Spain holidays: Exploring the unspoilt beaches and mountains of the little-known Cantabria region

Eating alfresco in rural Spain, my daughter, Hannah, 16, details at the menu, horrified. Her finger hovers previously mentioned the translation of local specialty cabrito guisado: stewed kid. Minutes afterwards, her brother Gabriel, 18, bravely orders it.

We’re on a prolonged-awaited getaway. My spouse, Marc, has an aversion to flying and factors it’s much simpler to load up the auto and stick it on a ferry.

So we booked a Brittany Ferries crossing to northern Spain and found a low-priced resort. Just 72 hours later on, we’re driving off the boat in Santander and up a winding street to the Picos de Europa mountains in Cantabria.

The Cantabrian coastline. Jo Kessel and her loved ones discover the Spanish area on a ‘long-awaited getaway’

Jo drives from Santander, pictured, up a winding road towards the Picos de Europa mountains in Cantabria

Jo drives from Santander, pictured, up a winding road in direction of the Picos de Europa mountains in Cantabria

The attractiveness of this region is its wide variety — absolutely nothing is as well far away, which suggests you can expend a early morning at altitude and the afternoon on golden beach locations or surrounded by lush countryside.

Our two-star Resort Infantado is a surprise strike. It appears out on to the Picos foothills and resembles a rustic-stylish parador, with a riot of pink geraniums garlanding its wooden balconies. It even has a pool established in wonderfully landscaped gardens.

A 15-minute wander away is the medieval town of Potes. Its cobbled streets and historic bridges huddle all around the twists and turns of the river Deva. We pronounce it ‘Diva’, which is ironic thinking about the town’s lack of pretension. It is a environment absent from the Costas Spain at its most silent and genuine.

At the coronary heart of Potes is the 15th-century Infantado Tower, a former duke’s residence. It can be climbed for views, and clustered at its base are numerous dining establishments, including the a person of ‘stewed kid’ fame. (Next time, my son will purchase a burger.)

Above is the medieval town of Potes. 'It’s a world away from the Costas; Spain at its most quiet and authentic,' says Jo

Higher than is the medieval city of Potes. ‘It’s a environment absent from the Costas Spain at its most tranquil and authentic,’ states Jo 

At the heart of Potes is the 15th-century Infantado Tower (pictured on the left), a former duke’s residence that can be climbed for views

At the heart of Potes is the 15th-century Infantado Tower (pictured on the left), a previous duke’s residence that can be climbed for views

Monday is industry working day and Potes thrums with locals stocking up on cheese, salami and olives. We settle on a picnic lunch of empanadas to consider to Fuente De, in which a funicular whisks passengers 6,000 ft high in the Picos.

The cable auto attendant describes the wander down from the leading: ‘It’s 9 miles downhill, easy.’

What we have not bargained on is the whiteout at the summit, producing it tough even to recognize the route. But quickly more than enough the sun burns by the cloud to expose a vista of imposing, jagged limestone peaks whose ashen colour presents the illusion of them being snow-capped.

From Fuente De, pictured, a funicular whisks passengers 6,000 ft high in the Picos de Europa mountains. Jo and her family set off on a 'hilly, five-hour hike' from the summit

From Fuente De, pictured, a funicular whisks passengers 6,000 ft higher in the Picos de Europa mountains. Jo and her family set off on a ‘hilly, five-hour hike’ from the summit

Bring the family: Jo with her children, Hannah and Gabriel

Provide the loved ones: Jo with her small children, Hannah and Gabriel 

The route meanders downhill at a light gradient. Mountain tops give way to pastures of horses, cows and sheep, who eye us when we tuck into our empanadas. The pastry is deliciously mild and flaky, oozing with bacon, tomato and cheese. It’s the fertile valley towards the base, nevertheless, that is the most putting: an abundance of Mediterranean Sea Holly — a spiky blue flower indigenous to the Picos — tints the grass sapphire.

At 636 square miles, the Picos de Europa Countrywide Park is just one of Spain’s biggest. 

Our receptionist advises: ‘The most important trails are overcrowded. Remain here and you will have the mountains to yourselves.’ Her proposed circuit starts in the remote farming village of Tudes, whose inhabitants nevertheless use horses for transportation. They trot previous and bid ‘hola’ with a tilt of their gaucho hats.

Jo lounges on Oyambre beach (pictured) — 'a wild stretch of sand near the seaside resort of San Vicente de la Barquera'

Jo lounges on Oyambre beach front (pictured) — ‘a wild extend of sand near the seaside vacation resort of San Vicente de la Barquera’

Travel Details

Three nights’ B&B at Lodge Infantado from £310pp, including a cabin and car or truck booking on a return Portsmouth to Santander sailing (brittany-ferries.co.british isles). More nights from £37 pp. A wine and tapas tasting tour is from £60 pp such as transportation (toursbylocals.com).

The Picos are omnipresent during our hilly, five-hour hike. We go as a result of Porcieda, an abandoned hamlet. A ‘SE VENDE’ signal on a crumbling dwelling prompts Gabriel to surprise if he could afford to pay for it. Later on, we master the whole hamlet is on sale for €1 million.

For the subsequent couple of times we lounge by the pool or on Oyambre seashore — a wild stretch of sand in the vicinity of the seaside resort of San Vicente de la Barquera.

And on a tailor-designed tour with ToursByLocals, manual Hans introduces us to regional delicacies. We visit an artisan dairy to style blue cheese (aged ordinarily, in caves) and just one of Cantabria’s blended sheep and cows’ milk cheeses. Equally are rustic, sturdy and have a spicy kick.

Our very last cease is a vineyard wherever we try out some wines and ‘Orujo’, a Cantabrian grappa that is like rocket gasoline. Our favourite is the wine jam, which pairs properly with cheese. We shove an full crate in the boot.

We have experienced a fantastic time in this definitely numerous area. And Gabriel is nevertheless figuring out how to invest in that hamlet.