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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.
 

Most Viewed

Palol de Revardit to La Mota
20 Apr 2015

Palol de Revardit castle Situated on the way to Banyoles, Palol de Revardit is a small, pretty village/hamlet with a newly restored castle set among the hills behind Girona. Access to the village is from the C66 dual carriageway between Girona and Banyoles.

This walk takes us from the village into the hills and up to the hilltop ridge at La Mota which looks over the countryside to the Pyrenees and out to the sea on one side, and across to Girona on the other. The walk up to La Mota is clearly marked from Palol de Revardit, the walk down is a little less clearly marked.

WPalol de Revardit stream e park by the castle at Palol de Revardit. The village is quite small with probably less than a hundred houses and a small ajuntament, but the castle has recently been renovated and the village is very well kept. After a little explore and getting our bearings, we find the signpost marked for the route to La Mota (4.2km). The first part of the walk is along a small village lane that crosses a small stream before a gentle climb to the hills. Though we're on the road it's quiet as the roads only lead to the hills and local farms.

Being spring, the morning was dotted with rain but as we arrived at Palol, the afternoon broke out into a warm bluesky dotted with clouds and it feels like everything is growing. The trees have that fresh verdent green of new leaves and the flowers are filling the meadows.

Palol de Revardit view from La Mota After a short climb past one of the old farms used for tourisme rural, the sign posts take us of the road and up a broad track into the hills. We have the first sound of a cuckoo to accompany us as we follow the track up through the woods. The ground is drying under our feet as we walk and it's a steady slightly humid climb in among a mix of pines and deciduous trees.

The track is broad and pleasant without having too many highlights and after around 2km emerges at a set of meadows just below Sant Marti de la Mota church, perched on the hill ahead of us. The path splits at this point and we could head directly to Els Refugis de la Mota, but instead take the road to the church we can see, part a newly renovated masia with commanding views over plains below. The road does a down and up, and we emerge close to the chapel/church of Sant Marti. The church, like many more isolated ones, is connected to a farmhouse and we meet the owners who point out the views out towards the sea in the distance.

Palol de Revardi view to La Mota We now follow another road along the ridge at the top of the hill. To begin with all the views are to the north, but as we come close to a small urbanisation the views open up across to Girona, with the cathedral clearly visible from where we are. The views extend all around, to the ancient former volcano above Canet d'Adri and up to the Rocacorba mountains behind us.

As is common with many of these highpoints, there is a dolmen close to the top. The sign says the grave is 5,000 years old, but these ancient burial sites are never quite as impressive a you might expect.

Palol de Revardit church at Sant Marti de la Mota The route down follows a track just behind a small playground for the urbanisation that runs under the urbanisation hill on the right, with a stream or gully turning into a valley to the left. It wasn't entirely clear if the track was the route to start with but it was fine - more surprising was that someone had just driven it from the look of the tracks, despite the mud and heavy pot-marks.

The rain had left the track muddy in contrast to the dry track we came up, and from time to time we have to negotiate slippy puddles on the way down, but again it's more pleasant wood-walking without stand-out things to see.

Towards the bottom we cross a stream on stepping stones and pass a couple of old farms being rennovated before walking past tree plantations in the bottom of a shallow valley. We emerge from the path at the Veinet de Can Padres. We were trying to get back to Palol directly, but didn't see a path. Unfortunately the connection from Can Padres to Palol is road all the way - and a newly refurbished road, but there are only three or four cars.

The road takes us above Palol with views of the village and its surrounding, before turning off and then down back towards the castle.

Nearby: Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Banyoles lakeside walk - Sant Miquel de Fluvia - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Cervia de Ter - Canet d'Adri

Walking route - Palol de Revardit to La Mota

MIC 2015 Football Tournament
30 Mar 2015

Easter's back with us and the Mediterranean International Cup has returned with first matches on the 31st March/1st April and finals on Saturday and Sunday (4th/5th April). This is a world-class youth football competition held in the Costa Brava every Easter which attracts the youth and development players of Europe's leading football clubs and clubs from around the globe. Neymar, Messi and a huge bunch of other famous Spanish and other football stars played as part of their development from juniors to senior players.

Matches are organised by age. Full schedule (with locations is here: http://www.micfootball.com/en/tournament/results.html)

Under 19s are playing at Cassa de la Selva, Lloret de Mar, Sta Coloma de Farners and Tossa de Mar.

  • Teams include: FC Barcelona, Villarreal, Real Madrid, Atletic Club de Madrid, Levante

 

Under 16s at Llagostera, Hostalric, Sils, Sant Feliu de Guixols, Vidreres.

  • Teams include: Espanyol, New York, Scarborough, Villarreal, Yokohama, Valencia, Sevilla

 

Under 14s at Palafrugell, Begur, Calonge, Mont-ras, La Bisbal, Platja d'Aro.

  • Teams include: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Porto, Inter Milan, Northern Ireland, Los Angeles (USA), Espanyol, Sydney (Australia), Getafe.

 

Under 11s at L'Escala, L'Estartit, Torroella, Begur and Palamos.

  • Teams include: Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Brentford, Ajax, Real Madrid, Valencia, Espanyol, Bogota (Colombia), Getafe, Los Angeles

 

Entrance to the matches is free as far as I'm aware (certainly for the younger categories).

Cassa de la Selva
30 Mar 2015

Cassa de la Selva view to the town From Girona Airport to the Costa Brava for Sant Feliu de Guixols, Palamos and Palafrugell, after passing through the small village of Ruidellots de la Selva, the C66 road skirts past the larger town of Cassa de la Selva. The town is on the flat just under the Gavarres with a fabulous if demanding cycle route over the hills behind to La Bisbal.

Being set back from the road, it's very easy just to drive by looking only at the industrial estates on the outside, but it is a traditional Catalan town with a pleasant town centre. Our aim is a gentle walk into the rolling farmland behind the town itself, rather than into the heights of the Gaverres. The early part of this walk has some views towards Montseny, though it was a day with rain in the air so not clear enough for good photos. The second half of the walk after crossing the GI664 has more expansive views to Girona and the mountains. An unexpected feature was the Park de les Arts Contemporanies - a large open air museum with modern sculpture. Unfortunately it was closed out of season but is a place to re-visit.

To start we park in one of the municipal car parks on the main inner road around the centre of Cassa. Cassa itself has an older part around the church and a more modern (1920s) area situated by the old Casino (a meeting place rather than a gambling den). We're not really visiting the town this time, though we do drift into the centre on the way back.

Cassa de la Selva view to hills From the car park we go to the real start, just by a roundabout on the edge of the town. This is clearly marked with a signpost and we following the yellow-white markers for a local route. Initially we walk past a few industrial units towards farms, before turning up a track into the woods and up a hill. All OK, but not spectacular. At the top of the hill is a small water deposit with views across Cassa and down towards the mountains of Montseny (towards Barcelona). This is farming countryside with fields and woods and large isolated farm houses, rather than the dense alsina forests of higher up in the Gavarres.

We cross the road that links Cassa to La Bisbal. This is a lovely cycling route for those who like hill climbs, rising up to 400m or so with a dramatic change in scenery as you leave the farmlands and reach more isolated and higher levels of the Gavarre hills, before coming down again to La Bisbal.

Cassa de la Selva Art Parc Our walk continues past more farms. It's not completely isolated and in two of the houses, there seem to be family gatherings with lots of cars parked in the yard and the smell of barbequing sausages drifting in the wind. The view starts to open out and we find horse tracks all the path. We have views to the flashing telecoms tower in Girona and a grand vista which takes in Girona airport and the hills beyond. We pass one of the horse-riding centres sweeping under the hills to our right, then start our return journey just a little ahead of the official path, turning down past a tumble down masia into the woods.

Ahead of us the road splits. The signpost to the left says Cassa so we take that and end up at the back of the modern art park, where we can peek through the fence at the curious collection of mechanical and modern art sculptures. To find out more we make a brief diversion to the front, but it's closed at the moment - only open by appointment. Presumeably it will re-open during summer.

We then turn back to Cassa heading straight for the church and the pedestrianised shopping streets that are quiet and closed on Sunday afternoon. A slight mis-direction means that we miss the more modern part of Cassa with the Casino and instead end up at the car.

Other visits: Hostalric stroll - Caldes de Malavella - Via Ferrata at the Gorges de Salenys - Romanya de la Selva - Gavarres Montnegre and Montigalar

Walking route Cassa de la Selva countryside

Sant Pere Pescador river Fluvia
11 Mar 2015

Sant Pere Pescador town view Sant Pere Pescador is a small town situated between L'Escala and Roses on the banks of the River Fluvia, not quite on the coast itself. The northern side of the Fluvia runs into the Aiguamolls d'Emporda - a vast wetlands reserve for wild birds including storks and flamingoes. The southern side of the river connects to the long broad beach that carries on for about 7km down past Sant Marti d'Empuries. The area is quite flat with lots of campsites and not much habitation otherwise. More inland, the countryside is flat with expanses of espallier orchards and fruit farms.

We parked just outside the town of Sant Pere Pescador, close to a tourist information centre just before the bridge across the river into town. For this visit we didn't go into Sant Pere Pescador itself as we were more interested in the coastal scenery just south of El Fluvia - the north side is the Aiguamolls d'Emporda wetlands bird sanctuary.

Sant Pere Pescador view along river Fluvia The path was then very easy to follow and entirely flat the whole way around. The day was a little overcast and greyish days with low scenery don't make for the best photos. We walk firstly just following the river which is actually quite wide and in fact, with the reeds in the water, the birds and the low trees at times it felt like we could have been walking in the Fens or the East Anglian coast.

The main walk out along the river we could see cormorants on the water and collections of anglers parked and fishing on the other side of the river. A queue of stand-up paddle-boarders on the river was the only sign of tourist type activities, though I guess in summer the area will be much busier and the whole area is full of campsites.

The river path eventually runs past fields of low sandy dunes with beach vegetation of grasses and low shrubs before reaching the beach where the Fluvia meets the sea (the Gola). A small viewing platform allows you to get about 3m above the height of the land and though it doesn't sound much, because of the low level of the ground, the extra height opens up views to Roses and out to the Pyrenees in the background as well as providing vistas back along the river to Sant Pere.

The beach itself is long and broad - it runs 7-8km straight down towards Sant Marti d'Empuries - with soft sand underfoot. The winter weather creates undulations in the sand so as we walk along the beach we're continually going up and down and with occasional soft patches, the walking is harder work than we expected. We're not the only ones on the beach, but it is very sparsely populated. A few other Sunday afternoon walker and, ahead of us, someone testing out motorised paragliders taking off, making a short hop along the beach, then landing before repeating the exercise.

The beach runs at the back of a number of campsites, set back a little from the beach. Now, out of season, they are all closed up, but even in the height of summer, the sand is so broad that it would be difficult to imagine that it would get very crowded.

Sant Pere Pescador sea view We come off the beach and follow a small path a little closer to the campsites, mainly to get off the sand, then by Camping Amfora we follow a strange wide boulevard past an isolated estate of villas back towards Sant Pere Pescador.

The aim was to see if we could connect to L'Armentera via the Bon Relax estates, but unfortunately the connecting path that we were hoping might exist doesn't exist. So instead we wander through the villas and strange set of high rise blocks of the Bon Relax estate. These are the high rise blocks that can be seen from miles away and feel totally out of place in what otherwise is a low-height area. The estate also feels strangely disconnected - it's not by a town or village, it's not on the sea and there are no other buildings or industry nearby.

The path from Bon Relax to Sant Pere Pescador goes along the road for a short while and back to the car. For walking, the stretch from the beach to Bon Relax could easily be skipped, just staying on the path closer to the Fluvia.

Walking route Sant Pere Pescador River Fluvia

Palamos and carnival
15 Feb 2015

Palamos carnival 2015 green wings Palamos, like nearly all the Costa Brava towns has a large carnival procession to celebrate the coming of Lent where people dress up, dance and compete for the best show in town. In Catalonia, as with many European Catholic regions, carnival has developed into a grand tradition even though it was actually banned in Franco's time. The modern festivals are now enormous. Palamos had about 50 floats this year and the amount of work put into costumes and practicing dance routines is huge often with 40-50 dancers in matching outfits following a float blaring out their dance music.

Palamos carnival scarecrow There are carnival processsions is most of the major towns (except for Palafrugell which has a Festa de Primavera at the end of May instead), but rather than having competing carnival processions, the festivities are often staged on different days in different places. This allows the carrossellers to attend more than one festival. For instance, floats from Sant Feliu de Guixols on a Friday would then visit Platja d'Aro or Palamos on the Saturday and then move to a different town on the Sunday.

Palamos carnival 2015 peacock The processions in Palamos this year was reported at about 50 floats (I believe some others got up to closer to 80). The floats naturally follow the procession route but not as a steady moving stream.

At one point (usually towards the end) there is a judges stand where each float and troupe takes the time to show and perform their choreography danced routine for 3-4 minutes. If you count 3-4 minutes per float and 50 floats plus time for walking and changeover it won't be surprising that a typical big carnival procession takes at least 4-5 hours to complete. The early floats starting in the daylight at the end of the afternoon, with the last ones coming in when its dark.

Palamos carnival 2015 red dresses Though the fun of taking part and showing off is a big part, a hidden incentive are the prizes for the best carrossers. There are normally different categories from best large float, best small float, best local float, best dance routine etc and for some of the main categories prize money can reach €1,000 for the winning float - though almost all of this prize money will be reinvested to build a bigger better float for the next year.

Palamos carnival 2015 mad hatter The run up to carnival (or carnestoltes) has children going to school in fancy dress (disfreses) with essentially a big party atmosphere all weekend - slightly amplified this year by Valentines Day, though Valentine's is somewhat new in Spain.

Palamos itself is an old royal port with an old central part and large fishing fleet. The main port is large enough for big ships and through the summer regularly gets visits from smaller cruise ships. Around the main port area and through the older part of the town there are many good restaurants and bars and streets that climb up and down across the headland in the heart of the old town.

Palamos carnival 2015 gold and white At the end of the headland is the new marina and around the corner is the extremely pretty soft-sand bay of La Fosca making the whole town one of many contrasts.

One downside for first time visitors is that Palamos has three enormous ugly tower blocks built just off the main beach and the blocky newer area behind the main beach passeo-walk both of which lack ambience and character which can leave a poor first impression. Our reaction on first visiting Palamos was that we didn't really care for the newer parts, but now we visit more often, we've found it growing on us as a town - it has a strong local character and joie de vivre that makes the place interesting year round.

Ceret (France)
15 Feb 2015

Ceret Modern Art Fountain with copy of Picasso Sardanes Ceret is a delightful French Catalan town, just the other side of the French border, just over an hour from the heart of the Costa Brava with a understated unspoilt charm and a strong connection to the Modern Art movement at the start of the 20th Century. Though it is marked from the autoroute, it's a town we have overlooked as we've headed more to Perpignan, to the mountains (eg Villefranche de Confluent) or to the coast - for instance to Elne on our previous French day-trips.

Ceret main claim to fame was though its connection to many famous twentieth century artists. Pablo Picasso (during his cubist phase) and George Braque were residents in 1911-1912 (eg see Picasso's Landscape at Ceret from the Guggenheim), attracting other famous artists like Chagall, Matisse and Modigliani. Ceret now has a Museum of Modern Art with works donated by these illustrious former residents.

Ceret Pont de Diable Now it's fair to say that we didn't know this before we visited - we were looking for somewhere new to go before doing our periodic foray into French supermarkets for cordial, cheese and a few other French delicacies that somehow never seem to cross the border, or are otherwise have massively over-inflated prices in Spain. As a result we haven't yet visited the museum, but from this one visit, Ceret now ranks as our favourite French Catalan town.

We parked just outside the town's outskirts on the far side of the river Tech and walked across the Devil's Bridge (Pont du Diable) - the old, very high, medieval stone bridge across the river that sits next to a modern road bridge. From here it was just a question of following our nose to reach the old town centre, a pleasant stroll through well-kept houses.

Ceret Porte de France Though Ceret is definitely Catalan (road names are still in Catalan, often with a French alternative), it is a town that feels typically French - shutters on the windows, coloured walls on the outside of the buildings, people sat outside the cafes and tall plain trees for shade.

Ceret Porte dEspagne The first place of interest we came to was the large town gate flanked by two round towers (the Porte de France). This leads to old cobbled streets in the old centre, that curl around what would have been the town wall before coming together in the main town square or placa, with the Gran Cafe and hotel and a tower and arch construction which are what is left of the towns Porte d'Espange, at the back of which is a modern art fountain built to celebrate the towns connection with  modern art with a copy of Picasso's Sardanes work. There are several little squares in the maze of streets and a number of different fountains through the town.

The town boasts two museums - the art museum mentioned and a museum of musical instruments, but this time around we didn't visit, but we may well come back in May for the town's cherry festival.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Collioure (France) - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Andorra La Vella

Tamariu to Llafranc revisited
12 Feb 2015

Llafranc lighthouse of San Sebastien We covered the walk from Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu two Januaries ago but at the time part of the GR92 path was closed due to construction works and the weather was a little overcast. I added an update to the original to say the path is now open, but until now haven't updated the pictures, so this weekend we took advantage of the sun and recompleted the stretch from Tamariu to Llafranc, this time going all the way in and out of Cala Pedrosa to complete the coastal part of the walk.

Tamariu path to Cala Pedrosa with barriers The bath is popular out of season, particularly on a gloriously sunny January Sunday and there were lots of families taking at least  the first part of the route to the rocky bay and barraca just around from the main Tamariu beach (great for rock pools in the summer). It was good to run into German and English walkers too as the Costa Brava really is a fabulous winter destination for a little sun and good hiking.

Tamariu Cala Pedrosa The main part of the walk which was closed last time runs at the back of two new villas and has been done up very well. The path now consists of a wooden gangway at the back of the houses above a small rocky cala, one of the classic Costa Brava inlet type coves with no access other than from the sea. The wooden gangway turns into a small walled path which a bit uneven where water has washed away the top of the path leaving some pipework exposed. This path then curves into the woods around La Musclera.

Llafranc view from lighthouse The route then climbs around the Musclera headland, getting quite high above a cliffside before connecting to the path down to Cala Pedrosa. This particular path goes steeply down the hillside along a narrow cliff-side path with wooden barriers/bannisters all the way down to the Cala. It's not difficult, but it is steep as it zig-zags up the side of the bay. At the bottom, we reach a large bay filled with large pebblestones. Pedrosa means stony or rocky and the pebbles are chunky inviting you to make pebble stacks or to try skimming the stones out across the water. At the back of the bay is a small house/bar that it often open in summer sometimes serving food straight off the barbeque.

Llafranc view of boats and beach The path out of Cala Pedrosa runs along the stream at the back of the bay, through a shaded valley that was cool in the January air unlike the sunnier parts of the walk. At the top it meets a broader track/path at the back of a view houses before running past first fields and then woods up to the lighthouse (Far de San Sebastien) above Llafranc. The lighthouse can be approached from two directions. The main GR92 path runs high above the sea and gets a little high if you're not comfortable with heights, before connecting to the watchtower next to the Restaurant de Far at the top behind the lighthouse. This time we turned right earlier, following a forestry track that connects to houses on the other side of the hill (Carrer Panama), then taking the road across the top of Llafranc. The views from the lighthouse are spectacular. As this was a particularly clear day, we could see the snow on the Pyrenees behind Palafrugell on one side and the coastline and beaches stretching away to the south past Palamos on the other.

For a walking route see the original: Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu

Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria
05 Feb 2015

Vall de Nuria view of base snow facilities The nearest ski stations to the Costa Brava in the Pyrenees are Vallter 2000 (above Setcases) and Vall de Nuria, with larger ski resorts a little further away in La Molina and Massala near Puigcerda (on a train line from Barcelona) and further options up to Andorra.

With snow arriving in the mountains we travelled up to Ribes de Freser to catch the Cremellera rank-and-pinion train up to the snow at Vall de Nuria - the only transportation link into the resort. Using the train means we don't have the risk of needing to drive in snow but can park at Ribes de Freser and let the train do the work through a spectacular climb up to Vall de Nuria. Our journey time to Ribes de Freser was about two hours with another 30 minutes for the train ride.

Ribes de Freser path by stream with snow Vall de Nuria is not large - there are approximately 6-7km of pistes, around one third of which are blue runs but for beginners or those just wanting a taste of the snow it provides a startling contrast to a a day on the beach.

The train leaves from Ribes de Freser, a small Catalan mountain town on the road to Puigcerda. The stone of the buildings is more muted than the golden hues closer to the close giving the town a sense of rough hewn grit. Ribes actually has two stations for the Cremallera train - one on the outskirts that connects with trains from Barcelona, and a more central Estacio de la Vila in the heart of the town. We parked close to the tourist office which is near the first of the stations and then walked to the central station stretching our legs from the journey and revelling in the sugaring of snow.

Ribes de Freser snowy view from Cremallera Train However, this little walk meant we missed the first train we could have caught so we had to wait for 40 minutes or so in the station as trains leave about every hour. If you want to minimise your travel time, keeping an eye on the train times will help with journey.

The delay did mean we could properly find out what the options were for going up. From the station you can buy the Cremallera ticket which gives you the train ride and access to the main buildings at the top, or for a little bit more buy a Forfait or Skipass for all the lifts if you want to go skiing or snowboarding. Ski and Snowboard hire is done separately when you get to the top. An alternative for small children might be to get the ticket that includes the Parc Ludic - a snow park with slides and rubber ring sledges for younger children.

We were travelling with a dog and weren't sure what the reaction was. We had read it was possible to take dogs and when we got there it was pretty obvious this is quite normal. The formal rules say dogs should be muzzled. Our dog is very passive and though we took a muzzle with us, we didn't have to use it. Bigger or more noisy or aggressive dogs might be different.

Vall de Nuria getting off Cremallera Train The journey up takes about 30 minutes of steady climb - it's not express type of speeds, but there is a good amount of climb and spectacular scenery on the way with a small viaduct, cliffs, cuts through the rocks, gorges and dramatic mountain scenery. For us the train journey was worth the trip.

We arrived at the train station at the top which is right next to the large almost barracks type building that acts as the centre for all the activities. The day we were visiting it was cold - around -7C and snowing, but with a gusting wind that created white-out snow flurries from time to time. So not the best day for photographs, but lots of fresh powder snow for skiing.

The first thing was to get kitted out. There is a big and very efficient rental hall which means hiring skis, boards, boots and helmets was fast and painless. The only slight look-out is that you will need a passport or identity card for identification when making the hire. I'd left mine in the car at the bottom, so it was a good thing my better half had hers.

Vall de Nuria main building with skilifts behind For ski-ing there is a telecabin lift and a chair lift to the higher parts, and around the lower parts a small button lift. For beginners, the skiing starts from an almost flat green slope. For other skiers there are a number of blue runs, 2-3 red runs and one black run. Not really so much for more experienced skiers but possibly enough for the occasional one-a-year day out.

So while our children went off for skiing we explored the lower area. The main building actually works very well if you're not skiing. There is a small cafe, a shop, a large restaurant and, very welcome for us given we had a dog with us, a large room for 'picnics' - basically somewhere warm to hang out without feeling that you have to buy something. The rest of the building is partly hotel, partly church and sanctuary (Vall de Nuria has a history as a place of religious devotion), and partly museum. While not particularly exciting, the museum is interesting and helps set the scene for the history and ecology of the valley.

Around the main building children were messing about on sledges. Unlike Switzerland or bigger ski resorts where there are often long specialist sledging tracks for free for those who don't want to ski, the areas for sledging were relatively small and really just for smaller children.

Vall de Nuria view to the snow covered lake The day of visiting, the snow was deep making walking difficult and it was bitterly cold and we didn't really want to get too far from the shelter of the main building. For summer walking there are routes down the valley all the way back to Ribes de Freser (marked as being 5h50) - the traditional pilgrims route.

The end of the day for us came a little earlier than planned, partly because of the cold. Obviously for day trips you can try to pick and choose the day for visiting to both have snow and good weather. The train was efficient and ran on time and we worked out that from the time the train left at the top to getting home was about two and an half hours. Not bad for a little bit of winter wonderland.

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Andorra La Vella - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Visit to Setcases - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France) - Olot - capital of Garrotxa

Sant Grau and Cadiretes near Tossa de Mar
20 Jan 2015

Sant Grau Cadiretes view towards Girona Tossa de Mar is one of the most famous towns on the Costa Brava because of its walled village next to the sea and beautiful bays. However, it has a relatively isolated location as it and Sant Feliu de Guixols are separated by a very windy road along the coast and the hills of the Massis de les Cadiretes. For walkers, the GR92 coastal path between the towns goes inland over the hills, while the coastal route up and down a number of cliffy calas is all road with no natural walking route. However, the road is extremely popular with cyclists (amateurs and professionals) as it's extremely scenic and too slow and bendy to be a main route for cars.

The Cadiretes hills therefore form a relatively isolated and empty wilderness between Tossa and Sant Feliu with remains of chapels and fortifications and a few scattered houses but not much else. This is a walk on the GR92 from just about Sant Grau - marked as the castle at Montagut (though we somehow missed the castle). The first part of the walk has views inland towards Llagostera and Girona, and comes back to Sant Grau on the sea-view side. It's a fairly typical wooded walk with some interesting rock formations and some views because of the height, but would otherwise be relatively unremarkable except for the rave party we walked past.

Cadiretes Rock Formation We arrive by car from Llagostera on the road to Sant Grau winding into the hills with a valley to our right. The area marked as the castle for Montagut has a track with a wide-ish entrance and space to park, so we stopped at the track. We were however surprised at the number of cars around. Initially we thought it was for hunting, as we'd just passed a collection of hunters with what looked like four or five boar further down the hillside.

We start to walk along the broad gravel track and pass yet more cars and it becomes clear from the number of young people milling around and the slightly odd looks that we get that there we're passing some form of music gathering in one of the abandoned farmhouses. No doubt this was a one off, but it feels a little strange and incongruous for a Sunday afternoon stroll in the middle of nowhere and as we pass the last of the cars the music starts we find ourselves walking to the accompanyment of a bass-and-drum beat.

The track runs along the side of the hill with small mounds of rocks 10-20m high in places and from the top of the rocks, the view is spectacular out across towards Girona and Lagostera. The path is a fairly standard wooded path though without much in the way of other highlights.

As we get towards our turning point (where the GR92 meets a local yellow-white sender), we can see the remains of a chapel just around the next bend in the hill looking back at us. However, we reach the junction first and so don't explore further, instead turning back towards the right across a small col and walking on the other side of the hill. From this side we now have views to the sea and across to some of the more isolated housing estates that dot the route between Tossa and Sant Feliu.

Sant Grau village house The walk is then a steady path that curls beside more strange rock formations before we get the sight of the church of Sant Grau above us. We curl around the hillside and across a small stream before what is a relatively sharp incline upto the village of Sant Grau.

The village itself consists of the church with attached house, presumably as part of a monestary at one point and a scattering of old masias and a few isolated villas in the woods with views out towards the sea, quite a long way down below. The area looks like it was once ear-marked as a tourist development as there is an abandoned swimming pool overlooking the valley and a few unconnected roads abandoned before construction started.

We take the road back. The map marks a couple of points just off the road, but we just head back. The road is quiet with no traffic. Towards the top we reach the connection to the GR92 once more and follow the path towards the telecom masts at the top of the hill expecting to find the castle of Montagut, but we miss it again.

Back at the car we then take the hairpinned road down to the coast to get back via Sant Feliu de Guixols half giddy from the curves. In general, the walk was OK without being spectacular and lacked a little in terms of points of interest for the driving involved.

Walking route Sant Grau and Cadiretes between Tossa de Mar and Sant Feilu de Guixols

Fontclara and Fontanilles and Pals rice paddies
20 Jan 2015

Fontclara Church The area between Pals and Torroella de Montgri is a flat area full of fields for growing rice as it was once the site of an ancient lake or sea marsh fed by the waters of the river Ter. The neighbouring villages of Fontclara and Fontanilles fringe these paddy-fields until they turn into  fruit-growing areas close to Fontanilles. As you pass through this area over the course of a year, you'll see the paddy fields flooded, planted, rice growing and then being harvested.

Fontclara view to Pals Flatness generally for me, doesn't make a good walk as it lacks variation, but this is an area we hadn't explored and there is an old rice mill (Moli d'Arros in the middle of the paddy fields). What was more of a surprise was the number of birds we saw. Being January with water still in the fields, they are like a wetlands for birds and we were lucky enough to see a stork, lots of herons, plovers and a number of birds of prey. The downside that we discovered was that the route from the mill to Fontanilles was exclusively on the road. We may have missed a turn, but other tracks into the fruit espaliers were marked as private.

Fontclara walk view to Can Boch We start in Fontclara, a small but well-to-do hamlet close to Palau-sator and from here we take the path across the fields in the direction of Pals - actually part of the GR92. The path is raised from the level of the fields and each field is bounded by a low mud bankl. When the time comes, farmers flood the fields using the many pumps that can be seen around the field edges. At this time of year (January), the ground is muddy and natural rain water sits in the bottom of the fields. The presence of water and, we suspect, frogs and snails in the water means we can see a heron in just about every field that we pass. On the drive in we were even lucky enough to see a stork. And between the heron fields there are plovers and smaller birds sometimes being monitored by a larger bird of prey.

Fontclara Pals Moli dArros view to Montgri The walk is naturally flat, though being lower than the surrounding countryside we have views up to Pals, standing almost as an island over the fields, and to Quermany and Begur with a sweeping vista towards the hills and then more distant Pyrenees mountains in the background.

The first place of interest is Can Bach, just across the road that connects to Peratallada. This is an enormous square masia, part of which has been converted into a restaurant. The main part of the building still needs renavation work, but the restaurant is open and busy by the number of cars. One concern that visitors have coming to the Costa Brava out of season, is that places will be closed up. While this is true closer to the coast, inland there is a great vitality all year round with many places open and catering to local and more widespread Catalan visitors.

Fontanilles Many of the year round restaurants are therefore off the coast - often in older masia buildings a little way from a village. There a large number in the area of Pals, Palau-sator and Peratallada area with a particular focus on Catalan cooking.

Fontclara stormy sky at sunset From Can Bach we continue towards Pals up to a signpost where we turn left (marked towards Les Basses d'en Coll - a small wetlands area by the beach). To our right we have Pals standing above us like a castle and the villas of Masos de Pals gleaming in the afternoon sun. The path runs just along the main road, and then crosses to get to the Moli d'Arros. The Moli is closed, but is where Arros de Pals is collected and packaged from the rice fields around. As a rice growing area, Pals is relatively small and select, particularly compared to the Delta d'Ebre, the other source of Catalan rice - but is available in local shops and supermarkets.

Montgri hills reflected on the rice fields From the Moli, we continue on the east side of the Torroella road looking out to the small airfield, before crossing the road again and heading towards Fontanilles. Our route back to Fontclara is all road passing next to the espalier orchards that bear the other produce of this area - apples and fruit. The road is relatively newly built and quiet wide, but actually very quite in terms of traffic. As we're walking we can watch a storm crossing over Montgri bringing rain and lightning to L'Estartit in the distance and thunder echoing over the plain. We're still in the last sun of the day which lights the fruit-trees against the dark black of the distant storm.

Walking route Fontclara to Fontanilles

Cruilles and masias and streams
12 Jan 2015

Cruilles view to village Cruilles is an ancient village just to the west of La Bisbal d'Emporda both of which are important in Emporda's medieval history as locations of lords and bishops, and as such there is a timeless beauty to what the rural countryside in this area stretching across ancient meadows and into the slopes of the Gavarres Hills.

The route we're taking consists of two yellow-white senderisme paths which follow river valleys and which are connected with a route over the top of the hill that separates them. The route is broad and well maintained with markings are clear and easy to follow with signposting at crucial junctions, so it's actually easier to walk than describe. It is marked in yellow on the Emporda Costa Brava maps, but difficult to work out from Google maps.

Sant Marti de Cruilles Church We're walking in January which is currently very warm - 14-15C, but there is still water in the streams and the paths are lightly muddy rather than the dry summer sand and dust. We had to cross a lot of streams and fords which was fun, but many of the streams would probably be dried out in summer.

We park just outside the centre of Cruilles just off the road to La Bisbal d'Emporda. We've included a visit to Cruilles in a previous walk for a fuller description of the town and its famous tower, but this time we were more interested in heading out into the countryside.

Cruilles stream by the mill The initial part of the walk is on a quiet road and splits just in front of a masia farmhouse. We take the right fork and continue along the road and through the fields and meadows towards the next old farmhouses. These masias are large buildings with thick walls and small windows sitting under long sloping roof. Close to the sea the buildings have towers added on that would have been used to watch for pirates, but here tucked away towards the hills they are just large practical buildings built three or more centuries ago to work the surrounding land. Many have now been updated and renovated into luxury houses with large gardens and pools, but it is also still possible to find masias in a more original state.

The path we're taking is marked yellow-white and is clearly marked. At prominent junctions there are also signposts, so it's easy to follow the route as it crosses a couple of more junctions. Behind us we can see Cruilles and it's tower and church, and next door the older more isolated church of Sant Miquel de Cruilles. At this stage we're still in fields, but we can see woods ahead of us as we move towards the slopes of the Gavarres and see the domed tower of Puig d'Arques almost straight ahead.

Cruilles view with Montgri behind The path runs past another masia and converts into a gravel track then a little further on branches to the right and climbs a thinner walking path until we are above the top of an old mill and millstream giving views into the Gavarres valleys and back to Cruilles. Coming down the track we pass the outer wall of the mill - almost like a ha-ha (a wall with a ditch on one side) and what looks like a traditional charcoaling oven.

At the end of the wall we find the stream that feeds the mill - a glistening early stream that forms the River Daro as it passes past La Bisbal downstream. We don't have to cross this time and can just admire the location - but there is water in the stream in January and to get across we have to tiptoe over the rocks in the stream.

Cruilles view to Sant Sadurni This is now just the first time we'll see water. As we go on, the path runs into the woods continually cutting across the stream line. Mostly the track goes through the water of the brook, and in drier periods it is most probable that there would be no water to worry about. We have the fun of creating stepping stones with great splashes that delight our dog.

One of the oddities of a warm January afternoon in the woods is that in the sun we have proper warmth, but in the shadow and shadier parts there is a frisson of chill. Close to the stream at one point we even found frost on the ground and a mystical mist rising from the water into the still cold air.

After about 3-4 crossings, the path turns upwards and into the hills giving views of a more isolated masia hidden in the woods. The path runs up to the top of the hill and about half way up we pass what seems to a very large and very old oak.

The top of the hill gives further views and we can see to Sant Sadurni, the neighbouring village to Cruilles and more hidden masias in the valley.

Across the top of the hill, we look out for the crossing points as we want to change paths. The first crossing point is just by the fence to another grand masia and on a good drivable track. This road then takes us down the hill a little to the next crossing to the left, where the sign has fallen down, but would point back towards La Bisbal.

The return through the woods is a pleasant stroll along the bottom of the valley but lacks the fun of crossing the stream that we had in the other valley. Eventually the path emerges back into the fields and now pig farms before tracking to a large walkers bridge over the Daro. The bridge looks much too big for the amount of water, but we know that in heavy rains, many of the rivers quickly become swollen which is probably why the bridge needs to be so high and long.

We divert along the side of the river through the woods instead of going straight back to Cruilles - we can see a river crossing on the map. However, when we get there, there's another minor problem - the river is up and the crossing we can see is a ford. Luckily we find another few bricks in the shallower water and can cross without getting feet wet and have an easy walk back to the car.

 

Wlaking route Cruilles past masias across streams and into the Gavarres

Centre Cani de Pals dog kennels
06 Jan 2015

This Christmas we headed off to snowier climes to meet up with relatives, but this meant that we needed to leave Zina our dog here as we were flying. She's not a special pedigree or anything sophisticated - in fact we got her from the Rodamon dogs rescue centre just outside Palafrugell when we moved here (they're always looking for dog walkers). However, perhaps because she was in dogs home, she's quite timid around other dogs and our one other experience of leaving her at a dog kennel (Elena's near Regencos) in summer wasn't very positive. So it was with some trepidation that we booked her into the Centre Cani de Pals over the winter break.

However, this time the experience was much much happier. The Centre Cani de Pals is both a kennels and dog training centre with a strong sense of care and affection for the animals. The dogs were segregated into smaller areas with a handful of dogs of similar size in each pound so smaller sized dogs weren't dominated by too many bigger dogs and there were internal spaces and housing so the dogs could find their own spaces. We were allowed to leave Zina at the centre to acclimatise for an hour or so a few days prior to the trip, which settled our nerves and meant it wasn't so strange for Zina. It also meant we could see how well the staff treated the dogs and their care and attention. And while dogs are never keen on going to kennels, when we got back at the end of the trip Zina was being sociable with the other dogs in her area and looked very fit and healthy with no signs of problems or trauma. Definitely a dogs kennels to be recommended.
 

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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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