Travel: Sole searching on the Costa Brava

Swapping a swimming costume for sturdy boots, Debbie Murray takes a walking tour along this famous Spanish coastline.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15th October 2013, 7:00 am
Calella Church on the Spanish Costa Brava. PA photo
Calella Church on the Spanish Costa Brava. PA photo

As the waitress liberally pours whisky over the large slab of cake in front of us, we don’t feel a pang of guilt - because we know we’ll be walking it all off tomorrow.

It’s the third day of our week-long walking holiday along the Catalan coast of Costa Brava, just north of Barcelona.

We arrived in Calella yesterday afternoon, having already enjoyed two days of steady walking along this beautiful coastline.

Our journey started in S’Agaro, an upmarket resort with a picture-postcard beach, where we relaxed in Hotel S’Agaro’s seafront gardens and enjoyed a dip in the pool before dinner.

The first walk, which was an ambitious 14km, took us from S’Agaro to La Fosca. A long and winding promenade, which starts outside the hotel, opposite Santa Pol beach, takes you past some lovely villas on the cliff tops and lots of beautiful views of beaches and bays below.

Part of the route took us through a small forest of pine trees which, as well as smelling lovely, rewarded us with great views of the boats bobbing on the Mediterranean Sea below.

Descending to ground level, we were awe-struck by the magnificent yachts in the Punta Prima marina. Surrounded by modern villas, this is definitely the playground of the Costa Brava!

After ambling across several small bays, we arrived at Platja d’Aro. A 2km stretch of sand backed by high-rise buildings, it is the modern part of the Costa.

But this was not the longest beach on this first day’s walk. At a vast 4km in length, Sant Antoni de Calonge seems to go on forever, especially when you’re at the end of a long day’s trek. Thankfully there’s a promenade, which is a lot easier to walk on than shale and sand. And there are cafes and bars dotted between the hotels across the road from the beach.

La Fosca is further inland and much quieter than Sant Antoni. When we arrived at Hotel Ancora (our tour operator, InnTravel, uses a network of hotels along the route of footpaths along the coast), the receptionist instantly handed us towels for the empty pool around the back. After taking a well-earned dip, we were presented with our calorie-laden slab of whisky-drenched cake.

The following day’s walk is shorter - good news for our slightly aching limbs - and the last one for a couple of days, as tomorrow is a ‘free’ day.

With that incentive we have a spring in our step on today’s mostly cliff-top walk. There’s a lovely climb which, though sometimes steep, takes us through a beautiful forest of pine and cork trees. We hardly see another soul and spend time trying to improve our photography skills using our wild lush surroundings, the trees, flowers and insects, as subjects and inspiration.

After descending from the forest we arrive in S’Alguer, a tiny cove with brightly-coloured fishermen’s cottages and boats on the cobbles in front. A family eat lunch at a table shaded by trees, and a woman outside another of the huts paints at an easel. We want to join them in their tiny piece of paradise but feel like intruders - and we have more walking to do.

But not much more as, after cutting through some fields (still following the red and white markers which guide the official footpaths), we arrive back on the coast and at a lovely beach where we cool off in the the refreshingly ice-cold sea.

We know we’re literally minutes from Calella, our destination for the next two nights, but the tiny cove is too inviting to walk past.

Calella is the Costa’s most beautiful resort and Hotel Sant Roc is perched at the top, affording magnificent views. Our room, on the second floor, has a huge balcony overlooking the entire resort and, more importantly, the sea.

We wake refreshed and happy that today is a ‘free’ day - no walking, unless we want to make use of the many suggestions in the walking notes. But we choose a day lying on the coast that we are, otherwise, walking around.

We get up early the next day to finish packing ahead of our bags being transferred by car to the next hotel. We are sad to leave Hotel Sant Roc and Calella but excited about what lies ahead.

The forecast is for rain, so we quicken our step and arrive at Hotel Llevant in Llafranc just before the heavens open. We join others in the glass extension of the bar, where we watch people running for cover or sheltering as a river of rainwater rushes past the door.

We get chatting to a couple in their sixties who have been coming to Llafranc for years and spy their huge goldfish bowl-style glasses of triple gin and tonics, then order some of our own!

Surprisingly, we rise in good time to have breakfast the next day before starting the final walk of the holiday. We examine the gullies the rain has made on the beach and notice the sandbags in front of the few buildings.

A tough climb takes us to the top of the hill and to a fantastic view of the town and Palafrugell below. Then it’s down some tricky pine forest tracks to the deserted pebbled bay of Cala Pedrosa where we spend some time skimming stones into the sea.

Shortly afterwards, we come across another couple on the same InnTravel holiday. They are walking down the coast instead of up and have just come from our final hotel, which they say is stunning.

We are spurred on by this as we descend another treacherous path which leads to the beach of Tamariu, where we top up our tanks with baguettes and local beer.

We arrive to discover Hotel Aigua Blava is indeed stunning - colonial in style and full of well-heeled Brits.

Our room is huge and has a balcony overlooking the beach, with views back to the larger Aigua Blava bay.

We feast on a lovely menu of chicken pate tapa, poached eggs on ratatouille and brie, sole meunière and roasted duck, then sorbet and fried Catalan dough balls. The wine, recommended by the lovely waiter, is a full-bodied Catalan red.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like a walking holiday, packing bags most nights and walking most days, but it was a perfect way to see the beautiful Costa Brava and to sample some fabulous hotels, food and drink.

Travel facts - Costa Brava

Debbie Murray travelled as a guest of Inntravel (01653 617000; www.inntravel.co.uk) who offers a week’s walking holiday, Along the Catalan Coast, from £820pp based on two sharing, including seven nights’ half board accommodation (at five hotels en route), walking maps and notes, and luggage transfers. Flights and transfers are extra - recommended airports are Girona or Barcelona.