Once you get into Asturias, the coast becomes wilder and more rugged, as it parallels the Picos de Europa just 20km inland. The FEVE line hugs the shoreline as far as Ribadesella, an attractive little fishing port, before turning inland towards Oviedo. Beyond Ribadesella, towards Gijón, there are fewer appealing towns, though the fishing village of Lastres makes a pretty stop.
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Asturias’ easternmost resort, LLANES, is a delightful seaside town, crammed between the foothills of the Picos and a particularly majestic stretch of the coast. To the east and west stretch sheer cliffs, little-known beaches and a series of beautiful coves, yours for the walking. The three town beaches are small but pleasant and very central, while the excellent Playa Ballota is only 3km to the east, with its own supply of spring water down on the sand (and a nudist stretch). A long rambla, the Paseo de San Pedro, runs along the top of the dramatic cliffs above the western town beach, the little Playa del Sablón.
In the centre of town, a tidal stream lined with cafés and seafood restaurants runs down into a small harbour. In the old town itself, a tangle of lanes twists around a small hill to the west and tall medieval walls shelter a number of impressive buildings in various stages of restoration or decay, which include the Torre Medieval, housing the turismo; the semi-ruined and overgrown Renaissance palaces of the Duques de Estrada and the Casa del Cercau (both closed to the public); and the Basílica de Santa María, built in the plain Gothic style imported from southern France.
RIBADESELLA, 18km west of Llanes, is an unaffected old port, split into two by the Sella river, and bridged by a long causeway. The attractive old town, crammed up against the hillside to the east, consists of successive, long stone alleyways, running parallel to the fishing harbour and bursting with great little bars and comedores. Freshly caught fish is still unloaded after midnight at the lonja and, although the catch is increasingly small, it’s fun to hang out in the bars and watch it being hauled in. In the seafood joints lining the harbour you can sample delicacies such as centolla (spider crab) and lubina (sea bass), as well as Asturian specialities.
Across the bridge to the west, ten minutes’ walk from the old town, the excellent town beach, Playa Santa Marina, is lined with the impressive nineteenth-century mansions built by returning emigrants who’d prospered in the Americas. The seafront itself is a pleasant pedestrian promenade.