Bay of Biscay : 3150 miles

Here is a flavour of how far we travelled, some 3150 miles Dieppe and back to Dieppe. Starting by travelling south down through France across the Loire, Limosin and Dordogne to the Pyrenees and across into Spain. From there we followed roughly the Camino de Santiago to the North West tip at Cabo Finisterre. After that it was easy – just follow the coast all the way to the tip of Brittany. And finally a quick run back the length of Brittany, and Normandy to Dieppe.


Apart from a few markers most of those on the map are the camp sites we stopped at en route. Below is a list with a few notes and our ratings;
Bay of Biscay Camp Sites

Bay of Biscay : Picos de Europa

We drove the motorway from Playas de Barreiros to Avin at the west end of the Picos scenic route. The E70 motorway is another spectacular piece of Spanish road building winding around the coastal ranges and over long and high viaducts but always offering glimpses of the coast and the ocean. Another thing it has in common with other Spanish motorways is a serious lack of rest stops!

By mid afternoon we arrived at the Picos de Europa Camp that was spoken well of in the ACSI guide. The weather had been very wet so we found a pitch on a high terrace that seemed to be quite firm and set up camp. We took a short walk to the nearby village to stretch our legs and peer at the old regional properties and steal a fig or two off their trees. That evening it rained a lot and rather than drain down the hill our pitch just got soggier. In order to dispel our gloom Sue embarked upon yet another culinary masterpiece – paella. That night it just stayed soggy and got very cold so in the morning we decided to move on. As is often the way with these things that turned out to be a fortuitous decision.

We set out East along the road to Panes and were soon rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains. The Picos seem to us to rise more rapidly than other ranges that tended give them a pointier appearance with high obviously rocky peaks. They also seem greener and more lush than other ranges which is hardly surprising given the amount of rain the north coast of Spain gets.

After our drive through the Picos we headed back to the coast motorway and past Santander to Larado. A seaside resort where hopefully the weather might be kinder and the pitch drier.

Bay of Biscay : Playas de Barreiros

It was misty and damp again when we left Muros. Fred had a last run on the beach there and we got a pleasant surprise at the check out – only 17€ a day! There was no point in driving round the coast, we had already done some of it the day before visiting Cabo Finisterre, so we decided to head to Ferrol just north of La Caruna and then do the windy and coast road from there to our next campsite destination, Giavota on the beautiful Playas de Barreiros east of Foz.

There is not much here except 3 km of clean white sandy beach and some big waves. It has to be said that Camping Giavota is one of the nicest we have stayed on ample with very clean facilities and at this time of the year very quiet.

Fred of course loved the beach and dragged us up and down it several times. We stopped for 3 nights and got one glorious sunny day and one that was supposed to be a showery read a book day but turned out nice in the end. However the real highlight of the stay was Sue’s excellent campervan Pizzas cooked on the Cob.

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Had it been forecast to be sunny we might have stayed longer but decided to move on to the Picos de Europa.

Bay of Biscay : Camino de Santiago

We drove along the Camino de Santiago from Jaca by Pamplona to Estella, a road we would generally follow until we got to Galicia and the Atlantic coast. The scenery is to say the least dull and uninteresting perhaps because at this time of year the harvest is in and the fields ploughed once more making everywhere look arid and desert like. Time was passing us by and finding anywhere to stop proving difficult especially on the new motorway that had no rest or service stops. Eventually we dropped into Pamplona thinking we would be able to drive through the city and find a motorhome parking place – well fat chance. The city is very poorly sign posted that we couldn’t find anything. By this time we were fed up and Fred needed a rest stop and his lunch so car park on the edge of the city centre had to make do after which we decided to cut and run to Estella where we knew there was camping.

There are a couple of camp sites in Estella but Camping Lizzaro is just off the motorway. It is a tightly packed holiday camp but with touring pitches and decent facilities. We booked in and the headed to town to stock up on essentials and dinner. So having never been to mainland Spain before and speaking no Spanish we were in at the deep end.

The following morning we hit the road intending to get to Logrono quickly and visit a big supermarket, Carefour, and then meander the Rioja Route to Haro, the capital of Rioja. Finding the out of town Carefour was a mission itself but trying to negotiate the different style of shopping ate up time. We headed out toward Haro thinking we would find a nice place to stop for lunch but yet again there was no chance and we ended up in dusty dirty truck pull in with no services. We couldn’t help reflect how sad it is that with so much rich heritage and potentially attractive scenery in this area the local community and wealthy bodegas don’t do more to accommodate tourists.

Predictably the Rioja Route didn’t amount to anything so we ended up in Haro with time on our hands. Camping Haro is a nice site, well organised with good facilities and just 10 minutes walk from the town centre so in 25+C heat off we trotted. Well we didn’t know it but this being both Friday afternoon and a holiday weekend the town centre, a sight in itself, was thronging with people dressed in their Sunday best doing the Tapas bars, pubs and restaurants. Well of course we had to join in for a drink at least until everyone dissapeared later in the afternoon. The town square was being made ready for a band that evening so clearly the town was ready to party. Back at the camp site that was filling up around us we decided that after the mornings travel experience we would start early the next day and hit it hard using motorway to Santiago and the coast beyond. We picked out a camp site from our ACSI app and guide on the coast at Muros prepared everything for a quick pack and turned in early. Well no sooner had we three got to sleep that the fireworks started and filled the sky with thunder and lightning for 20 minutes. Suffice it to say that Fred was not at all amused And we spent the whole time comforting him.

The next morning were up at 05:00 in the dark packing and breakfasting to get on our way still in the dark at 07:30. It has never ceased to amaze me that Spain uses Central European Time and not GMT like Portugal. Most of the country is so far west of the meridian that it doesn’t get light until very late (on the NW coast until 08:30 in September) but then stays light equally late. We soon got on to motorway and set the cruise control for the speed limit +5mph. Sometimes aires and service stations were plentiful but of course when you really need one they aren’t. The van was doing about 30mpg sitting at 80mph and when we did fill up diesel was slightly less than the UK and France. The first few hours were through the same boring arid countryside with a leaden grey sky. Eventually we got back into mountains with changeable weather and a cold wind. Here the motorway is somewhat of a spectacular drive winding round and up and down mountains with viaducts and carriageways on different levels and several tunnels. I realised later that at the same time Chris Froome et al had been cycling up those mountains in the Vuelta de Espana.

After we passed Santiago de Compostela the motorway changed into ordinary road, we got to the coast and caught site of the Ocean. Finally we arrived at A’Vuego Camping a pleasant laid back site on a long white sand beach and it was hot. So before did anything more than find a pitch the three of us ran down to the beach for a paddle in the sea and let Fred blow some steam off. And that is where we stayed for 4 nights. Sue caught up with the laundry, I managed to submit a planning application for Bug Blanc’s new garage and Fred was persuaded with some slight reluctance to actually swim in the sea. It also seemed that the town across the bay was having their Fiesta des Sardines which meant more fireworks during the day on Monday and at midnight just as we had got to sleep. Needless to say again Fred was not happy and after a round of barking tried to snuggle in with us – that only lasted as long as the fireworks.

The next day dawned wet cold and miserable so we were a bit down in the mouth. This kind of damp clingy weather is not unusual in the region and has a strange beauty but just for a moment or two.

However we eventually decided to unhitch from the camp site and do what we had always intended – go to Cabo Finisterre. Indeed we were lucky because the weather cleared for just an hour or for our visit but socked in again as we left. The Romans called it “Finis Terre” (just like they did in France) the “End of the World”. Don’t tell the Romans but it is actually a few kilometres short of being the farthest west. Here in Spain it also happens to be the very end of the Camino de Santiago, even though it is 20 miles past Santiago, with many back packers on the last leg of their journey across northern Spain hiking to the light house to have their picture taken with the cross at the end of their journey – and then walk back? There is also a small boutique hotel at the light house and the visitor parking area is the Plaza Stephen Hawking in memory of his visit in 2008.

So it is here that the purpose of our journey began. We were at the North West Point of Spain, the South West end of the Bay of Biscay, and in a few weeks time we will be at the Point du Raz in Finisterre, Brittany, the opposite North West end of the Bay of Biscay.

Bay of Biscay : Across the Pyrenees to Spain

 

 

After several attempts over the years we have finally made it to Spain and even this year fate tried to show its hand!

After a couple of nights in the foothills of the Pyrenees we decide to take a smaller road south of Pau to cross the border towards Jaca. It was convenient because it meant we could spend a night in Laruns just a few kilometres from the border. Sat Nav and Google insisted that we go back to Tarbes, along to Pau and then south through a tunnel into Spain but we were having nothing of it and wanted to go to Laruns over the Col du Tormalet (2115m amsl) made famous by the Tour de France.

On the way down we stopped to take in the view and let Fred out. His reaction to the vista was one of incredulity and who can blame him. Another couple who witnessed it were so taken by him that their holiday album is now full of Fred pictures.

Shortly we traveresed the Col de Soulor atop which were a group of twitchers whom I imagine were waiting for Golden Eagle to drop out of the clouds, and the Col d’Abrusque that was sadly socked in by low cloud. It was interesting driving along a narro road with rock face on one side and cloud on the other!

We stopped in Laruns for the night, a camp site hanging on to the hillside overlooking the village. An excellent seafood risotto to polish off the day.

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Thursday morning, a week after we left home we set out for the French / Spanish border crossing at the Col du Portalet. A well made up 2 lane road and by far the most picturesque on the Cols we had visited in the Pyrenees.

And now we were in Spain bowling down the mountains towards Jaca and Pamplona. The wide road cut down through the mountains with sweeping vistas, narrow gorges and surprisingly empty reservoir lakes.

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Once out of the mountains the road became somewhat dreary with arid countryside. We tried to take a look at Pamplona but the signage in the city was dreadful so we decided to cut an run and make our first night stop in Spain at Estella.