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Things to do around Potes

Scunthorpe, United...
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Things to do around Potes

We have three full days based near Potes, May 2013. There isn't much information in the guide books. I don't read Spanish and am finding the google translations of some of the websites imprenetrable.

We enjoy pottering and stopping off to explore small villages and go into the churches. Husband enjoys photographing the architecture. We'd also like to do some easier walking.

We are planning on a full day round Potes and Fuente Dé including Santo Toribio de Liébana and a trip on the cable car.

Another day we are planning to drive north, stopping to look at the church of Santa Maria in Lebeña, then through the Hermida gorge and then west for the funicular up to Bulnes, possibly driving as far as Treviso at the end of the road.What is this road like? If time allows we'll also visit Covadonga and Lagos Enol and Ercina.

The last day I was thinking of heading south east and exploring the villages off the CA184. This will include Aniezo (mills), Piasca (church of Santa Maria la Real), Ermita de Santa Teressa in San Felices de Castilleria (murals). If time allows we'd like to get as far as Cevera de Pisuerga before heading back to Potes.

I'd discounted going up to Cain for the Cares Gorge walk, because of the road. It looks very narrow and I don't think husband would be very happy driving it....

Is there any other 'must see' places during the three days that I've not found and which we ought to add to the list?

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1. Re: Things to do around Potes

Snap-we'll be there in May (11th-15th) at our favourite Hotel del Oso, in Cosgaya, mid way between Potes and the cable at Fuente De.

Get hold of the invaluable pocket guide ' Landscapes of the Picos de Europa' by Teresa Farino, published by Sunflower books and easily available in the UK - http://www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/picos.htm. Routes for walkers and car trippers from someone who knows the area intimately and still acts as a local guide

If you like a bit of easy walking the cable is a great idea; try to avoid a weekend when it gets queued up with school parties and coach trippers, but hang on even if there is a q as its worth it. Once at the top, hope for clear weather (although even if it's misty at the foot of the cable give it a go as it can climb through the clouds til you're above them as was the case on my last visit). Do walk on, on flat easy, well-signposted tracks for an hour or so at least and you'll escape many of the tourist trippers and have a taste of high-level walking without the effort of a 3000ft ascent on foot!

We tend to stay local, so aren't the best people to comment on your wider itinerary (hopefully Raton will do so?), but my one concern is that it seems to involve a lot of driving through mountains; which is OK if you're happy with this. The road north through the Hermida gorge is lovely, albeit very bendy and narrow in places, but lorries and coaches manage it fine; can be disconcerting if you meet them on bends. But distances are deceptive as you have to circle the mountains; both Covadonga and Cain are two hours or more from Potes so I assume you'r cool with 5+ hours in the car for day trips (see the estimates of drive-times on www.viamichelin.com and add a bit!). Best wishes for a great trip- May's a good time to go in our experience

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2. Re: Things to do around Potes

Thanks for the reply. I've got a copy of the ' Landscapes of the Picos de Europa' which is already looking well thumbed. I'm also using Michelin 1:250,000 map of Asturias and Cantabria for planning.

We are wanting to do some walking from the top of the cable car. I have osteoarthritis in my knees so that does limit what I can do.

I'm finding it difficult to get a handle on driving times, especially on the white roads. I had a feeling that Covadonga might be too far. Our days do tend to be long as we are always out early and lunch is bread and a banana eaten somewhere with a view.

Is there likely to be a lot of snow still left by May and will that affect driving?

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3. Re: Things to do around Potes

In our experience of about 5-6 trips, there is no chance of snow on any roads in May; there will be pretty patches of melting snow on the tops and in the gullies over about 2000 metres, but that's much higher than the roads and valleys; where weather will hopefully be positively spring-like; shirtsleeves weather. (Potes is about 300m high and even Fuente De- at the bottom of the cable , is only about 1000m).

My Doc says I need a new knee too, but the walking from the top of the cable is relatively flat and easy on dry, stony jeep-tracks, even for me. So you can go as far as you wish- but try to make it the 1km to the col where the track splits. Here you can look left up to the rocky peaks, or right, through to the 'Puertos de Aliva'; a high valley (which cuts right though to Sotres) where some cattle will already have been taken up for summer grazing.

And I may have exaggerated the difficulty of driving. The roads are slow only by comparison with the wonderfully fast (toll-free) and wide Cantabrian coastal motorway from Santander, but have been much improved in recent years and are really good; mostly sweeping through gentle valleys and meadows rather than hairpins around steep mountain sides. It's several years since we drove round to Cain and Covadonga, but even then, Coaches full of trippers were coping with the roads perfectly. The roads over the moors north of you the other side of the Humber are probably more challenging!

So even the 'white road' up from Covadonga is perfectly viable as a day trip in your case. And the lake at its head is ideally scenic for that bread and banana lunch (although the day we vvisited the wind was so fierce you could barely stand. As Potes is on the east of the mountains it seems to be more sheltered).

But for little more than to cost of a picnic, try lunch en route- maybe 'Nevandi' , on the right in Espinama as you drive up,halfway form Potes to the cable. Or the restaurant in the centre of the village of La Hermida, also on the right, as you drive down the gorge. Most fellow diners will be locals or Spanish visitors.

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4. Re: Things to do around Potes

Thank you for the extra information and encouragement. It's the prospect of meeting a coach on a narrow road or a speeding local (especially if there is restricted visibility) which concerns husband! Slow roads don't bother us and we prefer them to the motorways, unless we are moving from point ot point.

I'm looking forward to walking from the top of the cable car as I really miss high level walking now. It sounds as if there won't be many problems.

I'll also make a note about the two suggestions for eating when the bread and banana doesn't appeal.

Patches of snow left on the tops will make for good photos as long as the weather is kind to us. I'm also looking forward to the wild flowers.

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5. Re: Things to do around Potes

In May you may find snow up in the mountains, we've walked in ankle deep snow in June before now, but this year, so far, we haven't had much to speak of, so I wouldn't worry about it. There certainly won't be any on the roads in May.

I apologise in advance, this reponse is going to be unorganised and possibly repeat some of the above!

So if you like wild flowers, and you've got some spare time I'd also head over to the upper part of the Saja valley, which you can do by going over via Carmona (a pretty village in itself). Lots of flowers here, beautiful valley for walking in, especially at that time of year, beautiful beech woods, stunningly preserved and traditional village of Barcena Mayor (worth a detour), with some good walking marked around there. Tip! If you drive straight through the village of Barcena Mayor (it looks like you can't from the sign, but it actually only says no parking, not no entry), and out the other side up the track, there's a wonderful picnic area at the end with some great river swimming, BBQ's etc. There's a visitors centre around there too on the main road just past Saja village. Some really good restaurants serving typical meats (wild boar, venison, etc) in that area, you can't really go wrong (the two either side of the bridge in Barcena are both good, as is the one on the big curve on the main road).

As for Potes... Well the best walk to do if you're not looking to go very "up" is the newly signposted one that involves leaving your car in Fuente De, going up the cable car, over to Aliva, and then back round and down. CAREFUL! The old books still only have to old route in them, it is now possible to do this walk as a circular, i.e. not having to go to Espinama and walk up the road, but cutting through the fields and woods (marked) back to Fuente De, which really makes is a fantastic walk. It's long though, 6 hours or so. But as some above said, try and make it at least up to the col, it's a beautiful view.

I'm not sure whether it's worth you driving all the way to Tresviso, it is a LONG way and the road from Sotres onwards is prone to landslides etc (though perfectly driveable). If your husband is a little nervous, I wouldn't worry about it. What you could do if you want to get an idea of the village is just start the marked Tresviso walk from Urdon in the Hermida Gorge. The entire walk is very steep, but the first bit just goes along the river and from there you can see the walk, which in itself is quite impressive, it wouldn't take you long.

Worth going round to Bulnes, if you don't want to walk steeply up or down, take the funicular (it's not cheap), as the path, though only and hour, is steep both ways. You could also start the Cares gorge walk there don't forget, at Poncebos, which is a little steep at the start, but flattens out quickly. Be aware of parking at Poncebos (it's the same parking for the Cares gorge and the funicular, if its a sunny weekend or holiday, you might have to park at a distance).

The lakes are quite a lot further on than this though, from Potes you're talking over 2 hours if you're driving slowly, I'd stick to Bulnes, especially if the weather's bad, the lakes, as said by someone else, will be freezing and probably in fog/cloud.

Another nice walk around Potes is a marked walk from Brez, it's circular and relatively flat, and goes right below some of the peaks there.

Look in the reading article on the Cantabria trip advisor articles, there's info there about which books to get and maps for going to the Picos.

Also the villages of Dobres and Cucayo are famous for being very picturesque, and worth a drive up to, especially for photos. Mogrovejo is also pretty with its tower.

Cervera de P is not worth taking a detour to see, a decidedly not pretty town!! And the road there is worth it up to about the mountain pass at Piedrasluengas, but it's very windy.

You might be better going over Puerto San Glorio, Riaño, on the reservoir the other side is prettier, but I wouldn't make that top of my list either to be honest.

I would personally go up Saja the last day as a preference! It'll take you about an hour and a half to get to Barcena Mayor.

I realise you're doing a mountain holiday, but don't forget the coast too! It is well worth going down to a coastal town to get a view back towards the Picos and get a real idea of its grandeur! San Vicente de la Barquera is the best for this, 1hr and a bit from Potes, it has a nice, small, old town with amazing views back to the Picos on a clear day, both from up at its church, the castle and from the beaches themselves. You could do this one way or the other from Saja, if you do this make sure you do the following route (either way): Potes, Unquera, San Vicente, then to Comillas VIA the coast road, signposted to Oyambre, Cabezon de la Sal, Cabuerniga, Barcena Mayor (continuous driving about 2 hours max, but some STUNNING views. And Comillas also worth a stop off or drive around). Ooo and just before you get the the motoway between Comillas and Cabezon (literally just before the roundabout over the motorway) there's a small but unexpected and beautiful cedar/sequoia forest! Lovely short stroll! You could then go back via Carmona.

Ok, hope that's helpful, let me know if you want anymore advice!

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6. Re: Things to do around Potes

Thank you for your very detailed and helpful reply - lots of food for thought. Husband isn’t a nervous driver, and we have driven in some fairly hairy places. He dislikes long drives along narrow winding roads with nowhere to pass easily and poor visibility.

I’m using Michelin 1:250,000 map of Asturias and Cantabria for planning. What are the white roads like for driving? Do they have stone walls and are there passing places? Generally speaking, what is visibility like on the roads?

I had originally discounted Carmona and Saja valleys as being quite a way to drive, especially as there seems to be plenty to see and do nearer Potes. I’m beginning to wonder if I ought to reconsider this, especially when you mention the flowers… Trouble is, what to leave out in its place. I’m already beginning to think we’ll have to come back and spend longer in the area in 2014.

I take your point about Tresviso especially if the road is prone to landslides. I think the lakes are out too. This may free up time to visit San Vincent de la Barquere in the afternoon.

Thanks for the tip off about Cervera de P. I’ll scrub that and this will free up time to visit Dobres and Cucayo that afternoon, plus also Ledantes for the frescoes in the church. Do you know what hours it is likely to be open?

I like the sound of the circular walk from Brez. Is this the one you are referring to?

www.topwalks.net/en/picos_europa/brez.htm

I have osteoarthritis in my knees and steep climbs or descents cause problems. This sounds a definite possibility and from the pictures I shouldn’t have any problems. Likewise the start of the Urdon walk is a possible too.

We are there mid week in early May so hopefully there shouldn’t been too many problems with finding somewhere to park.

I’m still working my way through your articles on Cantabria which I’m finding useful.

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7. Re: Things to do around Potes

Great post by Raton! And returning to your supplementary Qs- the terrain around Lon and Brez is fine and not too challenging (from memory) as they are valley-side villages, but if by the Urdon walk you mean the so-called 'postman's path' to Tresviso from the road through the Hermida Gorge, starting a kilometer or two north of Hermida viallge, that soon becomes very steep, as it starts relatively low in the valley bottom.

And thanks for that reference to topwalks; we have friends in Andalusia who will find its Southern coverage useful; a pity the walks aren'y accompanied by detailed maps.

And as regrds "white roads":

I only have the 1: 400,000 maps to hand, so I'm not sure which are the white roads on the 1:250,000, but as a possible guide, and taking the road from Potes to Fuente De as an example...

this is a wide 2 -lane road with sweeping curves and long forward visibility where it's easy to maintain 80km plus. The minor dead-end roads off this, north to Brez, Lon, Pembes, etc are decent, well surfaced lanes, mostly wide enough for two cars to pass easily (not that you'll pass many).

Whereas, if it's shown on your map, the track north from Espinama over to Sotres is just that; a stony, steep jeep track. We tackled it in an old high-clearance citroen in the days before the Picos was declared a national park and barred unauthorised vehicles, but it would be impassable for a saloon car. So I guess that is to say the white roads are OK.

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8. Re: Things to do around Potes

Thanks for your post alexmac. It sounds as if Lon and Brez areas will be fine. I've checked out details of the walk from urdon to Tresviso and it does get very steep, but we may consider a short stroll along the river until the climb begins.

The track from Espinama to Sotres is shown as a dotted line on the 1:250,000 which suggests that white roads shown should be OK....

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9. Re: Things to do around Potes

Some good tips from Alex there too! So a little more from me, trying to answer a few of your questions:

Do they have stone walls and are there passing places?

Generally speaking, what is visibility like on the roads?

Well, they are not like Devon lanes if that's what you're thinking. Most roads have plenty of passing places, and most of the time the roads will fit two cars passing slowly with care at the worst points. Some exceptions to this are some of the overhanging bits of the Hermida gorge when you meet a large vehicle (buses especially), where you'll have to wait, and on the Saja road on some of the small bridges on corners, where one person has to wait (but visibility is fine).

Ledantes for the frescoes in the church. Do you know what hours it is likely to be open?

No idea, but it will almost certainly close for lunch. Many of these churches, especially outside of the peak periods are simply locked up. BUT someone in the village does have the key!! This may be indicated by a note on the door, or if you ask (or gesture) to someone in the village they should be able to tell you who has the key. This is a little inconvenient, but that's how it is, and don't be afraid to ask either, you'll probably be making some little old Spanish woman's day!

I like the sound of the circular walk from Brez. Is this the one you are referring to?

Yes, that was the one I was talking about.

Any more questions, ask away!

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10. Re: Things to do around Potes

Thank you, I think beteen you, that you have answered all my questions. husband will breathe a sigh of relief about the roads as it makes driving less stressful for him.

We will certainly ask about a key to the church. We've found before that locals are highly delighted when a foreigner wants to go round their church and love to come and give us a guided visit. It is amazing what can be achieved with a smile and pointing.