Northern Spain road trip: pull over for pintxos

Theres great food and striking design on the route from the Basque country to Galicia, taking in boutique hotels and beautiful beaches

The road from San Sebastian to A Coruna is one of big cities, fairly fishing townships, high cliffs and raging ocean. It skirts the rugged Basque coast, runs through lush Cantabria and Asturias, and objectives up in Galicia, on the wildly beautiful Costa de la Muerte.

San Sebastian is all about food, and there is so much to recommend. Stay a few minutes from the old township and its constrict streets and pintxo bars at arty Hotel Okako ( doubles from EUR1 20 room merely ). The local custom is one pintxo and one drink in each bar. Try Txepetxa for anchovies, Nestor for steaks and Zeruko for molecular fare. For a sit-down weekday lunch, Ibai at Calle de Getaria 15( no website) is a locals’ favourite.

Spain
Illustration: Bek Cruddace

After you’ve eaten and drunk all you can, get ready to do it again 100 km away in Bilbao . Here, a fine place to stay is hotel Iturrienea Ostatua ( doubles from EUR7 5 B& B ). Wander around the stunning Guggenheim gallery to work up an craving for Bilbao’s food. If your billfold can bear it, try Michelin-starred Nerua, with menu from EUR8 0 a head, inside Frank Gehry’s masterpiece. For something cheaper, swing by La Vina del Ensanche, a 90 -year-old bar serving excellent pintxos and wine.

Next, drive 70 km west into rugged, verdant Cantabria and the village of Santona , staying at El Cantal ( doubles from EUR6 0 B& B, on booking.com ). Explore the cliffs, forts and ancient rock dwellings of Monte Buceiro peninsula, and Berria beach, with its mile of golden sand. Stop by a local bar or shop to try the anchovies, perhaps the town’s most famous export.

Nerua
Nerua eatery, in Bilbao’s Guggenheim Photograph: Andoni Epelde

A 45 km drive west is Santander , with rugged bays, white sand and ostentatious mid-2 0th century builds. While staying at Le Petit Boutique Hotel ( doubles from PS65 B& B) take a stroll down El Sardinero beach, and catch a ferry to Playa de Somo across the bay, to enjoy fine views of the city. For food, Diluvio in the city centre is excellent or try pintxo specialist Casa Lita on seafront Paseo de Pereda.

Head west on the -A8 for 60 km to San Vi cente de la Barquera ( top painting ), a angling port below the Picos de Europa mountains. Stop for a delicious seafood lunch at El Retiro, before driving 0n 35 km to Llanes , in Asturias. Park in a side street and head for the central pedestrianised zone to Hotel Los Molinos ( doubles from EUR6 0 room only ). Saunter around the harbour drinking freshly poured Asturian cider and trying local delicasy percebes – goose barnacles. The area has plenty of beaches- check out Playa del Toro, simply east of town.

Plaza
Plaza de la Constitucion in San Sebastian old town. Photograph: Getty Images

It’s another 90 -minute drive( 170 km) west to Luarca . There, an excellent place to stay is Villa La Argentina ( doubles from PS90 B& B ), an 1899 mansion with extensive gardens that is now an unusual hotel filled with antiques and objets d’art. In the harbour, enjoy the sweeping position of the town as it circles the bay and stretches up into the hills. For lunch, try El Barometro( 5 Paseo del Muelle, unofficial Facebook page ), where the peppers stuffed with shellfish and squid in their own ink are delicious.

Berria
Berria beach, Santona. Photograph: Getty Image

To break the two-hour drive along the coast to Ortigueira , in Galicia, stop at Rinlo for arroz caldoso con bogavante ( EUR3 5 ), a soupy dish of rice with lobster at Porto de Rinlo.

Ortigueirais a beautiful town between mountains and ocean. The place to stay is the Castano Dormilon ( doubles from EUR8 9 B& B ), in a traditional building with modern interiors. For food, check out Bar O Coto( EUR1 5 menu of the day , no website ), a 15 -minute drive south on the CP-6 113: it serves traditional homemade dishes such as caldeirada de pulpo ( octopus) as well as pizzas. A lovely place to visit nearby is the small village of Loiba , some 20 minutes away to the north-east, and home to the” best bench in the world “. The bench, so inscribed, offers wonderful views of the cliffs and the wail sea.

Ortigueira
Ortigueira. Photograph: Huckleberry Mountain

Finally, head south on the AG-6 4 for 109 km( 90 mins) to your final stop, A Coruna . After checking into Hotel Lois in the city-centre( doubles from EUR5 0 B& B ), stroll along the promenade for 2km to the 55 -metre Torre de Hercules( entry EUR3 ), the only Roman-built lighthouse still functioning. The food scene is excellent in A Coruna. For a welcoming ambiance and classic, unpretentious food, try O Bebedeiro or Taberna de Cunqueiro.


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