I hadn’t really heard much about Llanes, but my friends Aaron and Deanna (and their young son Harvey) were planning to stay there for a few days and suggested that I join them.
Llanes is a small town on Spain’s northern coast – to the west of Bilbao and Santander. We flew to Bilbao and then drove to Llanes. It wasn’t the smoothest of journeys, but we made it.
This part of the world is the Principality of Asturias. It traces its history back to the Kingdom of Asturias that was founded in 718 by the Visigoths. It was from Asturias that the Christian allies began the Reconquista of Spain from the Caliphate of the Moors who had held the Iberian peninsula for centuries.
The old town of Llanes still retains plenty of history - its medieval fortifications are still standing, and it’s clear that this port was a key part of Spain’s naval defences.
Bordering the Basque country, there seems to be a fair bit of cross-over in the cuisine.
We followed the lead of the locals and made lunch our main meal of the day. Most restaurants offer a Menu del Dia which gives you a massive two or three course meal with wine. Having feasted at lunchtime, in the evenings we were content with some bread, cheese, olives, and cured meats.
Fabada asturiana is the signature dish of the region. This is a rich bean stew flavoured with pork sausage and bacon.
Seafood is also a staple of most meals.
Cider – Sidra - made from apples is the local drink. It’s cloudy and earthy, and poured from a height to create some aeration in the glass. It’s a bit of an accustomed taste, but works well on a hot day.
If you’re tackling the Camino de Santiago pilgrims’ trail, then your route could bring you through this part of the world.
The Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrims’ trails leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. It’s believed that this is where his remains are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It’s also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts, and organised tour groups.
As we were driving backwards and forwards along the coastal roads, there were numerous hardy walkers following the trail.
The Principality of Asturias is bordered to the south by the Cantabrian Mountains. The combination of the Gulf Stream and the Cantabrian Mountains creates a micro-climate for this part of Spain - delivering high levels of rainfall throughout the year, earning it the name of España Verde or Green Spain.
During our brief stay in Llanes we had one day of beautiful clear sunny weather - which we spent on Playa Torombia working on our all-over tans. The rest of the time it was rainy and muggy. Not unpleasant, but rainy.
The beach at Llanes is quite a small, sandy cove. But it’s very family-friendly and ideal for having a swim and enjoying the sun.
If you’ve got a car, then you’re able to explore the myriad of other beaches along this stretch of coastline.
Our favourite was the spectacular Playa Torombia – a short drive to the west of Llanes. You park your car at the top of the cliff and then walk down to the beach. The walk looks longer than it is, it’s actually a surprisingly accessible beach. It delivers a stunning stretch of white sand, clear blue water with gentle waves, and the entire beach is clothing optional. Total bliss.