Potes (yet another medieval village, population 1470) in southern Cantabria, sits in a verdant valley, straddling the Rio Deva and the Rio Quiviesa. In the heart of the town is a cluster of stone bridges, beautifully restored traditional slate homes and towers. You can walk around the entire town three times in an hour. This we did (including walking along the Rio Deva passing under all the bridges), before choosing a small restaurant where we had a very hearty country meal. The plato por dos (plate for two) had enough cuts of meat and assorted locally made sausages to satisfy four.
Fuente De, in the Picos de Europa mountain range, is a mere 25km from Potes. At an altitude already above 884m, the valley floor is verdant and the lower slopes of the mountains are covered with forest. A thick blanket of cloud obscured the view of the upper mountain slopes.
It is not until you take a cable car that pierces the clouds as it ascends 753m along a cable with a length of 1,640m do you get to appreciate the rugged mountain peaks. A waterfall cascades silently over a cliff face, dropping 200m before hitting rocks below.
Once you reach the Mirador del Cable (at 1926m) you enter a landscape of bare, broken shale, mountain pastures and scattered patches of snow. The brilliant blue sky contrasted hugely with the cloud-and-rain shrouded valley, invisible below. The area is cross-crossed with serious walks, and we followed one trail for about and hour and a half (taking us away from tourists who tended not to venture more than 100m from the stepping off point) before turning back.
We were privileged to see rebeco (wild chamois), one sunning itself on a snowfield and another on a shelf just above us. There is a 4WD track up to the mirador, but the surface is loose and the edge drops steeply away. Park rangers (all kitted out with abseiling equipment) drove very carefully.