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Potes to Ibio via Bácena Mayor – Wednesday

With no definite plans for our last full day we opened the map and picked the most interesting looking roads in the general direction of Santander. Potes, it seemed, was still largely unrisen from celebrating the end of the Fiesta de la Cruz the night before when we left at 9.30 heading north along the N621. Our first stop (for a coffee and look around) was at the village La Hermida lying deep in its namesake gorge . It was tempting to detour the mountain village of Beges famous for its queso picón, a blue cheese of denomination origin status but the wiggly threads of the CA-282 and CA-182 beckoned.

It seemed impossible there could be a way up through the limestone walls of the gorge , but there was and we were soon in the village of Linares looking back down into the gorge. There are many medieval towers across Cantabria, initially built for defense purposes and later for dwelling. Abandoning the car we walked up through the village to The Tower of Pontón, a short, simple tower with few openings, originally part of a defensive network. For the next couple of hours we wound our way through the foothills over passes and through valleys. This is a gentler landscape, dotted with villages sporting typical red tiled roofs and smelling of wood smoke.

A slight detour took us to Bácena Mayor in the Saja-Besaya Reserve (also circled on our map as a must go place), said to be the oldest rural village in Cantabria, possibly even Spain and has heritage status. Some popular restaurants serving traditional mountain dishes, stews of meat and game add to its appeal, they were packed when we visited; various walks and trails also start here which look interesting – somewhat unsuitably shod we ambled a distance along by the river for a peek.

This was another lucky dip night accommodation wise. Passing the village of Ibio we spotted a Posadas De Cantabria signpost and came up with a treat in the Posada Sierra de Ibio. It’s a traditional family house – imaginatively decorated with easy going hosts. More on this and the other Posadas we stayed in to come.