Santa Pau to Besalu – Days 5 & 6

Day 5 of our In the Foothills of the Pyrenees walk was a circuit walk, out of Santa Pau and up to Castell de Finestres and back – a distance of 14kms and a 661 m elevation gain. The scant remains of the Castell sit atop a 950m high peak, so views were promised.

The day started overcast but mercifully dry as we walked through oak and beech forests, disturbing the occasional herd of bell adorned cows.

We climbed steadily for a couple of hours. Reaching the top we had to stop and don warmer gear as a cold wind was whistling around, and grey clouds were gathering. But, we could see for miles.

The castle dates back to 947, but was badly damaged by earthquakes in the 15th century. A few walls remain today, although there is a more recent chapel down from the castle summit.

I have to admit to not making quite to the very top, as my fear of heights kicked in – leaving me clinging to some rocks just below the summit whilst the boys scrambled up the final leg. I was glad when they returned shortly after and we could begin the descent.

As always, getting down was much quicker than getting up, and it seemed we were back on more level ground in relatively no time. And, more amazingly, the grey skies disappeared and we emerged from the forest into bright sunshine for the last 5 kms back to Santa Pau.

The sunshine was relatively short lived however, and by 8.30pm rain and hail hit the village, which did not bode well for the next day. But, hurrah hurrah, Thursday morning we awoke to clear blue sunny skies for the last day of our walk ( although Pete’s weather ap told us there would be thunderstorms in Besalu at 2pm – which gave us 4 hours to walk the 15kms, so better get our skates on).

This was the least interesting of our days as we spent most of it in, to quote our notes, a “Mediterranean jungle” – so there was little to see once we left the creek (which is supposedly home to otters, although they were not showing themselves as we passed by) and climbed into the woods.

At one point we looked back and thought we could see the Castell de Finestres peak that we had climbed the day before:

And, for a change, a climb to the top did in fact provide us with the promised views far off in the distance (albeit glimpsed only briefly before plunging into the “jungle” again):

After another picnic lunch:

And a photo op at another ancient chapel:

We headed down the hill to the beautiful town of Besalu, which was once the historical capital of the Garrotxa county. The icon of the town is the bridge, with its striking arches and towers.

Our hotel, Els Jardins de la Martana, sits at the beginning of the Romanesque bridge and was built in 1910 by an ‘Indiano’, the name given to those returning to Spain after making their fortune in South America. It was then owned by a doctor in the 1930s. Whilst the rooms themselves are plain (except for the remains of the decorated ceilings), and obviously subdivided from their original size:

there is a gorgeous lounge, with a fascinating chimney:

and a beautiful library, both for use by the guests:

We settled ourselves on the lovely terrace to finish our picnic lunch, and to enjoy a celebratory glass of bubbles, but no sooner had we popped the cork than there were rain drops, followed shortly after by claps of thunder – Pete’s predicted thunderstorm had arrived. Thank goodness we were not still tramping through the hills.

So, we promptly decamped back inside.

The rain continued for several hours. In what we thought was a respite we ventured forth to explore the town, which has an interesting history, but the rain soon returned – so, we scurried back to the sanctuary of the hotel.

We ventured out later for an excellent dinner at Pont Vell, situated just past the gateway into the medieval city after crossing the bridge:

 The photos are missing the terrine & foie gras entree and the cheese plate for dessert – sorry, I was distracted by scoffing them down! But, they do show the amuse bouche of vichyssoise topped with foie gras, and a soft shell crab wonton; the ravioli in consommé  (not sure what type but it was delicious) and the duck leg confit. Plus, the truly excellent wine from the Girona region.

Given it had finished raining by the time we left the restaurant we did another quick stroll around the completely empty village before retiring to bed. Tomorrow we bus it back to Girona. It has been a terrific walk, despite the weather challenges. Thank you Inntravel ( , and the lovely people we met along the way.

2 thoughts on “Santa Pau to Besalu – Days 5 & 6

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