above the Ter and looks over the levels of Flaça across to the Gavarres. The village has a medieval heart arranged n circle of terraced streets for defensive reasons, and many of the old buildings in the centre are built on a large jutting base that would have added strength and fortification. Many of the houses have been renovated and from the Plaça underneath the church, the village has the feeling of a relatively well-to-do village with good access to Girona.

View to Colomers Our route though is taking us out into the fields along Carrer Mas Mato. We're on a road but it's almost unused as it just connected to a neighbouring cluster of farm houses at Mas Mato. On the other side, we pass under the railway - this is the route from Girona to Port Bou - the main connection to France until the recent AVE road was built through the Pyrenees. As such it's quite busy with trains with both passengers and freight.

River Ter flood barrier and crossing point near Colomers On the other side of the bridge we head towards the fields that fringe the river. We can't see the water as the path is too far away from the edge, but we can see the line of trees that flank it's banks. The road we're on comes to an end with a T-junction with signposting pointing right towards Flaça. We take the unmarked left route though in the other direction towards Colomers.

Sant Llorenc de les Arenes close to river As we get closer to Colomers, we also get closer to the GI-633 road. The road is sort of a rat-run connecting the AP7 and N2 to the north of Girona through Colomers, Jafre and on to Torroella avoiding the busier C66 on the south side of the Ter - it's not that busy, but it is popular with people driving quickly.

So because of the geography, just outside the village, as we get our first close glimpse of the river as it follows a big right hand bend, this also makes a pinch point where the road and the river run side by side and, unfortunately, there is no easy footpath to avoid the road so we have to follow the road and walk behind the crash barriers.

View to Flaca church and old quarter Around the corner, the walking is easier again and we can walk past the Colomers Kayak and Canoeing centre where you can rent boats and canoe down the Ter as far as Verges. We've walked this little bit before (Colomers and Jafre walk) but in reverse, so we know we have to stay by the road to start then take a right into the fields again following the bike path towards Foixa. It was seeing the signpost previously that made us realise that there's a crossing point for the river here.

Factory mill close to Flaca We follow the road down towards the river and then round behind an old water works and we reach a large mechanical flood barrier that spans the river. From our walks around the upper part of the river at Roda de Ter, we know that the Ter can flood as it brings water and rain down from the Pyrenees to the sea. The barrier here is presumably to protect the downstream towns of Torroella.

We cross the barrier - it's fully open and the river looks very benign as it runs over the wier and rocks. On the other side it's just woods and the occasional field with no sign of habitation. We're on a track through the woods and have to be careful to take the first right we come to up a small hill and then another right on the other side which brings us out to the first houses of Sant Llorenç de les Arenes - a hamlet of older houses with gardens that feels quite isolated. We can also see the river now beneath us on the left. The path is road once more and we continue through the heart of the hamlet and then out the other side past more renovated farmhouses situated above the river and we could almost be walking along the Dordogne with the French sense of a route along a gentle river valley.

Ford over the river Ter by Sobranigues The road turns away from the river for a while and we pass under another railway bridge and on past an old factory mill house with a castle-like tower and palm trees in the garden. We reach the road that takes us down to the ford at Sobranigues that connects Flaça to the other side of the Ter. It's popular with locals as a connection so there are a few cars that pass us on the road. At the junction we can see the old church and village at Flaça in the distance. Many visitors only see the new area around Flaça station, so don't realise that the town also has a well-preserved and slightly separate older part.

The ford itself takes the form of a low bridge with water passing underneath. The first time we found this route there was more water and we had to drive through the river as a proper ford.  We find it at lower water, with the river passing underneath the ford into a broad pool under the rocks as it curves to the left beneath the village. It's a very pleasant place to stop and there are places to explore the shore line and river beaches along the river nearby.

After taking a break we follow the road up to the houses of Sobranigues and then take a track to the left that curls around the hill, past a couple of farms, and we find ourselves back in Sant Jordi Desvalls.

Neighbouring walks: Colomers and Jafre - Rupia and Foixa - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Bordils and the tree plantations of the Ter - Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret - Cervia de Ter - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona)

Walking route for the river Ter Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Flaça on Costa Brava

Bordils and the tree plantations of the Ter
24 Feb 2014

Bordils church from a distance Bordils is one of the towns on the northern C66 route from Girona to the Costa Brava via La Bisbal that tracks the river Ter. From the main road the impression of Bordils is of a string of buildings along the main road, when in actual fact the town, like many of the towns on this route, sits a little way off. In Bordils case this is about 1km into the plain marked by a very large impressive church.

Bordils village centre We're actually back in Bordils to watch a handball match so this is a short exploration of the town and the area around, but because of the match we start at the sports stadium and then follow the road in towards the main church. Most of this area is an estate of large modern homes and it's not until we get closer to the centre that we get to see older buildings and a more classic nucleus.

From the size of the church and the style of the buildings the town itself looks as if it was a wealthy farming community. The church is tall with a apse flanked by two pointed towers, but the heart of the village is relatively small apart from a number of larger masias.

Bordils tree plantations After circumscribing the town centre we head out into the farm land and trees. Mostly the trees are fruit trees growing in the fertile soil and ample water from the river Ter, with large birch or beech plantations. The morning is fresh but in bright sun so even though the trees are without leaves the light adds sharpness and depth.

The road is empty apart from a cyclist and there is nothing around apart from the trees and two or three very large masias, and it's not just fruit trees - there are also specialist plantations of palms and decorative trees for garden centres. The road turns naturally to the left and we pass between two old masias and then start to approach the main road and industrial area. One of the masias was an old mill and still has water passing underneath, though it's now waiting for renovation.

We follow the mill stream back through the large warehouses of Girona Fruit and back across the fields to the sport centre.

See also: Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona) - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret - La Pera, Pubol and around - Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes


Walking route for Bordils

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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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