The 284 kilometers of coastline of Cantabria offer the restless traveler a thousand and one rarities between capes, beaches and cliffs. Here we propose seven enclaves that hold visual surprises, reaffirming the pleasant habit of discovering the north coast out of season.
The mouths of the estuaries —or tubs— that flank the town of Pechón captivate the coastline bordering Asturias. In no other point of Cantabria can you see how the holm oak forests come so close to the sea. The gorge formed by the Tina Menor confronts us with the sumptuous Sierra de Jerra and a Nansa river that dissolves, already turned into a sea, at the foot of the viewpoint located at kilometer 2 of the CA-380. Its waters change, depending on the day, from green to blue, and gain a lot at high tide, while low tide brings out the Sable beach. But you don’t have to stay on the benches that guard the monument to the Angler, by Antonio Coello de Portugal: 100 meters away you can access on foot (you can’t park) to another sublime bench-viewpoint, now without vegetation that hinders the perspective .
Dignifying the dilapidated 15th-century church, in the middle of the graveyard, a marble angel with wings in the wind has stood over the presbytery since 1895, visible from much of Comillas and lighting up at night with a ghostly aura. “They call him an exterminator,” says Enrique Campuzano, a doctor in Art History and a member of the cemetery’s restoration team, “when in reality his attitude is nothing more than that of guardianship, with his sword down” —the original flamboyant one was made of marble, but it collapsed, along with the rest of the sculpture, in 1941. Its author, Josep Llimona, was one of the artists of the Barcelona modernist school —along with Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Vallmitjana, among others— abducted by the second Marquis of Comillas. Llimona had recently arrived from Italy, which explains the analogy of the angel, in terms of size and facial expression, with Michelangelo’s David. At her feet, forming a group, a girl was projected in a reading attitude, a figure that she never carved out for herself.
The charm of the town’s cemetery lies not only in its elevation on a hill facing the Bay of Biscay; all of it is of a coquettish modernism, both in the walls topped with pinnacles and in the stupendous doorway, with its wrought-iron gate currently in the process of being restored. Another funerary work of reference in Llimona is the pantheon in the shape of a wave, owned by the Piélago family.
Shortly after leaving the town of Cóbreces in the direction of Santander, we will see on the left the indicator to Boalo, which is to say the dilapidated corn mill that attracts with its walls, its stepped stream, its dam, on a slope that falls in love with its degree of conservation. A place covered by mowing meadows —with the presence of cows— where the rockery of the cliff surprises the viewer with The face of the Indian, like an amusing sphinx with a secret. On the right hand side we will see a wooden bench perched on the cliff for the visual enjoyment of the coast between Oyambre and Suances, as well as the sunset time that, starting in June, includes the solar disk falling through the sea; It is much more convenient to access the bank from Toñanes, the town of the writer Juan Gómez Bárcena (Santander, 1984) who inspired his latest novel, Lo más es aire (Seix Barral). Sooner or later, the posada San Tirso will play a leading role.
Is it conceivable to have a chapel built into the cliff on which the Cantabrian discharges all its force? That is what happens with the hermitage dedicated to the Sevillian martyr Santa Justa, whose origins must be sought in the 13th century. Today it consists of only two walls —the one that supports the waves is reinforced— and a small window through which the altar can be seen. From the car park we walked on slate to the beach and stepped on wood to the picnic area, with brand new benches from which to witness how the waves break during storms. One approaches the hermitage with calm seas, and then climbs to the wall of San Telmo, an old lighthouse, from which Tagle beach (already in the municipality of Suances) is overlooked. A famous crime perpetrated in 1954 at the Las Fondas inn, located on this beach and demolished in 2006, inspired the writer María Oruña to write the black novel Puerto Escondido (Editorial Destino).
To complete the excursion: Chisco is the owner of the Santa Justa beach bar, equipped with a soft chill-out terrace and where concerts are organized in summer. Further away, the La Cerrá de San Roque inn opened in 1991 and claims the honor of being a pioneer of rural tourism in Cantabria.
If the Cantabrian capital is unbeatable in anything, it is in the quality of its walks by the sea, its relaxing, spa-like disposition. From the Festival Palace of Cantabria we can approach a green spot from which the stands designed by the architect Alejandro Zaera (Madrid, 1963) emerge to attend the regattas of the 2014 Olympic Sailing World Championship, as an extension of the High Performance Center of Sailing Prince. This sort of modern bow-shaped architectural dune invites silence —traffic is far away, except that of the boats that ply the bay—; there are metal handrails and the tubular lampposts lean carelessly, figuring the masts of a boat. Behind the stands is the 1908 careening dry dock that tells us about Santander’s industrial past; its bilge pump house is now a bar with an attractive terrace. The stands are 400 meters from the Hammock Area (free), also designed by Zaera.
This geological curiosity has parking in a meadow located next to Cabo de Ajo, at the end of a narrow street, so it is inadvisable to travel here with large vehicles. In just 150 meters the rocky spectacle of La Ojerada is reached: two cavities eroded by the effect of water and wind simulating the eyes of a mask —or the goggles of a cave— from which the Bay of Biscay can be contemplated at will. And this by accentuating the erosion at the base of the decline, a particular factor of this stretch of coast. At the top you can see the fishermen suspended in the heights of the eastern façade of the cape, while various cracks in the form of siphons expel air to the beat of the waves, giving a fright of órdago. It is not advisable to approach with choppy sea; it is important to always do it with non-slip shoes, and children, by the hand.
In the town of Bareyo, the local dish is seafood paella, a memory of the construction workers who raised the buildings in sight. The Labu Ajo restaurant, with shellfish farms, is a good place to taste it.
The 221-meter-long passageway, dug in 1863 under the Atalaya massif, leads from the center of Laredo to what was to be the La Soledad pier, but which was destroyed by gales. In the Civil War it served as a refuge. Since 2021 the tunnel has been well lit, with an automated door opening and closing system and, in one section, the ceiling and walls are painted like an aquarium background, with jellyfish, rays and sharks. The output surprises with a rugged coastal setting, benches for sunbathing with no buildings in sight and metal handrails that give the possibility of wandering at low tide between the black gravel and the boulders. Open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (closed due to storms).
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