Colombres to Llanes, Camino Norte, Northern Spain


Today we decided to do something different and not choose the Picos de Europa for a walk. A couple of years ago we walked the Camino Norte for 500 miles from its start in Irun near the French border, to Santiago de Compostela. We had enjoyed this walk so much that we decided to do one of the stages again from Colombres  to Llanes. The only problem with doing a linear walk, is the ability to return to the start. There are more interesting sections of the Camino in the vicinity-more to come later-but this section has the easiest transport links, especially on a Sunday when we walked. We were very excited to see what had changed and how much of the walk we could remember. The route is usually easy to follow with yellow arrows and shells to show the way to Santiago, on the whole making a guide book unnecessary.

We were holidaying in the Picos area of Northern Spain, staying at The Hotel La Rivera, Arenas de Cabrales. Unfortunately for us breakfast  was served from 8.30am, but having decided to leave earlier than this, once again missed the breakfast  leaving the hotel at 7.40am. We drove through Panes following the River Cares shrouded in mist, very atmospheric, with an early morning mist rising over the mountains. Arriving in Colombres at 8.30am, there was plenty of free parking by the church in the middle of town. We saw about ten pilgrims all following the yellow signs to Santiago, with their huge packs on. Unfortunately there was no sign of a cafe being open, maybe due to it being Sunday.

We started walking at 8.50am, the path is easy to follow through the town, leading down through a field, then the path splits briefly, we took the left hand route past the old hermitage. We stopped at 9.10am at Hotel Restaurante Casa Junco. Coffee and toast at the usual Camino price of €2.50 each, with pilgrims eating there too.

Over the motorway, past Colombres station, left down a farm track through the very pretty town of La Franca. We continued on through woods, then walked on the bike path along the side of the main road (N-634) with sea views. The interesting village of Buelna is found to the right and is well worth the 5 minute detour to look round it. Continuing to the Albergue de Peregrinos Santa Marina and restaurant opposite could make an interesting stop, or at any point you could turn round back to Colombres, or catch the train back. Turning right off  the main road we reached the Bar Castiellu, in Pendueles where we have stayed previously. We ate a Spanish speciality of tuna empanada €2 with coffee €1.30. This is a nice bar. To stay here it is €30 for a double room, €10 for a 3 course pilgrims' meal, and €1.50 for all the laundry. This is the usual price on the Camino in Spain, making it a relatively cheap holiday.

Leaving at 11.40am, it was a lovely walk across the fields down to the beach at La Paz, spending the time talking with a couple from Perth who were roughly halfway through their 4 week walk to Santiago. This is a lovely thing about walking a Camino, as one meets people from all over the world, going the same way, with the same objective in mind. So many new friends to make.

From the beach the path turns left then right, then the older route goes under a motorway and carries on further from the sea. We continued along the alternative path nearer the sea, turning right at the sign post for Bufones de Arenillas. Arriving at 12.55pm no water was in the blow hole as the tide was out, but at high tide or on a stormy day it would be spectacular. We continued on through beautiful Eucalyptus trees, over a small bridge arriving in the village of Andrin at 1.45pm. Both of us instantly recognised this as the place on the previous walk where we sheltered under the church roof from the storm, both cafes had been closed, and we had been  joined by a fellow walker from Extremadura. On this occasion the weather was beautiful, both cafes were open and we ate our sandwiches by the old wash area. Following the road up hill, we joined the main road at 2.15pm.

From the view point there are fantastic views over the ocean with the lovely smell of Eucalyptus trees. Here there is a choice, to go down the road, and eventually through Cue to Llanes. But we chose the more scenic route, which follows a long path along the side of the golf course with views over to the sea and our destination of Llanes in the distance. Passing an old Hermitage, then a new aubergue, we followed the arrows into town arriving in Llanes harbour at 3.30pm. Strangely neither of us could remember this path or Llanes. We then realised last time the weather had been so bad, that from the viewpoint  we had walked straight down the road and visited a cafe on the bridge near the harbour, absolutely soaked. Fortunately the weather was much better on this occasion. The Camino is increasing in popularity with more cafes and accommodation springing up along its route. We definitely saw more pilgrims than 2 years ago.

Llanes is a pretty destination in itself, with plenty of people out for a late lunch. We had a coffee in the main square, on the other side of the river at 4pm, then walked the 500m to the bus station. The cafe and ticket office were shut, probably as it was Sunday. On the platform is a ticket machine which takes card and cash up to €10, then issues tickets. It is €2 each on the bus back to Colombres, which leaves at 4.55pm otherwise the train is at 6.30pm. The advantage of the bus is that it goes into Colombres  itself, rather than the train station which is about 1km out of town, near where we had eaten breakfast. Various buses kept arriving and departing with some confusion over their destination as nothing was written on the front. Our bus arrived at 5.10pm, but we were pleased that we had the train or a taxi as a backup plan, returning to Colombres at 6pm.

We had seen adverts for a 3 day fiesta in the town of Carrena a couple of miles down the road from where we were staying, so decided to visit on our way back to the hotel. It was busy when we arrived, parking up we walked into the village. There was a bar, a main centre stage with seats and bands of up to 10 people playing a simple type of bagpipe, and dancing. Many people were dressed in the local costumes. This was lovely to see, and definitely worth a small detour.

We ate dinner back in Arenas in the Restaurant de Cares, a delicious 3 course dinner with wine €15. We ate water melon and goats cheese salad, cod pancake in pepper sauce and apple pie. Delicious and to be recommended.

We were really pleased that we had spent the day on this walk. Many more pilgrims were walking than we did it 2 years ago. Other stages of the Camino Norte can be followed, maybe some are more interesting than this stage i.e. Santillana to Comillas, or Llanes to Ribadesella . But we chose this stage as it is relatively near to where we were staying in Arenas, and more importantly as it was a linear walk, we able to catch the bus back. Alternatively there is a train that runs along the coast line. Both timetables are available on line.

Distance 14.5 miles (23.3km)

Duration of Walk Hours 7

Average Pace Min/Mile 26

Steps  36,000

Elevation gained 1002 feet (300m)



As usual we wore boots, took sun hats, sun tan lotion, food and plenty of water.

Having walked just one stage of the Camino, we realised how much we had enjoyed walking the Camino Norte, and the Camino de Santiago previously. The sense of everyone walking the same way, many new friends to meet from all over the world, well signposted and unplanned walking, and a great sense of achievement when it ends. It is mindfulness at its best, and definitely something to recommend even if all of the walk cannot be completed in one trip. 

We really enjoyed the Fiesta we visited. If in the area it would be worth checking them out. 

This area of Northern Spain is accessible from England either by driving through France, or flying to Bilbao then hiring a car or the route that we took, driving from our home in Manchester then catching the 24 hour relaxing ferry from Plymouth to Santander. From Santander  we visited Aldi in Torrelavega  as the food is more expensive in the Picos national park area, and drove to where we were staying in La Rivera Arenas de Cabrales for 5 days.

Resources/ Used

Book -The Northern Caminos by Laura Perazzoli and Dave Whitson Cicerone press, given as stage 15