Cabezón de la Sal is a great little inland town in western Cantabria, nicely connected to Santander by FEVE train, and right on the fast A8 motorway, not at all touristy, but with a lot to offer. In the town itself there is a great little tourist office in the centre, which has a great website too, where you can get plenty of information on what to do, museum opening times and bookings, and routes. There are several interesting little museums in the town, namely the Poblado Cantabro, where you can discover the traditional huts of the early celtic Cantabrians, the Museo de Trajes Regionales (Regional Costume Museum – check with tourist office for opening times), and the Museo de la Naturaleza de Cantabria in neighbouring Carrejo, a large natural history museum. There is also river swimming at the Campa de Santa Lucia in Carrejo next to the bridge over the Saja, and Cabezón is also home to a lively Saturday morning market.
Cabezón is also in a great location for day trips. It is the gateway to the beautiful Saja valley and its Natural Park, the lovely villages along the flat plain before the park starts, and then the beechwoods and endless walks of the park itself, not to mention the wonderfully picturesque village of Barcena Mayor. It is also only 15 minutes drive from Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera, and the stunning beaches of the Oyambre coastline between the two, 25 minutes from Santillana del Mar and 45 minutes from Santander.
All this make Cabezón a very family friendly place, a great base, and a fun day out. And there are several great short walks for kids nearby. I have chosen some of the more special ones, however venturing into Saja Natural Park or Monte Corona offers many more possibilities.
This very simple, very flat river walk runs alongside the Saja river between Carrejo and Ontoria. It can be accessed at many points along the route. It’s a lineal walk of 3km, starting just next to the watermill (Molino) in Carrejo – although you can drive and park a bit further on next to the river. There is a small picnic area at the other end in Ontoria, where it’s also possible to park. The river level varies depending on the time of year, but with lower levels in summer, plenty of opportunities for a scramble on the boulders and paddle in the river as you walk along, especially at the wooden footbridge.
This very pleasant short walk to a curious waterfall of sorts from Bustriguado, south of Treceño. It’s a nice drive here, especially going past the 18th century Indiano style palace in La Vega. The walk starts at the very far end of the village of Bustriguado, where there is parking in a dirt area, and an information board for the start of the walk. It is relatively well signposted, but advisable to take a photo of the info board! It’s a short, lineal, 2km walk, not completely flat, but perfectly doable for all ages and levels. There are some fun things to see along the way, notably a curious little wooden footbridge over the stream, and some interesting dry stone walling with wooden supports. The highlight is at the end, on reaching the waterfall, a huge natural slab of rock, and the little mossy wood above, which really does look like something out of a fairy tale. Fun to explore, I would NOT recommend climbing over the wooden barriers down to the bottom of the fall for “that perfect shot” as it is very difficult to get back up again! If you’re interested in a considerably longer walk nearby, check out the medieval road of the Cambera de los Moros.
This random little Sequoia forest was fairly unknown until recently, but has rightly been put on the map for tourism around Cabezón and Comillas. From the Comillas/Cabezón A8 exit roundabout, head to Comillas and it’s literally just on your left on the first corner – easy to miss, but there’s a layby further on to turn in if you do! There is not a huge amount of parking. This little “forest” (it is not a forest!) is one of the experimental plantations on Monte Corona from the 1940s. It’s a fun area for kids and adults, great for photography, and now accessible to all with its brand new wooden access walkway. There are also a couple of sheltered picnic tables next to the parking area. There is a kind of circular walk inside the forest, which only takes 10 minutes or so, right down to the bottom and back round. It’s not somewhere you’re going to spend more than half an hour, but it’s a great place to stop off and stretch legs, and so convenient for the A8.
This is a bit of a secret walk – the friend who first told me about this told me I was absolutely not to put it on the blog…but it’s now signposted and publiscised, so I figure I’m allowed to now! It’s a lovely circular walk at the start of the Saja valley to a couple of beautiful hidden waterfalls in a wood. The best place to start is in Barcenillas, a pretty village in itself with a parking area and information board for the walk. The walk up the valley is flat until right at the end, and a very pleasant walk. Once you get up the short sharp hill at the end of the valley, across the cattle grid, you’ll see another information board, and the circular green section starts down to your right, through the woods, over a stream (possible wading required after rain), and through the lovely woods up to the two waterfalls and plunge pools. You then climb up above the falls, across the stream and continue along a short upward stretch coming out of the wood, along a very pleasant green section, before hitting the jeep track and following it back down. The return can be done flat, along the same route to Barcenillas, or making it circular going up via Lamiña, another pretty village with a nice area to stop/picnic at next to a fountain (we’ve also started the walk here before now). It’s a highly recommendable walk, great for kids, and beautiful at all times of year.
I still can’t understand why this Via Verde is not better publicised as it’s such a great little walk for kids and adults, and offers an interesting insight into Cantabria’s mining history. It’s an easy walk, the main challenge is finding where it starts! You are heading to the area of Udías, signposted off the Cabezón/Comillas A8 exit roundabout. You’ll need a to look on Google Maps before to find this place. Near the village of Cobijón, but on the CA373, there is a very sharp bend, with a road off it signposted to La Gandara (on Google maps there is a restaurant of the same name marked, it’s actually a Posada), go along that road and just after you take an uphill right at the fork, past a white house and garage, further on you’ll see the old engine sheds on your right, and there’s an information board and areas to park just there on the next corner. It’s worth the find! A Via Verde is reclaimed railway route, in this case once used to access the mines of this area. The completely flat 7km route is lineal, and takes you over bridges, through 2 dark tunnels (torch advisable!) and through beautiful countryside to the impressive and picturesque Pozo Peña Montero, a large covered mining shaft, with its machinery still in place. It’s a pretty picture, and a nice place for a picnic – you can actually see the sea from here, and it’s possible to continue this as a longer walk all the way to Cobreces on the coast. It’s great fun for kids, but although flat, careful cycling (and walking) as there are still many of the original rail pegs in place along the route.
If you’ve tried any of these routes or would like to suggest any others, please comment below!