Sometimes it really is the location that matters, even if the accommodation must have everything you want, too.
We have a number of good, well-kept holiday homes – here it’s a two-bedroomed beauty – but when you realize that this one is ideally situated for enjoying the very best of Asturias and the Picos de Europa, it makes all the difference in the world.
The cottage is just what a lot of couples or small families look for. It’s a very pretty, stone-built affair, set on a hilltop in private gardens, from where you have stupendous views of the Picos de Europa mountains. At less than ten minutes walk is Arriondas, right at the heart of walking holiday country.
From here you are also perfectly placed for exploring the gloriously undiscovered reaches of the Picos: Ponga, which we shall come to presently.
The rustically modern house accommodates four people in attractive comfort. Among features that we particularly liked were the smart kitchen, good mattresses and wood floors in the bedrooms, and properly cushioned terrace furnishings outside.
The spaces aren’t minimal, either. As you come in, an open-plan design spreads out from a high-ceilinged reception area; upstairs a gallery landing from decent-sized bedrooms overlooks the spacious main room.
It’s all neatly fitted out, well-appointed and inviting. There are two upstairs bedrooms, a bathroom on both floors, and 80 m² of covered terrace, including a barbecue.
Outside, children have loads of space to run around and play on the grass. Adults and teenagers have the use of bicycles: these are provided free of charge and you are simply asked to take good care of them for the following guests.
You’re very private here, high among the green hills, not overlooked at all. The only other building you can see in one of the photos belongs to the same owners and is an unoccupied outhouse. You have to drive up a steepish lane to get there, but a normal car's all you need.
The views aren’t just wonderful, they’re a hint of what you will experience every day and whichever direction you choose. Keen walkers are in their natural element here.
The central location puts you close to thick forest and sparkling rivers, forgotten villages and the pretty beaches of the Asturias coastline.
Walk the 800 metres to Arriondas and you find yourself in a small, well-provided for town, laid out along the banks of the otherwise tree-lined Sella and Piloña Rivers, against a backdrop of crumpled mountains. Try a snack with local Cabrales cheese and light, sharp cider decanted by your barman. Asturias is famed in Spain for its generous, tasty cuisine. You don’t have to go to either of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Arriondas to experience plentiful and marvellous dishes.
Arriondas has good facilities (there’s even a disco) but above all it is best known as the setting-out point for descending the Sella river in kayak, canoe or raft. This has become a popular activity and you’ll have no problem hiring a boat if you want to try it. In August, people come from far and wide to take part in the festive International Canoe Race, accompanied by music and street events.
You can also organize canyoning and similar outdoor pursuits here, and for anything you can’t find, a ten-minute drive brings you to Cangas de Onis, nerve centre for the Picos de Europa. Cangas Sunday market is a good opportunity to pick up fresh produce and to select from variety of intriguing (and often pungent) cheeses.
Before going into the rich depths of the mountains here, let’s not forget the coast. The cottage is a mere 20 minutes from the wild, natural setting of La Vega beach at Ribadesella. The mile-long strand, protected from development as a declared Natural Monument, is good for swimming. There’s a very fine fish restaurant at La Vega and children’s surfing boards can often be hired. In the eastern reaches of the beach there are fossilized dinosaur footprints.
Follow the coast road to discover the very best beaches in Asturias and the lovely small seaside town of Lastres and its nearby Jurassic Museum, a sure-fire hit with children, who can then hunt for more dinosaur prints on the beach below.
The cottage’s immediate draw, for most people, is the Picos mountains. From the property, as long as there’s no mistiness, of course, you see a range of snow-topped peaks, including Peña Santa. In less than half an hour you’re right amongst them and rising to the high lakes of Covadonga. Add the Cares Defile and the funicular to Bulnes for classic days out.
It’s spectacular, and yet curiously enough, it can be something of a challenge for hiking, since the terrain tends towards the abrupt. We have even better recommendations for walking and this is where cottage AT23 comes into its own.
Arriondas is the nearby town for the almost otherworldly Sierra del Sueve, where pathways meander the hills and you may come across the unique Asturcon horse. But there’s much more…
Twenty minutes, driving south, brings you to Ponga and, in our opinion, some of the most extraordinary landscapes anywhere in Spain. Make no mistake, this is way off the beaten track!
Drive along the almost daunting Beyos defile and you will find the wild cousin to the Picos that few people know exists and fewer ever enter. Unpopulated gorges, sheer rock faces, springy-grassed hillsides to ramble, wild forest, and view after view of endless peaks that are ultimately lost to sight in inaccessible territory of the province of León.
This is Ponga and it’s very special. Keep going, because it just gets more amazing. Around Oseja de Sajambre one comes across hamlets in another, forgotten time and people living entirely off the land. The village bar, if there is one, might not have a fridge, keeping wine cool instead in a stone recess beneath the floor.
After a trip out here, you can soon return to 'civilization' and shopping at the large convenience store in Arriondas, but you may wonder whether you dreamed it all.
Rest at home, looking out at the mountain massif over a barbecue in summer, or warm and toasty inside in winter by the open fire more than adequately supported by central heating.
Enjoy natural Asturias!