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Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons

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

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