Easily accessible by car but still appealingly rural, the coast east of Santander is becoming ever more developed for tourism. The best-known resort is Laredo, with its enormous beach, but lower-key alternatives include the fishing ports of Santoña and the congenial, handsome resort of CASTRO URDIALES, 20km east of Laredo and only a short drive west from the huge conglomeration of Bilbao.

Castro Urdiales retains a considerable fishing fleet, gathered around a beautiful natural harbour. Above this looms a massively buttressed Gothic church, Santa María, and a lighthouse, built within the shell of a Knights Templar castle. These are linked to the remains of an old hermitage by a dramatic reconstructed bridge, medieval in age, but known locally as the Puente Romano, under which the sea roars at high tide. The old quarter, the Mediavilla, is relatively well preserved, with arcaded streets and tall, glass-balconied houses.

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