A Wet Night and Day in Eastern Cantabria

This was a sneaky night away we did back in March this year, initially based around staying in one particular place, the Casona de San Pantaleón de Aras.  Friends had recently stayed here and recommended it to us, so we thought we’d try it out for size and do some more exploring around the surrounding area.

The area we’re talking about here is eastern Cantabria, between Laredo and Noja, with San Pantaleón de Aras being inland between the two.  It was a horrible weekend.  A real Cantabrian stinker.  Wet, windy, and after a very late start to winter, spring hadn’t started yet, and there was still fresh snow falling on the mountains.  So we decided not to set off from our nice warm cosy home until the afternoon, going straight to the Casona.  We were looking forward to checking in and enjoying the place, nice big room, sitting rooms, log fires etc.

Finding the place was the first challenge, it’s over a very narrow little bridge over the river running through San Pantaleón, but wow, you’re greeted by the loveliest old Casona – complete with mill.  We were greeted very warmly, and the place was warm – result!  The lovely owner showed us around the communal areas, including a little board games room, and a lovely sitting room with open fireplace, plus the spa.  Our room and en suite were huge, and overlooked the mill stream.  We thoroughly enjoyed chilling out down by the fire downstairs, reading through their collection of local guides with a G&T and then getting very delicious room service up in our room.  After a great night’s sleep we awoke to red squirrels outside the window, and then down for the homemade breakfast/feast with scrambled eggs and bacon – and the famous huge coffee cups (these had made a big impression on our friends!).  We didn’t get as far as using the spa unfortunately, but a good excuse to return!  What a lovely, homely, luxurious place.

So leaving the warmth on the Sunday morning, we set off into the rain for our planned visit for the day a visit to the 18th Century Molino de Mareas de Santa Olaja (tidal mill) near Noja.  This mill is part of the Parque Natural de las Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel, covering the tidal area between Santoña and Noja, for which the main interpretation centre is in Santoña (and worth a visit if not only to get info on the area).  We’d driven past the mill here before, and had a walk around the salt flats, highly recommendable (in the dry!), boardwalks, loads of birds to see, great for kids, but the mill is by reserved visit only as the visit is dependent on tide times.  So we reserved, and met the guide outside.  It was a very interesting little tour, with demonstration included, and really quite atmospheric in the wet conditions.   The guide also recommended we check out the newly opened Casa de las Mareas in nearby Soano, which was only a short walk from the car.  Nice rather little tidal museum, with lovely glass-floor area for kids to play and craft overlooking the salt flats, with binoculars available for some on the spot bird watching.

After that, we decided we were a bit peckish and could do with some rabas (battered squid sticks – typical pre-lunch fare) to warm us up.  So we headed over to Noja in the hope of finding something overlooking the beach there.  We parked down at Tregandín beach, and had some great rabas overlooking the beach there.  Then, surprise, the sun came out (welcome to Cantabria, we had spent the morning avoiding getting soaked), so we decided to walk off the rabas after spotting a sign for Ruta de la Costa around Noja.  Noja is, alongside Suances, one of Cantabria’s big summer resort towns.  Lots of holiday homes here, great for kids, many great campsites including the huge and popular Camping Playa Joyel, and 2 blue flag beaches good for surfing and swimming.  For this reason, being locals, we tend to avoid it in high summer!  And the rest of the year it is comparatively dead.  So I’ll be honest, we weren’t expecting much from the coastal path.  But I’m happy to say we were wrong!  Going from Playa de Tregandín all the way round to the Playa de Ris, we ended up doing a nice hour and a bit circular walk around some stunning coastline, yes, at times backed by houses, but other sections completely unspoilt.  Interesting historical remains of bath houses and swimming pools along the route, pined areas, plus a fantastic little painted forest on the return leg.  Well marked, lots of interesting information boards along the whole route, we loved it!  The weather held, we got some beautiful stormy weather photos, and a good leg stretch.

And after that the rain set in again, and we headed back to the warmth of our own log fire!

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