Travels in Asturias: Mountains, Castros, and Snow, oh my!

Jesse and I decided to take our last road trip in Asturias to some of the ancient Celtic sites in southern and western Asturias so we planned to hit a couple spots and spend the night in a rural casa while exploring. We had marked a half-dozen Celtic sites that we could find. The land of north Spain was settled first by Celts traveling by boat from the Celtic isles in present day Ireland and Scotland; two things usually associated with Celtic tradition are the bagpipes and cider; both are also found in Asturias; cider (or sidra) is a bit more sour than Irish cider, while the bagpipes are the same.

The Celts predated the Romans (I wrote about the Romans in Asturias here) so many of the original Celtic sites, which were formed before the birth of Christ, are run down, or barely more than markers surrounded by grassy overgrowth and found on farmers’ lands, or, as we discovered, not found at all. These pre-Roman settlements are called Castros, which comes from the Latin word for “Hill fort.”

El Castro de Coaña

Our drive took us through the Somiedo National Park where we saw some waterfalls, the town of Castro, and snow capped mountains off in the distance.

We had not seen actual snow, up close, for more than three years, and did not expect to on this trip either, but the route we took routed us through the Castille y Leon, which is the autonomous community south of Asturias (and which we visited early in our travels, to the city of León and Astorga). There are not highways (autovias) that travel through these mountains, rather they are narrow, two-way roads that go up around a mountain, then down, then up the next mountain, and so on. As we traveled up one mountain, we saw snow piled on the side of the road, though the roads were clear, as the sun was shining brightly overhead. Still, snow!

We were not expecting all this snow, and we saw no other cars on the road up or down the mountain, though at the top we saw one parked car and a family frolicking in the snow. As we descended the snowy mountain the snow dissipated and we re-entered Asturias.

The snow on the roads became less as we headed north toward Castro de San Chuis. We had to take a gravel road up the mountain to reach it, and the road became more rocky and less gravel, and we decided that it was not worth popping a tire in order to reach the Castro de San Chuis, so we made a many-point turn on the side of a mountain and drove on, though we did take some spectacular pictures.

After we headed for Castro de Pradías. This took us through the autonomous community of Galacia, that we visited more deeply on a prior road trip; so we actually were in three autonomous communities that day! We eventually arrived a couple hours later in the tiny village of Pradías, and down a trail that looked like it was heading for a Castro.

All signs point to the Castro being ahead, right? (Wrong)

Though it was not to be; we walked the trail for a bit, but then were blocked on all sides by farm fences and thick, thorn-filled brush, and were forced to turn around, a second Castro missed. However at the entrance to the Castro was a burned out piece of wood that eerily looked like an animal or some kind of super-natural being’s head; so maybe it was for the best we did not reach the Castro de Pradías.

Creepy

By then the sun was setting and we were treated to a dusk drive on our way to our rural casa for the evening; on the drive Jesse was able to deftly and aptly navigate our car through 20+ switchbacks across multiple mountains as darkness settled in around us and after about two hours we reached the rural casa, named Casa Corral, in the tiny village of Monón.

The proprietor let us in to the two-story guest house complete with living room, fire place, and two rooms at the top of the stairs; we were the only guests and she explained that we had the run of the house. The room was quite large and inviting, and we even had a stone patio that we later accessed to view the stars; being so high up in the mountains and the lack of light pollution gave us the cleanest view of the clear, starlit night we had both seen in years. We couldn’t count all the stars if we tried.

In between the main house and the guest house was a glass enclosed single room bar and restaurant, and even though we arrived at nine in the evening we were hungry. They fed us a three course meal of chorizo flavored broth and noodle soup, followed by escalopines al cabrales, which is lightly breaded and fried veal cutlets on top of patatas fritas and covered in a blue cheese and pepper sauce. For dessert we had arroz con leche and tarta de abuela, both local favorites.

We awoke at eight the next morning and made our way to the main house for breakfast, before walking one of the four trails around Monón to the Rio Lloredo. It was a peaceful and quiet walk through the morning fog to the river.

We left Casa Corral and Monón, determined to see a Castro this day. Near the north coast, Jesse had researched the Castro de Coaña, which had a museum attached, and was on more flat ground, so we knew we would, for sure, see some that day. We descended the mountains and found sea level again, eventually arriving at the Castro de Coaña, where the friendly museum worker gave us a map and we perused the one room museum, before heading outside to the path toward the Castro village. There were (originally) 80 or so individual huts here, all built out of thin slate pieces stacked quite high and packed closely together; we could imagine, on this sunny day, the villagers more than 2,000 years ago, going about their daily tasks.

The Navia river was nearby to the east, and we drove along it to the town of Navia, where the river lets out into the Cantabrian Sea. We grabbed a burger lunch in the town, after which a stroll followed; we were able to stop at a pasteleria (bakery that specializes in pastries) and pick up some Asturian specific pastries (which we later enjoyed after we returned home). The top picture below is a stature of the mid-19th century poet Ramón de Campoamor, who was born in Navia.

After lunch and our walk about town, we had one more stop to make on our Castro trip; to the coast and Castro de Cabo Blanco. We have walked along the Cantabrian Sea and seen its coastline from many different points all over Asturias and Cantabria, but we had a lot of daylight so decided one more stop was worth it (and only a 15-minute drive from Navia)…and was it ever. The path, pictured at the top of the post, led to the a ocean view, and while the winds blew strong that day (check out the white tufts on the ground in the middle picture, we were actually caught in a sea foam attack!), the blues of the sea contrasted with the puffy white clouds in the sky and the lush green grass made for a perfect natural experience. A suitable ending for a jam-packed, mountain, Castro, and sea adventure traveling two days in Asturias.

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog: https://waypastcool.org/

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