Spain // Cantabria and Asturias //

San Vicente de la Barquera

The approach to SAN VICENTE DE LA BARQUERA, 12km west of Comillas, is dramatic: marooned on both sides by the sea, the town is entered via a long causeway across the Río Escudo, the Puente de la Maza. Local lore maintains that if you manage to hold your breath all the way across the bridge, your wish will come true. Inland, dark green, forested hills rise towards the Picos de Europa, strikingly silhouetted as the sun goes down.

The town itself, a thriving fishing port with a string of locally famed seafood restaurants, is functional rather than pretty, with not all that much left of its historic core. If you’re looking for a beach, there’s a good sweep of sand fifteen minutes’ walk away, across the causeway on the east side of the river and flanked by a small forest.

A hot climb up from the modern town soon brings you to the remnants of the hilltop medieval town, which despite its intriguing setting and spectacular views turns out to be somewhat humdrum. At either end of the ridge, you’ll find an impressive Renaissance ducal palace (Tues–Sun 11am–2pm & 5–8pm; €1.40) and a sturdy Romanesque-Gothic church, Santa María de los Ángeles. The latter, at the highest point, holds a famous reclining statue of the Inquisitor Corro, born here in 1472.