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Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

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South West England
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Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Folks, my wife and I are wondering about taking the car via Brittany Ferries from Plymouth to Santander and then taking anywhere between a week and two weeks to wander back up to Roscoff for the return trip. It will probably be late Spring or late Summer.

What we need to know are B&B availability and likely costs in Spain and around the border. We're reasonably clued up once we get from La Rochelle northwards, but Spain is new territory for us. I see that there is an old post on the forum with a couple of suggestions of places to visit, and will take note of them. We're not big fans of cities and large town, preferring countryside, a bit of nature, and some nice beaches en route. We could reverse the trip of course!

Any help appreciated.

Thanks...

Malaga, Spain
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1. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Tim:

Here are my suggestions for places near Santander:

1. Santillana del Mar

2. Picos de Europa

3. Cangas de Onis

4. Covadonga

Cantabria
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2. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

We've done this several times, in reverse to you, going back home to Devon, driving up France from Cantabria. It's a pretty easy thing to do, and the French side of the drive especially is really pretty quick if you want it to be as the motorways are so good.

So, on arrival in Cantabria you've got loads of options as to where to go, and lots of countryside. You need to decide how far you're willing to stray from the direct route, i.e. how far west you're willing to go (some of Benny's suggestions above for example are fairly well into Asturias and over an hour's drive west of Santander). If you want to explore, I'd suggest first going a little west up towards Potes in the Picos de Europa mountains and staying in a Posada somewhere up there, either on the outskirts of Potes (mountain town central to the Picos) or in a village around, if you want countryside, head for a village that's on a dead end road up a valley, and you'll find the peace you're looking for. You could spend a couple of nights there, especially if you're at all outdoorsy, great walking and other outdoor activities, get in touch if you want any more info on walking. Another option to stay in this first few days would be on the coast, near San Vicente de la Barquera, great beaches and about an hour's drive to Potes too. If you're keen to get on further east, then this is probably the better option, you can day trip from San Vi to Potes, Comillas and Santillana and their surroundings. And if you like the countryside, I'd recommend going to Barcena Mayor up the Saja Valley (It's quite out of the way so I wouldn't recommend staying there), beautiful valley, especially if you continue on up it, and a very pretty traditional town with lots of good local restaurants to eat in and a great picnic area with river swimming (let me know if you want to find this).

Then you've got the option of going along the coast, loads of fabulous beaches, you MUST do the coast road from San Vicente to Comillas via Oyambre beaches, Valdearenas in Liencres is a stunning beach with big dunes and pine forests too (although you'll get loads of that in France), lots of lovely beaches on the east coast of Cantabria too, again, if you like walking there's some great marked walks in total countryside next to the sea on Monte Buciero near Santoña. There is a beautiful inland mountain route you could take along here too, taking you to the Asón valley and waterfalls and through the pretty town of Lierganes, let me know if you want info on this, you could easily spend a night in the country in one of the many Posadas up there (Posadas by the way are the type of B&B accommodation you're looking for).

And then you're in the Basque Country and you're in their forum!

As for the France bit, I'd highly recommend the Dune du Pyla, near Arcachon, worth the detour, but careful of early morning parking charges (we went at sunrise and got fined for staying overnight, see my review on there). The French coast along there is a lot of long long beaches, stunning, busy and tourist trappy on season, but empty and long and beautiful off season. Don't miss St Jean de Luz and Biarritz, unless you're there in peak season in which case avoid Biarritz at all costs, especially in a car.

We've spent a lot of time in the countryside to the east of the motorway in the French Basque Country especially, a beautiful area, otherwise on the drive up between the border and Bordeaux, we normally bomb it up this part of the motorway as it's such good, flat, straight (expensive) motorway. The other big tip would be avoid Bordeaux at rush hour and have your wits about you! If you find anywhere pretty up there, I'd be really interested to know too, we, like you, enjoy meandering drives too!

You could also consider doing your trip in reverse, and then having a chunk at the end to explore western Cantabria, staying at San Vicente or a lovely Posada somewhere in that area, giving you a bit of a relax at the end, staying in 1 place for 2 or 3 nights and exploring the area like that. You'd the be able to decide then how far west and south you felt like exploring. I think that's what I'd do personally. You'll also then get home all relaxed after your ferry too.

Check out my blog for more info an ideas: www.ratoncantabria.wordpress.com

South West England
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3. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Really helpful and encouraging replies - thank you both so much! I'll also check out www.ratoncantabria.wordpress.com

If we could we'd go next week to get away from a very wet UK Winter!

Best wishes...Tim H.

London, England
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4. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Having done a similar but longer trip last year (Caen out, Santander back), and having already booked the same again for May after many years of visiting northern Spain by Brittant Ferries, I feel that the France out- Spain back option would be more relaxing. Not sure quite why, other than that I'd prefer a short crossing out/long relaxing overnight sea trip back; with good food on board and a cabin (the £100 upgrade to an outside cabin with window is also worthwhile to my mind).

If you do the distance early in the hol, than you can take it easy mileage-wise in Cantabria in the second half of the trip; poodling on good, empty roads around beaches or mountains - which also seems more relaxing; but it's your call.

I don't think you would have any problem finding accommodation in spring or autumn, but remember that if you do book at least three nights in BF hotels or their other accom, you'll get a significant discount on the ferry fare; they treat it like a package hol. And their hotel rates are as good, if not better, than you'll get for walk-up bookings.

Altho you have to phone in multi-site reservations, you'll see what I mean if you do a sample costing via the "ferry & holiday" button on the BF website, and after selecting 'Spain...hotels... Cantabria' to narrow it down a bit, choose a cheaper hotel at random, then choose a France out spain return crossing and I bet the cost will pleasantly surprise you. We went for the added early booking discount and booked 10 or 11 nights in decent hotels plus the crossings described - with cabin upgrades - for well under a grand last year, building in short itineraries and spare nights so there was no pressure on driving...

Have a great time

Edited: 02 February 2014, 20:09
Cantabria
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5. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Some great advice there Alex! The Brittany Ferries packages are certainly very good value, definitely worth checking out.

Cantabria
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6. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

Just to add to this, we've just come back from a (very wet) weekend in the Basque Country exploring the fishing villages between San Sebastian and Bilbao, and I'd definitely recommend driving along the coast road along there too, stunning (a little vertiginous in places!). We did all this in the other direction, but the coast road between Zarautz & Zumaia, visiting Getaria (the Balenciaga museum is well worth it if a little expensive and we were gutted we couldn't stay for lunch in one of the places on the street leading down to the splendid church), then the stretch between Deba and Lekeitio (we stayed in Mutriku, a fishing town which we thoroughly enjoyed exploring at night, although there were limited eating options...and we got soaked!!). And then cutting from Lekeitio along the very windy BI2238, climbing over to Gernika and Bilbao, which I suspect was stunning rolling green hills and forest, but it was raining so much at that point that we really couldn't see anything! I guess you could also continue along the coast from Lekeitio too, instead of cutting inland, but I'm yet to do that bit, maybe ask in the Basque Country forum.

So yes, I'd consider adding some of that to your itinerary! Can't wait to go back and explore in the sunshine!

7. Re: Meandering driving holiday from Santander to Roscoff

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