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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 originally added one or two a week but have slowed down now as we repeat walks, but we add updates if any important details have changed. The photos are straight from the original walk or activity. We like to make circular walks and our walks range in length from about 4km (an hour) to around 16km (four hours) - but probably about 2 1/2 hours on average - though if you want to reduce the length, there are usually shortcuts. The map on the right shows where the walks are and will be updated as we continue to add more. To our surprise, the blog was also mentioned in the Sunday Times' Essential Costa Brava (Feb 2017).

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 planning to update the details and pictures over time.
 

Most Viewed

Swimming at the main beach of Palamos
11 Jun 2014

Palamos main town beach looking south from the port June is upon us in the Costa Brava, so swimming season has started for the summer, though the water still has a chill and needs about another couple of weeks full on sun to really warm up. So we're back on our swimming series adding the beaches we didn't get to add last year.

Palamos is a former royal port and fishing town with a harbour large enough to take small cruise ships. The main beach at Palamos curls around from the fishing port with its market, Museu de Pesca and harbour where fishermen lay their nets out for maintenance. At the far end it joins with the beaches of Sant Antoni de Calonge and on to the rocky bays at Torre Valentina.

Palamos beach Costa Brava looking north towards the town The beach itself is very much a town beach with restaurants at the back and a long beach-side boulevard for taking a paseo in the summers evenings. Boules/Pentanca can be found being played at the back and the paseo has a children's play area and old now rusting canons looking out to sea. This is then a beach of activities - whether kite surfing in the windier autumn months, or taking boats or canoes out. On the sand itself are permanent volleyball courts and a sand football pitch.

The main part of the beach looks straight at the harbout and boats opposite so it's not quite a pristine open view to the horizon, but the older part of Palamos is attractive and there is a constant buzz of activity around the port

However, despite being long and broad, the beach itself lacks a little of the charm of the smaller bays and coves, feeling slightly artificial with the protective groynes. The sand is a little rough underfoot and a bit stoney. Swimming, because of the port/marina directly opposite is not particularly special though you can see fish even though it's a sandy bottomed bay. However, as the beach is easily accessible, it is a beach where you do see long distance swimmers in training swimming parallel to the shoreline to and from Sant Antoni.

Facilities at the beach

Being a town beach, all the facilities of the town are nearby. At the port end of the beach is a small funfair for children and several restaurants that look over the beach. The main town of Palamos with mainstream and souvenir shops is at the port end of the beach to the north. Across the beach are permanent volleyball nets, some football goals and a sailing centre and there are several chiringuitos (beach bars) directly on the beach. There are also regular lifeguards and lifeguard points along the beach. Behind the beach is a walk for paseo and areas for boule/petanque.

Sand quality

The sand is rough with occasional small stones and there are hard patches of compressed sand on some of the volleyball courts. At the sea's edge the sand feels finer but is not the fine sand of La Fosca or Castell further to the north.

Swimming

There is no steep drop at the town end of the beach, but neither is it a very gradual change in depth - so a bit half and half. The swimming is relatively plain - there are fish in the water, but no rocks and the bay is sandy, but being a long open stretch of water it is popular with people practising long-distance swimming. The presence of the boat and marina opposite mean that the lifeguards do whistle to warn people if they look as if they are leaving the marked swimming area.

Parking

A large open pay-for municipal car park on the sand takes the space immediately behind the beach at the town end with access via ticket and a pay-on-exit system. There is additional parking along the road that passes at the back of the beach - again paid for via ticket machines during peak summer months (free otherwise).

Walks and exploring

This is primarily a town area. The paseo walk along the promenade to Sant Antoni de Calonge is very popular. At the port is Palamos's famous Museu de Pesca (Fishing Museum) and there are the attractions of the older town of Palamos.

Next beaches

South to Sant Antoni de Calonge - North to La Fosca, Palamos

Palafrugell Festa de Primavera
11 Jun 2014

Palafrugell Primavera Festival in Palafrugell - 40 Thieves Palafrugell, unlike other towns on the Costa Brava, doesn't celebrate Carnival (Carnestoltes in Catalan) - the great Catholic festivities just before Lent when people dress up and parade through the streets. Instead, Palafrugell saves up for the Festa de Primavera, this year because of a late Whitsun at the start of June, but normally in May.

Palafrugell Primavera Festa - Brazil style The highlight of the festival is a grand carnival procession with floats, dancers and music that wends its way through the main streets of the town full of colour and creativity taking 2-3 hours for a journey that would take 10 minutes to walk. Each float is richly decorated and has large sound systems that blast out the music for the dance routines for the troupe that follows, pausing for a few minutes to perform where the crowds are most dense more moving on to the final performance for the judges.

Palafrugell Primavera Festival - superheroes Since our eldest daughter likes to take part, we know it takes hours and hours of practice on dance routines and costumes with groups trying to win prizes for the best 'show' that are handed out at the big after-party festival that takes place in the evening. The festivities are big enough that they are shown live on the local Costa Brava TV station.

In practice, with all the effort required, many of the more serious Collas - the groups who make and decorate the floats and who dress up and arrange the dance routines - actually take part in several of the festivals that can be found up and down the coast. This year Palafrugell had groups from Sant Feliu and as far away as the Garrotxa out towards Olot. Most start with the Carnival at the beginning of Lent in Palamos or Platja d'Aro - but the weather can be showery and the evening a little cool in the days before the clocks change - so more places now have a Festa de Primavera in the May or June sunshine when there are more visitors about.
Palafrugell Primavera Festa - birds costumes

Palafrufell Primavera Festa - dung beetle bugs

Madremanya and Millars
11 Jun 2014

Millars Castle outside Madremanya When driving to Madremanya from Monells we've noticed the grand castle at Millars but not stopped. So as the temperatures are rising and Summer's here, we made a short walk from the village of Madremanya - with its honeyed stone with small streets and lanes with gates and archways - out and around and through the castle hamlet of Millars. We were also surprised to find a number of English residents outside their houses on the walk.

We start in Madremanya but didn't go and visit the inner parts of the village this time around (see Madremanya to Els Angels walk for more pictures) as we were looking for a shortish walk. Instead we started around the eastern fringes of Madremanya, north into the countryside. Surprisingly we found ourselves walking on a well-kept tarmac road - surprising because the road doesn't particular connect to anywhere north of Madremanya and our experience of country type walks is that they quickly become gravel tracks.

The road continues through the fields, now golden with wheat and barley but still dotted with poppies in the summer sun, before turning to the right up and over a hill to Madremanya. We're still surprised to be on tarmac, since this piece of road definitely only goes to the hamlet and castle at Millars (may be the castle owner was mayor once...?). From the top of the hill we have the first views to the castle complex and the nest of supporting houses just outside. In the distance the countryside rolls away towards La Bisbal and the Gavarres hills.

Madremanya street towards Millars Finally, the well appointed road turns to a track and down towards the castle hamlet. Across the fields are a number of large well-restored masia farmhouses. The track returns to tarmac and we walk along the main 'street' - a line of old stone houses that must have been the quarters for the individuals supporting the castle. We also have English voices as people are chatting outside enjoying the sun and the flashes of colour from the gardens on the opposite side of the road to the houses.

From close up, we can't see too much of the castle, but we pass the main gate. If the post boxes are anything to go by it seems the castle is now divided into several private houses so there is no opportunity to see more than peering through the gate posts. It's a little bit of a pity because the view of the castle from the main road is so impressive.

We have a choice now of either continuing on the road and then more road, or following one of the marked 'health' paths - small yellow signs that mark a local route for walking for fitness - around the fields. We take the track to get off the tarmac, but though it's fine to walk, we don't quite get the picture perfect photo of the castle. So when we reach the main road, I double back to find the photo.

From our position, we can see that we are above a small valley with a stream below us, but the map doesn't indicate any paths (this doesn't mean there aren't any) and the direct route across the road just seems to lead to a farmyard. So we then have a little bit of a walk along the main road before doubling back down towards where the valley is.

We pass a farmhouse nestling into the valley, and then cut up the other side of the valley on a path that's clearly marked on the map. As we come over the side of the valley we can see we're entering an area of a masia with some well appointed stables from the back. We'd not seen any signs so we kept going. The stables are actually an equestrian centre (there's lots and lots of horse-riding on the Costa Brava) and as we pass the main house we meet the owner, who turns out to be English too. I think she's a little surprised to see us as she directs us along the road to the gate. The whole area seems to be a very pleasant riding and horse centre with holiday accommodation for guests, but I think private for walking - it just happened we came through the back (this happens from time to time) - as indicated by the definitely closed gate we have to pass through.

However, from here it's just a brief walk back to Madremanya. With more time, we'd have taken a drink in the village which is delightful, but not this time.

Neighbouring walks: Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - Corça, Casavells, Matajudaica - Monells spring walk in the woods

Walking route Madremanya to Castle at Millars .

Cal Negre - traditional paella in Roses
26 May 2014

Paella is the quinessential dish of Spain, a mix of rice, meat and seafood served straight from the paellera pan. Tourist restaurants will offer branded paellas with pictures of the dish, but for the Spanish, this is a dish treated with almost reverance, normally eaten at lunchtimes (too heavy for later), and most commonly on Thursdays. The quality of the sea-food, the rice cooked to an al dente perfection and the rich deep flavour of the caldo cooked in a traditional home-made fashion.

We were lucky enough to be invited up to Roses by some friends of ours whose family have had a house in Roses since the time before holidays by the sea were popular and they took us to Cal Negre, a restaurant the family has visited for many years.

This isn't the right place to rave about restaurants, but it is interesting the way in which the seafront restaurants are rarely the ones chosen by locals. In among the backstreets, restaurants have to offer something different or better as they can't trade on their location so much. And they so they will need to make their mark on their reputation, serving good food to people who are year round residents, rather than chasing a fast buck in the short three months of summer.

Cal Negre is one of those small back street family-run restaurants that locals know and which we would never have known about without our friends introduction. As paella takes a while to cook, though the table was booked, our friends telephoned beforehand, so they could prepare a paella for ten.

We do not eat paella very often (despite having been here for some time), so we claim no great expertise, but this was a proper paella served in a single large pan for ten prepared specifically for us, not pre-cooked or pre-prepared, with crab-legs that you have to suck the meat from, langoustines and crayfish and chicken pieces and freshly cooked gambas.

Like many other authentic restaurants it's tucked away. Something we've found, is that for a restaurant slightly off the main strip to survive, they must be doing something right with their food.

Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons
19 May 2014

Bellcaire dEmporda Castle of the Counts of Empuries Situated just outside L'Escala are a number of smaller villages - Bellcaire d'Emporda on the road to Torroella de Montgri, Albons towards the C31 link road and Tor - a small hamlet to complete the loop. The landscape between the villages is a flat plain, the remnants of an ancient lake or sea-marshes, that is now cultivated with wheat and espalliered orchards for growing fruit. To the sides are the dominating hills of Montgri and the lower ranges of the Muntanya de Sant Grau. Because of the ditches that drain the fields, there aren't too many footpaths and so we're walking on road more than we would like, however, this does mean that this would be perfect for some easy cycling.

Bellcaire dEmporda tower on the castle walls Our starting point is in Bellcaire d'Emporda. The village is situated just below the Massif of Montgri and was the home town of Barcelona's former coach Tito Vilanova. The village is just off the main road from Torroella de Montgri to L'Escala and it is a village we have frequently bypassed without actually visiting.

This time instead of continuing towards L'Escala we drive following the signpost for Albons and find the municipal car park to the left, just by a small stream. Taking the time to walk through the village our initial impression is of an older town with terraces of 18th century houses. However, it's not until we climb the low hill to the castle that we really appreciate the historic importance of Bellcaire. At the top of the hill is a very impressive castle surrounded by towers and a wall, and around this a dry moat. The castle was the former residence of the Counts of Empuries in the 13th and 14th centuries (the time of the Plantagenet's Edward I and Edward II in England), when the area of the north Catalonia was often in dispute with the Count of Barcelona/King of Aragon. The result being that the castle of Montgri was built by the Jaume II to watch over the Empordan territories, together with the neighbouring castle at Albons.

Bellcaire dEmporda street to Montgri Coming off the castle hill, we pass a small old and slightly battered looking romanic church of Sant Joan, then continue out towards the north of the village. Ahead of us we can see the village of Albons, but rather than go directly, we take a turn to the left past the fields in the direction of Tor.

The area between Bellcaire, Tor and Albons is all very flat with fields and lines of fruit trees separated divided with ditches and water ways. We're on the road and, if truth be told, walking on the flat on a tarmacked road isn't our ideal walk. The old lake of the Estany de Bellcaire which was use for growing rice before being drained in the 19th Century neighbours this area, and it's not entirely clear if the fields we're walking through were also connected with the lake some time in the past.

Albons Costa Brava castle and church Our route continues to Tor, a small nucleus of houses around a small old chapel just off the new main C31 road. We now walk on the old road towards Albons (signposts for the bike path tell us we're heading to Verges when we know we're actually going north). To the left of us are the low hills of Sant Grau and the walk runs in parallel to the main road making it somewhat dull and unremarkable. We cut through on of the drainage underpasses for the main road to reach gravel track and continue into the outskirts of Albons and then into the centre along a newly built path by the side of the road.

View trom Albons towards Bellcaire dEmporda and Montgri When we were looking to move to the Costa Brava, Albons was a village we looked at because it met our criteria of having a local school and a good community feel to it with houses close to the older centre and it still retains a lived-in charm. The road forks and we head up the hill towards the Ajuntament. Like many villages, the older part is on the hill and with the plains there are views towards L'Escala and back to Bellcaire. The centre itself has the old castle of Albons next door to the church on a large placa and surrounded by a network of smaller streets, not as pretty as some of the villages closer to La Bisbal, but still interesting.

To avoid taking the main road back to Bellcaire, we leave Albons close to the community social centre and into the fields in the direction of the deixallaria (village tip) past a number of small gardens and allotments. At the first right we turn down across the fields towards some isolated farms. From the farms, there is no easy way back purely across the fields because of the ditches, so we have to take the road for a brief time, then skirt around the bottom of Bellcaire and back to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - Torroella de Montgri castle - Torroella de Montgri and Ulla - Sobrestany, Montgri and Bellcaire d'Emporda - L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo - Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya

Walking route Bellcaire dEmporda to Albons via Tor

Monells spring walk in the woods
19 May 2014

Monells terraced street with climbing roses Monells is a delightful village of stone built houses with a hidden centre full of vaulted arcades that almost feels like a film set for the three musketeers. We're in spring and the fields and hedgerows are bursting with flowers, cuckoos are in full voice, and the strange whooop whooopp that sounds like a car alarm are actually small Scope's owls calling to each other during the day time. In Girona, the Temps de Flors flower festival has just finished and temperatures are climbing into the 20s with just the last odd day of rain before summer.

This walk is just a simple walk through the fields and woods. It was unplanned in that we didn't have a map, but just wanted a walk in the countryside.

View to Monells from the walk with Gavarres behind We start by coming into Monells from the Sant Sadurni road and park just above the village in a marked car park. We could go into the centre, but the aim is to do that later, so instead we skirt the outskirts of the village, across the low crossing over the river and then along the river by the row of houses on the far side. Almost immediately we get the scent of roses drifting towards us, their deep perfume coming from the flowers climbing the walls of the houses. Unlike England where roses are a summer flower, here in Catalonia they are at their best at the height of Spring.

We take a cutting between the houses and up and across the main road to Madremanya. If you're driving from Corca don't assume that what you see of Monells from this road is the village. As with many empordan villages, the old heart is tucked away from the much more recent modern roads.

Monells street with dog Ahead of us is a lane into towards fields and woods and gentle rolling countryside and arrows to the IRTA campus - a farming college. We follow the road past IRTA along a track that is lined with rangey two-metre (6ft) high thistles with purple heads. In amongst the thistles are red poppies and yellow wild flowers. The road is just below the fields to the left with wheat in the transition from green to gold.

Our route is very simple - a few fields nearby and some woods on the far side of the closest field, with no particular features, just a good country walk. Behind us we can see Monells and the Gavarres behind the village, a picture of a country idyll.

We walk into the woods a little way and turn to the right past a ruined farm enjoying the warmth of the May sun. At the next junction we turn right and start to head back. We pass a large well just outside an older farmhouse. There is honeysuckle in amongst the trees and a natural variety of snapdragon.

We get to the road and turn towards Monells. The pomegranate trees are in full bloom with bright orange flowers in amongst the dark green foliage. Turning to the left we return to Monells village itself just by the Arcs de Monells Hotel.

Monells arches Monells itself is a village famous for its vaulted arcades - it's almost impossible not to be charmed by the number of arches and walk ways into the centre. Right in the middle of the village are an number of restaurants and while we were there, two or three children playing football in the main central placa. We turn and head out up the long terrace street that is almost like a Hovis advert and return to the car.

Neighbouring walks: Madremanya and Millars - Monells and Mont-negre -  Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Corça, Casavells, Matajudaica

Walking route for Monells in to the woods

Via Ferrata at the Gorges de Salenys
05 May 2014

Gorge de Salenys main gorges less than 1m wide Via Ferrata or 'iron routes' are combination walking and climbing routes that run across rock faces and up and down steep slopes using iron pins, ladders, rope bridges and safety wires for carabinas. The Costa Brava has three Via Ferratas, with the easiest at the spectacular Gorges de Salenys in the hills close to Romanya de la Selva and Bell.lloc just outside Santa Cristina d'Aro. However, knowing it exists is one thing and finding it another. Although we knew where it was on the map, we didn't entirely know what the best route was to get there or what it would be like when we arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking route for Bell-lloc to Gorges de Salenys

Tossa de Mar north to Cala Pola
24 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulpellac to Castell d'Emporda
21 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking route Vulpellac to Castell dEmpuries

Esponella and River Fluvia
16 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking route Esponella and the River Fluvia

Torroella de Montgri and Ulla
16 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking route Torroella de Montgri to Ulla

Brunyola
09 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking route for Brunyola

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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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