Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Cami de Ronda .- Palamós to Calella de Palafrugell

La Fosca, Castell Sant Esteve de Mar and the Cap Roig hills in the distance
The Cami de Ronda is a coastal path that winds its way along the Catalan coast from Blanes to the French border. In the not too distant past it was simultaneously used by smugglers and police as a  more-or-less rapid way to get from A to B without having to venture too far inland. Today though, it draws people from all over the world to hike the meandering tracks through pine and oak forests, along sandy beaches, via little hidden coves - unreachable by any other means - and over wild rocky vertiginous cliffs with breathtaking views over the Mediterranean sea. Like most of the locals here, we have our favourites which we return to year after year when the weather cools sufficiently in the autumn months. There are walks to suit everyone. Short hikes from one sleepy village to another like the 15 minute hop along the coast for coffee and ice cream in LLafranc after a long lazy lunch in Calella de Palafrugell or the 30 minute walk by the prestigious urbanisation of S'Agaro to the beach at Sant Pol and a choice of half a dozen or so restaurants situated right on the beach and priced to suit everyones pockets. Each walk varies somewhat. There are some that are wild and natural following a track so ethereal that you need to have a good sense of direction and keep your wits about you or risk ending up on a wild boar track deep in the forest to others that are manicured  and well maintained by the local councils; more suitable for families and those with mobility concerns. Some of them are by-and -large flat that follow the wide sandy beaches of Baix Empordá  from Begur to l'Escala and others that will earn you some sore legs in the morning. There are few coastal walks in Catalunya however that tick all the boxes at the same time, but we reckon that the 9km hike to Calella de Palafrugell from the Marina in Palamós is one of them.

You can of course bring a packed lunch with you.... But, with so many excellent restaurants to chose from, it would be churlish not to enjoy a long lazy lunch by the sea and sample the gastronomic delights of Catalunya.

The Calella de Palafrugell walk can be split into three distinct sections should you not be in the mood for a full 9km excursion for the day and for those that don't wish to retrace their steps and walk off the substantial lunch on the way back to Palamós, a well pre-positioned car at Celalla will save them the return 9km. So, put on your walking boots, pack the back pack with some water and change of clothing (maybe a towel if you want to have a swim on the way),  put on some suncream and "nos vamos" !

The approach to La Fosca.
The beach at La Fosca.
At the north end of Fosca beach looking south.
Parking can always be problematic in these little seaside villages as parking space is always physically defined geographically and in small fishing villages where real estate is a premium, car parks do not come top of the list. Most roads are narrow and parking is restricted, so we recommend parking by the marina at Palamós where there is almost always space for the car in Calle Tamardia. Within 200 meters you'll be on the Cami de Ronda and enjoying the spectacular scenery that is so emblematic of the Costa Brava. You can't really go wrong as the path is well worn and although not difficult, people with mobility issues will struggle as it is wild in places and you'll need to be able to clamber over tree roots and rocks every now and then. About 20 minutes later, you'll arrive at the first stop for coffee / breakfast. The beach at La Fosca. Platja Fosca is great for families and small children. The beach at Fosca is particularly shallow which is unusual for the Costa Brava as generally the beaches shelve steeply. Here the water is warm and shallow. There is a lifeguard throughout the summer season, the beach is blue flagged and complete with chirringuitos (beach bars), restaurants, toilets and showers has everything that you need for a day at the beach.  Today though, we pass by towards the north end of the beach and past the ruined Castell Sant Esteve de Mar and onwards towards the fishing huts at S'Alguer.
S'alguer fishing beach huts.
There is no access to these little fishing huts except by foot along the Cami de Ronda and a dirt track for the residents and their cars. Used by fishermen for centuries, they have become daily summer retreats for the lucky few that have come to own them. In the spring, you'll find whole families here diving for sea urchins (erizos de mar) and eating them raw with sea-cooled Cava. Situated in a protected green space, the development options are very limited (thankfully) and this part of the Costa Brava has been totally spared the encroachment of concrete and modern life. An idyllic respite from the hum of electricity, the peace and tranquility of this little cove is the perfect stop for any mid morning snacks / sandwiches that you may have brought along for the trip :)
Plate Castell and the iberian ruins on the hill.
Another 20 minutes or so and you'll arrive at the beach at Platja Castell. Castell is our favourite beach during the summer, slightly wild and away from the towns and villages, it still has life guards and two chirringuitos during the summer months. A local farmer, with the coordination of the Ajuntamiento de Palamós, provides ample parking space for a fee (€5.00 for the day, €3.00 for the afternoon) and for the more adventurous, there is Kayak hire from Kayaking Costa Brava
The ruins of Castell and la foradada cala.
On the headland to the north of the beach, you'll find the neolithic and medieval ruins of the Castle and a few public information boards explaining the history of the site. Access is free and well worth the short walk up to the top of the hill as it affords you spectacular views over the beach and to the north where there is a natural sea arch (La foradada), perfect for exploring by kayak. To the south of Platja Castell, hidden behind a rocky outcrop, there is a small naturist beach for those that wish to go au natural.

The next part of the hike takes you up to the top of the cliffs and through the oak forests for about an hour or so until you start the descent down into Calella de Palafrugell. This part of the hike is the most wild and the path is well trodden but not manicured. You'll need good boots / trainers as it gets slippery in places and sometimes gets very close to the cliff edges so those with young children should keep an eye on them that they don't stray too far ahead.
A perfect day anchored in a little bay.
Well maintained path.
Pine forests of Cap Roig.
You'll need to bring some water with you. Even in the autumn when the temperatures hover around a very pleasant 25 ºC during the day, the shade of the oak and pine forest won't stop you dehydrating.
On the way to Calella de Palafrugell from Platja Castell, there are a number of small sandy beaches which are only accessible by foot along this trail. If you want to find a beach off the beaten track and away from civilisation, then Cala Estreta, Cala Cap de Planes, Cala de Vedell, Cala de Crit and Playa de Golfet are worth a visit. The first of these, Cala Estreta is first and foremost a naturist beach, so please abide by the rules :)

The naturist beach at Cala Estreta.
The hills between Castell and Calella are also home to the botanical gardens at Cap Roig. Work started here in 1927 when Colonel Woeyodsky and Dorothy Webster bought the estate lands at Cap Roig and began to build the Castle and landscaped gardens which consist of a series of terraces that lead down to the coastline each terrace dedicated to it's own style of flora. Work continued until 1974 and now the gardens are open to the public and play host to a series of open air concerts in the summer months. This year (2016) we had Status Quo, Rod Stewart, Santana and the Corrs amongst the international acts and Sopa de Cabra, Alejandro Sanz and Rosario amongst many others from the Spanish / Latin scene.

The Cap Roig hills are also a major attraction for Mountain and Trail bikers.

Calella de Palafrugell.
Once you arrive at the gates of the Cap Roig gardens, another 20 minutes of well maintained coastal paths leading from the beach at El Golfet and you arrive in Calella de Palafrugell. There are dozens of restaurants to chose from in Calella. We recommend Les Voltes  but be advised, we suggest that you reserve a table, especially at the weekends.

If you wish to learn more about hiking, biking and adventures on the Costa Brava throughout the year, please contact me through our Facebook page, our website below or our email address
About me… I have lived in Calonge (province of Girona) on the Costa Brava since 2003 after retiring as a pilot from the british Royal Air Force. My passions are hiking, biking, skiing, photography and discovering and sharing the hidden cultural treasures of this beautiful country. My day job entails managing a luxury self-catering rental Villa, Casa Cal Domino, and in my search for new and interesting things to do for my clients whilst they are here on holiday, I have been genuinely overawed by the beauty and diversity of this land. I’m not leaving any time soon. I love it here and I hope to inspire you to come and discover this wonderful country for yourself.

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