Tuesday 28th May
Five hundred men took five years, at the beginning of the last century, to build a canal 17 km long, through the Picos de Europa to power a hydroelectric scheme. In doing so they created a service track that is now one of the world’s best day walks. The Cares Gorge Trail is so good that superlatives fail me!
We arrived in the Picos de Europa yesterday with the tops of the mountains shrouded in rain clouds. We awoke this morning to cloudy skies but there was a promise of sun in the forecast. At least we could see the tops of the very tall mountains encircling our campsite. The Picos are Europe’s third highest mountain chain after the Alps and the Pyrenees. They are a typical example of a limestone karst landscape, where ice and rain have created steep sided valleys and some of the deepest and longest cave systems in Europe too. It is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
The trail starts at Poncebos, about four miles from our campsite, so we all bundled into our van to get there early to find a parking space. As it was midweek and low season it was relatively easy to park, in the small car park at the bottom of the Bulnes Funicular Railway (more about that tomorrow), at weekends and in the summer, they shut the road back at Arenas and bus people in. We walked to the hamlet of Cain, at the far end of the gorge, and back a total distance of around 24km (15 miles, Mum) and climbs about 500m, mainly at the beginning and the end. It took us eight and a half hours, including a picnic stop and a cheeky beer in Cain. There were plenty of stops too for photographs, because it is jaw-droppingly beautiful at every turn. The narrow path is cut into the rock so most of the way there is a precipitous drop on one side of you. We kept the dogs on leads because there would be no second chances!
The trail is described far better than I can in guide books and on websites, so if you are interested to find out more, have a look? Better still, book a flight or a ferry and come and do it yourself, it is definitely one for the ‘bucket list’!
I hope that the photos give you some idea of our extraordinary day but, a word of warning, we don’t think that they do true justice to the scale and majesty of this remarkable path through the Picos.