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Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - will be updated as more are added - click for a larger version This is our blog about living in the Costa Brava. We like to visit places. We walk (a lot) particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.
 

The walks have been walked since November 2012, and we add one or two a week(ish - though we're slowing down now). The photos are straight from the 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. The map on the right shows where the walks are and will be updated as we continue to add more.
 

The entries on swimming and beaches also start from Summer 2013. Unlike the walks which are reported as we did them (including photos), for the swimming and beach articles we're going to update them over time.
 

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Cadaques to Roses
11 Jul 2017

One of the classic longer distance hiking routes for the Costa Brava is around Cap de Creus taking in Roses, Cadaques and then Port de la Selva via the GR92 calling in on hidden bays and over the hills of the Cap de Creus natural park. The route from Cadaques to Roses is around 21-23km so too long for a round-trip walk which we tend to prefer, so this was done as a linear walk. For visitors it would be possible to take a boat from Roses to start (or to get back).

We walked in July, but luckily on a partially cloudy day, as this is quite a demanding walk with a lot of up and down as the path goes from a beach at sea level, then over the top to the next bay several time. The route is sparsely population, though there are isolated campsites and hotels along the way, so taking a good supply of water is essential - even Zina our dog managed to get through 1.5 litres.

The route follows the GR92 (red-white flashes). Along the way there were some occasional  smaller paths marked, but trying a couple to get off the wider track, the paths were often overgrown with low sharp gorse, and it was easy to lose the path itself. We also missed one turning for the GR92 on Cap Norfeuga.

To start we were dropped off in Cadaques. Cadaques itself is relatively isolated but extremely iconic white village at the end of Cap de Creus. To reach it involves a long windy road over the top of the hills from Roses. Despite it's relative isolation, Cadaques is extremely popular with tourists, not just for the village, the bay, the landscape etc but also because it's the site of Dali's house in Port Lligat.

For our walk though, we were heading in the opposite direction, heading out of the southern side of the village after reaching the sea and then following the road around the collection of small grit and grey pebble beaches on this side of the main Cadaques bay. Cadaques isn't really a village for a beach holiday, but many sunbathers and swimmers were enjoying the calm water of the morning.

As we continued around the bays we slightly deliberately went the wrong way. Instead of following the roadway out we took a short detour along a low headland to an island joined by a small greystone bridge for photographs back towards the town itself. One feature of the walk we discovered is that the geography with relatively harsh rocky headlands and inlets means it's not possible to walk entirely along the coast and in fact the main route out of Cadaques almost immediately heads up into the hills along a dusty track instead of keeping to the coast.

The track climbs into the hills and it becomes clear that the dry ravines and rocky terrain make the over the hill route the most practical. The path up climbs for ages, and below us we can see Cadaques and the sea. Up above are one or two white farmhouses in among the scrubby landscape and above them a radar or observation point but little else. Most of the countryside is quite harsh, made up of low knee-high or thigh-high shrubs, gorse and rosemary packed in amongst jagged rock formations. Despite being isolated, we do get overtaken by a couple of mountain bikers and see a few other walkers also following the path.

With the climb and the dry heat, even this early in the walk we're talking on water. There are boats out on the sea in the distance and we can just see a lighthouse. One feature of Cap de Creus that always intrigues me is the number of terrace walls and the amount of terracing, much of it overgrown and disused now. Since creating terraces and dry stone walls would have been very hard work, I wonder why the terraces were abandoned. The modern climate seems too dry to make it worthwhile for farming. Perhaps they were grapes that were abandoned in the phyllexora outbreaks at the end of the 19th Century, or olive groves out competed as transport improved, or perhaps the past was just wetter and more fertile than now?

Towards the top, we pass another farmhouse, well-renovated with grand views situated by a small stream that surprisingly enough had a small amount of water, enough for Zina to quench her thirst, and the walk levels out across the top.

After a while the track turns around the hill and we lose sight of Cadaques and catch our first glimpse of the bays and hills on the other side of the cape. There are roads and the odd car in the distance, but our path leaves the dusty track and takes a smaller path, hugging a hill-line down to a distant bay beneath us. The path is well walked and looks like it has been laid with supporting stones on the side.

The bay ahead of us is Cala Joncols and we can see yachts in the water under the cliffs. A steady stroll down the hill and we arrive at a house and then down to a small nest of houses on the bay itself. There are cars too and a car park that is reasonably full, particularly given the only access is by a gravel-track road.

The beach is broad and has people and another small river with water. At the back is a hotel, and a tourist boat is pulled up to a platform just off the beach. The sign post points to steps and track up from the far side of the beach, and we head up again into the shrub. For some reason we miss the path and get a little lost in amongst the gorse and just try to head up to see if we can see a way out. At the top we can see a couple of other hikers picnicking and that helps us get back to the path.

At this point we're cross the peninsula of Cap Norfeu, and from the top we can see the bay behind us and the coming bays on the way to Roses. For anyone with a boat, this seems to be the place to come and there are plenty of yachts and boats moored in each bay.

On the other side we walk to another signpost, and see a few more cars. The signpost says the GR92 goes along the peninsular a little way before swinging back around, but we find that this way around we can't find the path down that was marked. It looks as the only paths are heading up to the small tower on the top of Norfeu. It's only when we look back from the other side of the bay we can see how the path runs along the side of the headland and we just had to trust that the path would turn back.

Instead we walk down the fence to join the GR92 a little further along and then along the low cliff tops above the sea to the small bay at Pelosa where an open air restaurant is heaving with people and scattered families are playing on the beach.

From here we follow the path around the bay-tops before having to join the road to be able to reach Cala Montjoi. We're passed by a few cars on the road and they throw up clouds of grey dust, so it's a relief to find steps down to the Cala.

Cala Montjoi itself is famous, though you might not have heard of it. It's the location of El Bulli, the world famous 3-star restaurant run by Ferran Adria, proclaimed the best in the world until it closed in 2011. Now they are transforming the restaurant into El Bulli Foundation reworking all the buildings. However, the bay and beach themselves are very pleasant - with a broad sandy beach, open and natural with a campsite in the back.

From Montjoi, the path climbs up over the top of the next set of cliffs - higher this time with views back to Norfeu. By now we're getting a little tired, but there is a constant up and down as we go up and down for the next couple of bays to Cala Murtra, the last of the swimming type beaches before Punta Falconera, and a naturist beach from the last time we walked this way.

From here we climb again to the top and the path runs on top of the cliffs (not too close to the edge). Punta Falconera has old gun emplacements built into the ground that look out towards the Bay of Roses and across to the Isles Medes and Montgri on the far side of the bay. On a clear day you can see for miles down the Costa Brava, or looking back to the hills and mountains in the distance behind Roses.

We're now on a route we know and we head back towards Roses and reach the first built up areas for the bay of  Platja Almadrava, full of sunbathers and holiday makers enjoying the sand or the bars and restaurants. We carry on following the man-made path around the bays to be met at Platja Canyelles, before a further walk in and on past Roses town to find the car.

Swimming and beaches of Tossa de Mar
11 Jul 2017

Tossa de Mar is one of the main package holiday locations on the Costa Brava for northern Europeans with a large selection of hotels, restaurants and bars, but will a much more genteel ambience compared to the party town of Lloret de Mar down the coast.

Tossa de Mar has three beaches in the town itself - Mar Menuda at the far end near the rocks and island, the main beach Platja Gran, and Platja de Colodar which sits just under the old town walls.

Mar Menuda is rockier, it is the best area for snorkelling, but also attracts large numbers of divers, and people learning to dive. When we were there at the end of June we saw lots of groups of 10-12 shuffling down to the beach in wet-suits, and then had the entertainment of swimming over the top of them as they inspected the nooks and crannies at the sea floor.

Platja Gran is the main sun-bathing beach and gets quite full in the main season. The sand is gritty and similar to that of Lloret or Platja d'Aro main beach, and were it not for the location with Tossa de Mar behind you and views to the town-walls/castle to the right, it wouldn't be that special. The bay shelves quite quickly, and there are channels on the beach reserved for pedalo/canoes and for the Dofijet boats that take visitors up and down the coast down as far as Blanes.

Platja Codolar, is the smallest of the beaches and is tucked away under the town walls. It's narrower than the other beaches with more rocks and often good clear water full of irredescent small fish. If the wind is in the wrong direction though, it can attract flotsam that you have to swim through.

Facilities at the beach

The beaches have all the facilities of the active tourist town of Tossa de Mar behind them - including bars and restaurants and chiringuitos. All have lifeguards and the main beaches have areas like toilets. Platja Gran has sunbed hire and pedalo and canoe hire.

Sand quality

The sand for all the beaches is fairly gritty rather than sandy and in some places more like pea-stones, so it's not super soft for sand castles or under foot, but it's fine for walking barefoot, so long as it's not too hot.

Platja Colodar has rockier areas around what is a relatively small sandy area.

Swimming

Mar Menuda is probably the most fun area for swimming as there are more rocks and more fish and it's possible to swim around the headland or island if the sea is calm. Certainly when we were there, we really enjoyed swimming over the top of the scuba divers, though on busy days this can make the water quite crowded.

From Mar Menuda, a longer swim takes you across to Platja Gran and then across the bay. The main bay is sandy and the boat channels (for the diving boats on Mar Menuda, and for the pedalos and Dofijet on the main beach), curtail longer swims. The main Platja Gran beach shelves quite quickly to a sandy featureless bottom. Under the town walls is rockier, but didn't have that much sea-life for snorkelling when we swam.

Platja Codolar is rockier and clearer and definitely has more fish, with the ability to scramble over the rocks if you like diving or jumping in.

Parking

Tossa de Mar has paid-for town-parking. We tend to park a little out from the centre in quieter areas and then walk in.

Walks and exploring

Tossa de Mar is on the GR92 and we have included walks to Cala Pola. The stretch from Tossa to Sant Feliu de Guixols is possible by GR92, but would be too long for a round-trip walk.

Gardens of Cap Roig - Palafrugell
17 Apr 2017

Spring is in the air, and with flowers coming into bloom and a rush of budding plants turning the Costa Brava green, it seemed a good time to visit the botanic gardens at Cap Roig, a castle built in the 1920s and 30s that sits above the sea, just on the outskirts of Calella de Palafrugell.

Cap Roig castle

Cap Roig itself is one of the earliest influences of overseas visitors on the Costa Brava. The house and gardens were formally owned by an English aristocrat Dorothy Webster and her Russian husband Colonel Woevodsky who fell in love with the area around Palafrugell built the castle and instigated the gardens.

Cap Roig still life sculpture and view Now, the house and gardens are owned by a La Caixa foundation (if you bank with La Caixa entrance is free) and are maintained as botanic gardens overlooking the Mediterranean sea with beautiful views in addition to the plants.

It is also the location of the Cap Roig music festival that runs through the summer with musicians of the quality of Tom Jones, Lady Gaga and Sting in recent years.

Cap Roig avenue of flowers The gardens are spread over 17 hectares (about 60 acres) across the slopes below the house towards the sea.

From the main entrance by the car park, you enter into a small nest of buildings, then walk along extremely well manicured paths around the the main castle. The castle part was undergoing some renovation, but I don't believe that part itself is open. Just below the house/castle is the festival area which is closed off.

Cap Roig gardens The gardens closest to the house are laid out as formal terraces with names like the Nuns' Terrace or Lovers' Garden, giving views across to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc. These areas have clipped trees and statues in among the formal specimen plants and seem specially designed to emphasize the views and vistas.

Below the terraces more towards the sea and the red headland of Cap Roig itself (Roig meaning red in Catalan) are firstly flower terraces and then further down towards the sea a set of cactus gardens.

Cap Roig statue in the park Back up above the house are then the Mediterranean gardens drawing on the local plants many of which can also be seen wild in the woods that surround the estate via the many footpaths that take walkers down towards Platja de Castell and the fields of Mont-ras.

Further out, back towards the entrance are more palms and laid paths using the natural slope of the hillside. What looked like a new childrens area was also found in this part, set close to orange groves in among the various types of palms.

For gardeners, the plants are all labelled and extremely well looked after. For the rest of us, this is an idyllic location just to enjoy the view and colours of spring.

Cap Roig view to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc

Romanya de la Selva to Platja d'Aro via Golf d'Aro Mas Nou
07 Apr 2017

Romanya de la Selva church  If it's a choice between shopping or walking, mostly I prefer walking. So to give the family time to go clothes shopping around the boutiques and chain stores of Platja d'Aro, I got them to drop me off at Romanya de la Selva with a plan to walk to meet them.

Romanya de la Selva is a small stone-built hamlet at the top of the Gavarres, above Sant Cristina d'Aro with walks to Puig d'Arques, or possibilities to follow a route down through the Gorges de Salenys. The village has a handful of restaurants with fabulous views out towards the plain of Girona in the distance.

We've walked this way before to Puig d'En Ponç through the woods. This time though we walked along the ridgeback of the main hill. If you're driving the dual carriageway from Llagostera to Sant Feliu - the main access road from the autoroute - this is the hill to your left as you drive down the valley to the sea.

View over Vall dAro As mentioned, there are options on the route to take paths through the woods, but we stayed on the road which is quiet and not heavily used. The road is initially in the woods which masks the view a little, leaving only snatches of vistas in four directions - out towards Massanet behind us, down to the valley of the Aro below right, across the Gavarres to the left, or the views to the sea and out towards Palamos and the bay at Sant Antoni ahead. We did try the path up to Puig d'En Ponç again, which took us to a great spot, with a triangulation point, but as mentioned before, because the trees were so high meant we couldn't actually see out (it would be a great spot for a small viewpoint tower).

After Puig Ponc, we came across the first fences marking the very posh golf club of Mas Nou. It's always a pity where a golf club seals off the countryside with fences to stop walkers, but the road passes right through the middle, so we didn't lose the views and instead we could observe the golfers in their trolleys and the manicured fairways and bunkers with views to the sea.

Mas Nou Golf dAro course with sea views

Golf is extremely popular on the Costa Brava with at least six golf courses nearby including a PGA championship course at Caldes de Malavella, and three courses near Pals. Golf d'Aro at Mas Nou, with it's position on the crest of the hill and views towards the coast seemed somewhat exceptions and might explain the handful of expensive cars that passed us on their way to the greens. Certainly the lush fairways and ponds for water make for a pleasant walk even though it's on the other side of a fence.

Lake near Hapimag vacation complex At the far end of the golf club is Hapimag resort - a large upmarket hotel complex and golf resort with views over the Aro valley and obviously connections direct to the golf (from the dual carriageway below as you drive past Sant Cristina d'Aro you can see the buildings looking like a medieval village above the valley).

Beyond Hapimag the road enters the Mas Nou estate residential area. It has a barrier (which was open), but the road seemed open and there were no private keep out signs. The estate is well-to-do, in keeping with the golf course, but as you reach the two radio masts underneath is the shell of an abandoned restaurant and estate club area with an empty swimming pool, weeds growing through the children's play area and grass poking through the tarmac of the tennis courts. Given the aparent wealth of the area, it's a suprise to see something in such disrepair. But it is quite common. Older estates were built at a time when buyers wanted communal facilities like pools (rather than have their own pool) and sports and other leisure activities and so developers added them to the urbanisations that popped up across the Costa Brava in the 1970s and 80s.

Mas Nou abandoned estate centre However, when the estates were finished and the houses were sold, the developers had no interest in maintaining the complexes, and the house owners decided not to pay the fees, or didn't visit enough to make the facilities worthwhile. The result is that many older estates have these disused and abandoned estate centres, despite the fact that the houses themselves around are well used and well cared for.

And so on past the radio masts, after taking the view from the Mirador road, and it's time to go down to Platja d'Aro. The views to Palamos and out to S'Agaro are great but we're still on the road and it is remarkably steep (17% or 1 in 6) almost forcing us to jog down, so it's good we weren't coming up.

The road comes down just behind the Aiguabrava water park at Platja d'Aro past the church of at Fenals d'Aro and a set of older houses of what would have been the original village. Prior to the 1950s the area was known as Fenals d'Aro, changing to become better known as Platja d'Aro (beach of the Aro, or as is occasionally still seen in Castilian Spanish Playa d'Aro) as the area opened up to tourism.

And so back into town and off to find the shoppers.

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

 

View to Palamos from Mas Nou

Olot - capital of Garrotxa
07 Apr 2017

Olot rambla Heading towards the mountains from the coast past Banyoles and then Besalu, the first major town is that of Olot located on a plain surrounded by extinct volcanoes and home of the recent winners of the Pritzer Architecture prize, so a place recently in the international press. We've passed by many times on the way to Vall d'En Bas, Rupit or Campodron but as is normal with Catalan towns and villages, it is very easy to drive past on the way to somewhere else without actually seeing anything of the town itself. So to make up, we took a day walking in and around the town to try to get to know it better.

Olot church of Sant Pere The first thing to note is that the Garrotxa is a rich and fertile area, so it's quite green and verdent. We were visiting at the end of Spring and in the background behind the volcanic hills, we kept catching glimpses of the snow on the Pyrenees in the near distance.

We parked nearish to the centre, but were immediately struck by the hills and the temptation to head high to get a panorama was too tempting, so rather than head straight to the centre, we took a footpath up towards the remarkable church tower of Sant Pere Martir which stands on Montolivet in among an estate of houses with an enormous sculpture of a head embedded on the tower looking down at the town.

Olot statue in front of French style house We hoped to be able to follow a walk from the church around the woods and so to follow the outskirts of the town, but after tracking a few footpaths, we decided the only route was to head in towards town. But wanting to leave the town centre to last, we turned out towards Vall d'En Bas and were amazed to see what looked like French architecture at Placa Manuel Malagrida. Now obviously Catalonia neighbours on France and, at various points in its history was assimilated into France in one way or another, but in general there are relatively few buildings in a grand French style.

Olot Museu del Volcans Our next surprise was that behind the pavillion the streets led into an area of 1920 villas arranged as part of a garden city. The estate is laid out like two spoked wheels with vistas and ramblas along the diagonals and one long passeo that joins the middles and heads out to the park (Parc Nou) and the Museu dels Volcans. The museum is in one of the villas (Torre Castanys) in the centre of the Parc's landscaped gardens. We didn't visit the museum itself, but just looked around the park.

Olot hobbit house From here we followed our nose on the outskirts. We were actually looking for an unusual 'hobbit' style house that was being built on the road towards Santa Pau, and to see if we could see any of the architecture which won the prize.

Our route was a little haphazard as we passed the main bypass road and a large blue sculpture like a picture frame, and then across the fields towards the area of Sant Cristofol de les Fonts, past a memorial to Francoists shot during the early part of the Spanish Civil War.

Olot old town by church The hobbit house was in development and looked to be private, but consisted of a very organic piece of architecture of curves like a rabbit warren. When it is finished, it's quite possible it won't be as easy to see from the road, and there was no way of visiting to see more. From the house we could look back to the city and see the snowy mountains behind the town.

But we decided that it was time to head back to the centre to see what Olot really has to offer in the centre.

Olot Modernista building The town itself is a traditional mix of squares and old high narrow terrace streets of shops. Being a Sunday it was quiet as the shops were closed, but the amount of commerce suggests that it gets busy when everything is open.

By the main church a wide rambla heads away from the centre and on the rambla is a delightful modernista house. Continuing on, we pass the slightly daunting very modern architecture rust-steel covered building of Sala El Torin.

In the end we didn't quite see the architecture of RCR Arquitectes, the prize winners - though we have seen their buildings in Besalu and Ripoll, but all in all a very interesting town to see. And as we got back in the car, we noticed one of the restaurants offering Olot Potatoes - a speciality of the town with potatoes stuffed with meat and fried. Next time...

Nearby: Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Rupit - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Banyoles lakeside walk

Olot Frame Sculpture on outskirts

La Bisbal d'Emporda
25 Feb 2017

La Bisbal dEmporda bridge over the River Daro with water Spring rains on the Costa Brava have come, and what are often dry riverbeds now have water, the most noteworthy being the River Daro at La Bisbal d'Emporda where its old stone footbridge into the old town has a chance to show its purpose.

The villages around La Bisbal d'Emporda are some of the gems of Costa Brava, small stone-built medieval villages of narrow streets, cobblestones and vaulted central squares like Monells, Peratallada, Corca, Mandremany, Vulpellac, and Fonteta. La Bisbal itself is often overlooked.

La Bisbal dEmporda Bishops Palace For tourists, it is easy to take the main road through La Bisbal or to take the ring-road around outside and to see it as just a line of pottery and ceramics shops on the way to the coast. But, in fact, the central older town of La Bisbal, that is not visible by car has a lot of charm and history. Being the main town for Baix Emporda and a seat of the Bishop of Girona, it hides a classic continental market town with squares and passageways and its own original Jewish Call.

La Bisbal dEmporda main square The name La Bisbal means "the bishop" and comes about because the town was ceded to the Bishops of Girona from the 11th Century. La Bisbal and the surrounding villages were important both religiously and politically, with the neighbouring Baronia de Cruïlles being one of the important controlling families in the area, with their influence eventually taking in Peratallada and out to Begur and Esclanya, and with some family members becoming bishop of La Bisbal.

La Bisbal bisbalenc The history of medieval Catalonia is a little confusing, because unlike the burgeoning kingdoms in the north of Spain, that eventually became the kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, and then Castille, in Catalonia there were continuing tensions between the counts and ruling families. Overtime the Counts of Barcelona established primacy over the other counts of Catalonia, including the counts of Empuries who somewhat confusingly alternated in name between Hugh and Ponç. But at the same time, the Bishops of Girona sought influence over the Basilica in Castello d'Empuries (Catalan wikipedia link gives more details). The struggles between the various Counts in Catalonia seems to be one reason Catalonia as a territory never became a kingdom with regular power struggles sometimes leading to full on conflict (eg Aragonese Crusade or the Catalan Civil War in the 15th century) often with the help of the French.

La Bisbal dEmporda hidden corners Over the centuries, the Emporda region has seen regular flow of Spanish-French conflicts and intrigues, the last being during the Napoleonic Penisular Wars when La Bisbal was the site of a battle when the very Spanish sounding Henry O'Donnell took La Bisbal from the French (the Imperial army was commanded by the very French sounding Jacques MacDonald). As an indirect link, the Hotel at Castell d'Emporda has what they say is the largest scale model of the Battle of Waterloo, for those interested in Napoleon's time.

La Bisbal dEmporda new vaults More recently La Bisbal is best known for its ceramics and terracotta - hence the shops along the main road and the presence of the chimneys through the town. The town has both a terracotta museum and a school for ceramics for what became the most important industry for the town.

In current times, except for market day when the streets throng with local people, La Bisbal can feel quite quiet, undiscovered and undisturbed but there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If there were a few more cafe terraces it would be perfect as a place to sit and enjoy the history.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, FontetaCanapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada

 

Castell de Montsoriu
25 Feb 2017

Monsoriu from below If you take the AP7 from Barcelona to Girona, as you leave the Valles Oriental towards Hostalric and you find yourself passing the last heights of Montseny, then you will see a castle standing isolated on the top of its own peak looking across the valley towards Hostalric and the sea. This is the castle of Montsoriu.

Monsoriu Castle walls We came this way in November (so I'm being a little slow in adding the content) to revisit the castle after our first trip several years ago. The castle itself in that time has been subject to a lot of renovation work, but nothing can change the fabulous views from the top looking out to Girona, or across to the distant sea. Our day wasn't the clearest, and the views will be best on a colder day in winter when the air is fresh and clear and the Pyrenees are capped with snow.

Monsoriu view from castle The castle is just off the road from Hostalric to Arbucies and well signposted. There are two places to park, one at the bottom of the hill next to the turning for the road up, or two separate car parks at the top, though to get to the castle itself you still have to walk up the final stretch.

We didn't know about the upper car parks, and the lower one was full so we actually parked off the road midway and then walked up through the woods. There are a number of paths but because the castle is right at the top, all directions up get to the castle.

At the top we were surprised by how much renovation work had been done since our previous visit. If I remember correctly, previously we had been able to explore the castle freely in its more tumble-down state, as the castle has been updated, they have also introduced an information centre and access to the main part requires an entrance fee. And in Autumn the castle is only open Thursday to Sunday with the option of a guided tour.

We were visiting on a Monday, so couldn't access the castle itself, so had to stick to the exterior and the walls. The castle was built in the 10th century but was abandoned in the middle ages with the last work being carried out on it in the 14th century.

Nearby: Palafolls castle- Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk

Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella)
28 Oct 2016

Waterfall at Les Escaules by restaurant Over the summer we were went back and re-explored some the Catalan gorges for swimming, along the way we came across details of The Salt de la Caula which is just by Les Escaules, north of Figueres, a little way into the hills by the Muga river. We also read that the gorge was no longer suitable for swimming, but we thought we would take a look and, eventually, found ourselves at a restaurant almost sitting under a 30m waterfall.

From what we read the gorge was thermal water and it is still listed as being open in some places, though it's not clear if this is the river above the waterfall, or further downstream. However, at the restaurant, the sign said that there had been a rockfall in 2010 during heavy rain which dropped a lot of rock and stone into the gorge leaving a very pretty waterfall, but taking away the space for swimming.

However, before we got to the restaurant we paid a short visit to the castle above Les Escaules and the village itself having actually driven past the waterfall and restaurant parking (just before the turn to the village). We also got a little stuck driving into the village looking for parking - the roads get very narrow with little space to turn around, so if you do visit, park outside and walk in.

The most remarkable part of our visit was the landscape which becomes quite dry and barren and what trees are around seem to have been blown over leaving hillsides of low scrub and rock. We parked just outside the village and walked up to the ruins of the castle above the village and the fallen trees are all around, and it seemed odd then to see such a great flush of water coming from the waterfall when we finally found it.

The village is a long narrow medieval village with a small church and square situated above the Muga river below. At the lower part of the village by the bridge you can get access to the river for paddling.

But to get to the restaurant we had to double back and then could see the waters cascading off the cliff and the noise of the water that we hadn't been able to hear from the car. The restaurant has tables and seating almost directly underneath next to the little stream fed by the water. We sat and waited for a drink (and waited and waited) enjoying the view and the strange sense of such a lot of water in such an apparently dry area.

Returning, we carried on the Boadella and then up into the almost Provencal hills to Torrades. Again another surprise and new landscape.

Nearby: Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Banyoles lakeside walk - Sant Miquel de Fluvia - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Esponella and River Fluvia

Begur - Festa d'Indians
06 Sep 2016

Begur Festa dIndians night view of town under the castle At the first weekend of September Begur holds what is one of our favourite festivals of the year - the Festa d'Indians which celebrates Begur's connection with Cuba and the Caribbean. The town's small streets become jam packed with people dressed in white wearing straw hats, drinking Mojitos and rum cocktails with music and the sounds of the samba and rumba on every street corner.

The festival is Begur's Festa Major and runs over three nights of the weekend with a lilting relaxed family atmosphere with people of all ages (many of them in their 'jubilacion' - retirement) dancing, chatting, eating and drinking with sidestreets with market stalls and bars liberally making cocktails. The special fact that everyone gets involved, people make an effort and dress up with white shirt and cotton trousers for men, or white lace cotton dresses for women gives it a very unique feeling, as if you're transported back in time to 1920s Cuba.

Begur Festa dIndians Streets Begur Festa dIndians whites and hats It's called Indians because the festival draws its inspiration from the many of the Catalan entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century and made their fortune in the tobacco and sugar trades of the West Indies, and in particular Cuba, came back to settle in Begur with their houses (Indianes) built in the South American style contrasting with the traditional Catalan village houses and leaving their mark not only on Begur, but also on other coastal villages where you'll find the Indianes almost as the first villas-by-the-sea.

Begur Festa dIndians dancing in the street Being night and dark, capturing the spirit in photos is difficult, but if you happen to be among the chic villages of the central Costa Brava for the first week of September, Indians is strongly recommended.

 

 

Meetup Group for Web and App Developers
02 Sep 2016

A brief change to our normal walking and events blog. For anyone in the Costa Brava or Girona area we're trying to start up a Meetup group for Web and App Developers. There's loads going on for internet start ups and internet companies in Barcelona, but relatively little happening in this region.

We're lucky enough to have been offered the use of a meeting room at Cinc Business Center in Girona (http://www.cinc.es) and have an aim to have a talk at least every month on some aspect of Internet technologies. Cinc offers serviced offices and space for co-working and business meetings if you are looking to start up a venture in this area.

 

Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France
15 Jul 2016

Mollo church We were visiting Camprodon recently and saw a number of walks up into the hills/mountains up to the French border. The distance from Camprodon itself would have meant a two day walk, so instead we travelled a little further up and decided to make the walk from the village of Mollo via Espinavell which was more of a 4-5 hour hike.

Before getting to the walk, I should mention Camprodon as it's one of our favourite towns in towards the mountains. It's relatively small but has a real mountain feel to it with the sound of cowbells, the smell of fresh grass and a number of small streams running through the centre with crystal clear mountain water - almost a complete change in geography from the sea and coast. There's an old peak-arched bridge and nestle of old greystone houses with the odd modernista building. If you're lucky you'd be able to go into the town museum (it has no formal timetable) which houses a collection of articles, posters and artifacts from the civil war and WWII, from when the region was one of the escape routes for downed British airmen fleeing occupied France.

Mollo countryside Our walk however, started from Mollo which is the next village up, about 7km up the valley towards the pass into France. Mollo itself is a small village with a church, a square and a few paved stoned streets, but we saw several walkers while we were there.

To go up we follow the marked footpath. The route is a GR and so marked by red-white flashes and mostly signposted and easy to follow. To begin with we follow the path out of the top of the village out into the fields with the valley running below to the right tumbling away behind us. In early summer the weather was cooler than at the coast but still warm and with lots of water around, there was a classic feel of vitality and verdent meadows.

As we continued the path ran through some woods and we could hear the sound of animal bells. Expecting to see cows, we were surprised to be greeted by horses in the woods and on the path ahead of us taking water at one of the streams.

Mollo to French Border village of El Retort

As we got closer to Espinavell some of the directions got a little more tricky. The GR took us along the top of a terrace wall in the woods lined with stinging nettles on one side and a 1-2m drop on the other side. We're not so used to stinging nettles as they tend not to grow in the drier areas by the coast and so were unprepared just wearing shorts and low socks.

The terraced path eventually reaches a stream and the marked route is in the water of the streambed down to the road for Espinavell.

Hills and cows in Pyrenees in summer

At Espinavell we ran into mountain bikers coming downhill from the pass up above on the route we were wanting to take up. Some had called in at the local cafe for a break. Espinavell itself has a small church and a set of rough hewn houses that look back down the valley in one direction, or up to the yellow gorse covered mountains behind. The roads in the village are very steep, lined with stones carefully laid in a pattern. And by the time we had climbed out of the village to the path at the top we were seriously puffing.

The path then tracks upwards into the gorse, some of which was high and dense and we were guided by the route marked for the mountain bikers. At the top we were met by the border marker and the sight of clouds coming up to the ridgeway from the French side and so didn't get the views of Canigo we were expecting.

The area on top is open grass covered and apart from the border stone at Col Pregon, no visible sign of a border so we followed the path on the French side over a couple of small hills that took us over 1600m and watched by French cows in the fields.

Coming down we could have taken the route back to Espinavell (there's a clear and easily marked path), but we wanted a little more of a loop so aimed to take a path down from Puig Sec and the Basses de Fabert where there was a small pond.

French Border above Mollo

However, this created something of a problem in that though the path is marked, it turned out that it was very well covered with vegetation and so finding and tracking the route down through the grass was much more difficult than we expected and we lose the path on various occasions. Fortunately we know the direction we were heading and just about manage to find our way to the proper route, only to lose it a little later as it zigzagged down a meadow.  Fortunately there are no cliffs and it's open countryside, so nothing dangerous but it would be easy to get lost among the stream valleys running off the mountain, so do have a map.

Eventually we cross a number of streams and passed water pools with baby salamanders resting in the water under a small waterfall and reach the hamlet of Fabert. In theory from Fabert there is a marked route along the stream valley but when we tried to follow the path it was so overgrown from the new summer nettles that it was practically impossible to follow and we had to turn back and take the paved track back going down to the main road. The main road is busy so we climbed a little higher to find the route through the fields back to Mollo feeling our legs a little.

Nearby: Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Olot - capital of Garrotxa

Webcams for the Costa Brava
01 Jul 2016

We've added a few links to local webcams - for when you want to see how busy the beach is or if the sea is smooth or choppy. Click on the link above, or go here.  I'll add more as we find them, or make a suggestion in the comments....

Total found: 182
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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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