A weekend in Potes

Potes and the Picos de Europa are always a weekend getaway favourite for us, and so we had great fun organizing a weekend camping trip for fellow Cantabrian expat friends, some hardened Potes veterans, and others who had never been.

Starting out on a beautiful, crisp, clear Friday morning, we headed up the stunning Desfiladero de la Hermida,  of course a wonderful drive and the newbies were of course amazed by the towering rocks above them.  It also reminded me that although Potes is a long way from most places in Cantabria, the first bit being the fast A8 motorway, and most of the second bit being the beautiful gorge, it really doesn’t feel that far in the end.  We detoured half way up in the village of La Hermida, towards Linares, to I think my favourite viewpoint in the region, the Mirador de Santa Catalina, near Piñeres, for what are spectacular views over the gorge and to the Picos beyond.  I’m always aware that I’m very biased about Cantabria’s beauty, but the very well travelled newbies were in awe as well, which was reassuring!  The remains of the fort up here add to its charm, and seeing the vultures soaring below you is always a bonus too.  We stopped for a nice little drink on the way back down to the gorge at the bar in Linares with nice views over the valley and the tower above.  We were still a bit early for our picnic lunch, so decided to make the extra detour to the best picnic spot in Liébana, the Balcón de Liébana in Cahecho.  It’s a bit of a detour, but again, so worth it for the views!  Three old wooden picnic benches, with wonderful views – there are a couple of restaurants here too as well as accommodation.  Picnic done, we decided to head over to our campsite for the weekend, Camping La Viorna, just the other side of Potes.  We’ve always been big fans of Camping San Pelayo for its friendly simplicity and great pool views, but it was already closed for the season, so La Viorna it was.  And what a find!  Thanks to Laura on reception, who was super helpful with booking (there’ll be 5 on Friday, another 4 staying on Saturday, 6 visiting on Saturday too, etc.), and very flexible.  Being low season, there was no problem having our Saturday day trippers onsite for breakfast, and no restrictions on arriving or leaving on the Sunday.  We and another 5 vans or so were the only residents, and the pool, bar, restaurant and shop were all still open – very unusual for off-season.  The ground was hard as rock after our long dry summer, and long extension leads are always a good idea.  Our pitch (325) had the most wonderful views over the mountains and kept the sun well all day.  One of our newbies tried the pool to cool off after pitching the tents – yes, it was freeeeezing – and then we decided to head into Potes for dinner to warm up (clear day = cold night!).  And the next bonus of La Viorna, only 1km walk into Potes, so we were able to leave the cars at camp and enjoy some nice wine.  After a nice pre-drink at La Soldreria (great eats we’ve had here in the past too) on the cool and untouristy Calle del Sol, we had a great classic dinner at Casa Cayo, more drinks on Sol, and a beautiful starry walk back to the campsite.

After a good night’s sleep, we were joined on Saturday by two more families (doing this as a day trip), and after a long breakfast onsite, headed on up to Fuente Dé.  Arriving later than we planned (around midday in the end), we had a good hour’s queue for the cable car thanks to the 2 coach parties arriving just before us.  As always, a few nerves for some, which the queue didn’t help!  But all were brave enough to go up, and agreed it was worth it once they got outside at the top.  Notably considerably colder up there, we warmed up by heading up through the cloud to the Aliva valley, and down the other side out of the wind (ish) for our picnic, before heading back over to the top station again.  We definitely enjoyed our hot drinks in the restaurant on our return, and a look at the interesting photo exhibition of the construction of the cable car, before heading back down.  And then back down again to Potes, where we all had a nice relaxing drink on the main square overlooking the river in the sunshine – what a temperature difference between the two places, and a good reminded of Potes’ microclimate.  Whilst the kids went off to buy souvenirs, we went to get meat and some good cheese from the local butcher for our BBQ back at camp.  Our day trippers left, and another two couples (plus baby and dog) joined us for the night in their vans, and a yummy BBQ was had by all.

The next morning, after a wet night, the clouds cleared, and we headed off for a morning walk at Brez.  This is the PR PNPE 27, a great little low level walk for all levels and ages.  It’s not perfectly flat (I evidently told people it was, and was reminded that it wasn’t for the whole walk, haha), but we had one friend with the baby on her back, another who is self admittedly not a walker, several people in trainers, and it was perfectly doable for all.  It is signposted as 2 hours, but we did it comfortably in 1hr40.  It’s a great all rounder, low level, so no worries with clouds, but huge towering mountains around, great views over the whole valley below, nice woods (beautiful leaves in autumn), and clear path.  It was certainly a success with our mixed group, and we had the bonus of walnut collecting on the way down!  After this we headed up a different valley, up to La Vega de Liébana for lunch.  What might seem a bit of a detour, we were going on a recommendation.  Sitting on the plaza in Potes the previous day, we’d bumped into a colleague of my husband, who had been hunting that morning (12 wild boar apparently).  Good person, we thought, to get a lunch recommendation from for the following day.  So from a list of places he reeled off (including the Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya, El Bodegón and Casa Cayo in Potes) was “Luis’ place in La Vega”.  Sounded interesting!  So we established that this was in fact Mesón La Vega in La Vega de Liébana, and made a reservation.  And what a great find!  We were hoping for mass Cocido Lebaniego, and we got the works, explained to us first hand by Luis’ very jolly son, including a huge range of homemade desert, wine and coffee, all for under 10 euros a head, on a Sunday.  What a great way to finish the weekend – everyone was thrilled, delicious lunch, great authentic atmosphere, again, worth the detour, and very recommendable!  After lunch, back to camp for a little siesta and then packed tents up and off home we headed, tired but happy.  Great break away for all ages and tastes!

Just a little footnote!  All the establishments I’ve mentioned in this post had no idea about the blog before the visit.  There are also many more wonderful restaurants, campsites, accommodation and attractions in the area, these are just the ones we chose, and were happy enough with them to recommend to others.  No strings attached!

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