Catalonia by foot

Calella Church, Costa Brava, Spain.
Calella Church, Costa Brava, Spain.
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Swapping a swimming costume for sturdy boots, Debbie Murray takes a walking tour along the Spanish coastline.

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 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 faced 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.

After cutting through some fields, 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 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 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.

After breakfast the next day 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.

Another treacherous path 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 stunning – colonial in style and full of well-heeled Brits. We feast on chicken pate tapa, poached eggs on ratatouille and brie, sole meunière and roasted duck, then sorbet and fried Catalan dough balls.

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.

Getting there

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 £820 per person 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.