The trip to the North Coast of Santander is a pleasure not experienced by all the tourists, but it is worth staying one more day in the Cantabrian capital to visit it. This is one of the best kept secrets of the city, a place where it loses its identity as capital city to recall its rural side. The northern coast adopts the name of Cueto, Monte and San Román consecutively, three localities adjacent to Santander whose borders have become blurred. Even so, these areas maintain their own idiosyncrasies and offer the possibility of enjoying the rural setting with the city centre round the corner. This route goes from Cabo Mayor Lighthouse to La Virgen del Mar, and it can be covered on foot, by bicycle or by car.
Next to the lighthouse of Cabo Mayor the charms of the wildest coastal nature and the most traditional countryside, with pastures and animals, coexist. To get to the first point of this route we must walk westward through the meadows annexed to the lighthouse picnic area, with our eyes fixed on the coastline. After a few minutes’ walk we reach the Diablo Bridge, a natural hole in the limestone made by the erosive action of the sea. Until 2011, this stone had the perfect shape of a big orifice, but it was broken after a strong storm. Even so, it is really enjoyable to walk up to this place and see how the Cantabrian Sea crashes against the cliffs. In this scene it is possible to see gatherers of shellfish fighting against the waves to get valuable seafood.
Continuando por el sendero ubicado a la izquierda del Puente del Diablo, que discurre entre la línea de costa y el campo de fútbol de Cueto, se llega al Panteón del Inglés. Se trata de una pequeña construcción en memoria de William Rowland, un hombre británico que murió en ese mismo punto al caer de su caballo, que se asustó por el fuerte impacto de las olas en un día de temporal. Rowland se encontraba en Santander visitando a su amigo José Jackson, el encargado del semáforo de señales para barcos de Cueto. Este telegrafista encargó construir el memorial para honrar su muerte en 1892.
El Bocal and Rosamunda Beaches
To reach El Bocal and Rosamunda beaches we can either walk a couple of kilometres, leaving the locality of Cueto and going deep into that of Monte, or we can drive from Cabo Mayor, along Inés Diego del Noval and El Monte Streets following the road signs. These small beaches are quite isolated and lonely. Located on the coast, so rough in this area, they are frequented by surf and peacefulness lovers. It is here, better than anywhere else, where we get to understand the verses of poet Matilde Camus, neighbour of the locality of Monte: “I was born in the freshness of the green land / I’ve felt in my heart the lash of the grey sea / of its living surge, which licks our coasts or bites them”.
About 500 metres further on we find La Maruca, one of places in the municipality with more seafaring atmosphere, where we can see boats moored along the small ria of San Pedro del Mar and where one can enjoy the delicacies cooked in its fish and seafood taverns. The rural atmosphere of Monte and the entire northern coast can be noticed here, and it is likely to see neighbours with fishing tackles or farm tools as well as sheep, donkey and hen enclosures. A striking image due to its closeness to the city centre. Next to the ria lies the small rocky Maruca Beach and, next to it, a path leading to the sea.
The Battery of San Pedro del Mar
Walking along the path that runs next to the beach towards the sea, we reach the Battery of San Pedro, a fortification documented from 1660 which was built to protect Santander from pirate attacks and remained active till after the Spanish War of Succession (1702-1713) between Austrians and Bourbons. The battery had a wall connecting the building where ammunition was kept and the platform from which artillery was fired. This structure was protected, at the same time, by an outer fortification with a moat. The building, in ruins for decades, has been recently rebuilt and today is an interpretation centre of the coast with a viewpoint located at the top. (Coastal Interpretation Centre: Arrange visits by calling ☎ 618 717 613).
About 500 metres south from the Battery of San Pedro del Mar is the castle of Corbanera, built in the 19th century. The property is composed of a neo-medieval tower used as a barrack hut and warehouses, atop which two cannons were placed, and a walled circular enclosure. Locals participated in carrying out the works of the castle since they were obliged to undertake this kind of community services unless they paid to avoid them. Today, it is closed and we can see how the owners of some of the houses in the vicinity have taken advantage of the wall to save themselves having to build another one.
Molino de Mareas Bridge
To the western side of the ria of San Pedro del Mar there is a bridge which constitutes the last trace of what once was the mill of Aldama, a construction in use until the 19th century to grind cereals. Leaving it behind, we arrive at Punta La Mesa. At this point we must take the second turning on the right to get to the privileged vantage point from which we can admire the shape of the coastline, recognized by the European Union as Special Area of Conservation. The natural path leading directly from the bridge to Pozonas of San Román, the next milestone of this itinerary, can also be taken.
Pozonas of San Román
Recently recovered, this wetland is an important stopover for migratory birds. In it we can see an ecosystem with landscape, ecological and cultural richness.
The path arriving from La Maruca is circular and it has a total length of seven kilometres.
La Virgen del Mar
Also in the locality of San Román we can visit the Sanctuary of La Virgen del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea), patron saint of Santander and fishermen who, every year, 51 days after the Holy Saturday, come in procession to the hermitage and pray to her “If my little boat sinks, be my Captain Virgin of the Sea”. Nestled in an islet, this sanctuary can be accessed by a bridge. In its vicinity, the strength of the Cantabrian Sea erodes the cliffs. A real show in days of strong currents. This area also houses a beautiful beach, a large parking area and meadows where one can rest or go for a picnic.
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Very close to this place is the Cemetery of Ciriego, created following the decision of Carlos III to build the graveyards outside the city walls. San Román de la Llanilla was the chosen place, very close to the sea. This is one of the best examples of the richness of funerary art in Spain, especially by the famous master stonemasons of Cantabria, who carried out works for pantheons, tombs and monuments in Ciriego. It is included in the European Cemeteries Route, recognized by the World Tourism Organization for its innovation, dissemination and interpretation of Europe’s heritage.