Meadows sweep down to the very brink of a cliff-edged golden curve of coastline. Animals graze their fertile green. It feels Cornish or Welsh or Breton (perhaps because this ancient land is Celtic too). Not far behind us – about 7km – parallel to the sea, lies the beautiful limestone range of Sierra del Cueva. And behind that, the spectacular Picos de Europa.
But we are beach-focused.
As we near Playa de Andrín, we see the deep blue water of the Bay of Biscay turn turquoise as it laps the shell-shaped shore. Lorena (our Airbnb hostess) was right – this will do nicely for our introduction to the beaches of Asturias.
It’s midday and it’s hot. A sprint into the sea shocks our splashing legs with coldness. Wading briskly on, we only stop when we see a white-tipped push of waves coming our way. It’s senseless to jump or swim back to shore (though we try) – we’re in too far and the roll of the sea is too big. An inevitable and mightily loud christening by the big, blue Cantabrian Sea sweeps over us – shivering and laughing, we turn to face more.
The lifeguards are attentive and quick to move the safety flags (marking the edges of the Zona de Baño) to follow the changing current. It’s clear that this is a good surfers’ beach. For those who follow the sport and understand surfer jargon, more on Playa de Andrín’s potential can be found here.
By fortuitous lack of planning, we’ve arrived at low tide, and despite it being a Saturday in the height of Spanish summertime, there is no end of sandy space to explore.
There is also a bar/restaurant overlooking the beach where you can enjoy a late coffee or early aperitif. Book a table at Spanish lunchtime (2pm) and try the saltily succulent Pimientos de Padrón (small green peppers from Galicia), and some simply fried chiperones (squid). Wash down with local sidra (cider) – practise pouring from head-height as the Asturians do – and mop up garlicky juices with bread.
Where exactly are we?
In the eastern stretch of Asturias’ blue and green, on the Northern Costa Verde (Green Coast – it rains here) of Spain. We are based in the pretty village of Porrúa, some 4km south-west of the seaside town of Llanes.
The old resort and fishing port of Llanes is small and charming, with plentiful cafés and restaurants that line the harbour. We also find the cleanest servicios around (muchas gracias to a super sympathetic and informative tourist office).
Llanes has its own beaches, but Lorena warns us that in August, they will be busy with Spanish holidaymakers. Our eyes are used to the squeeze of the South-Eastern corner of England, and Llanes’ playas don’t appear to be too packed. But we follow local know-how and stick to the quieter beaches of the surrounding villages.
And for six days we are spoiled for choice – the Asturian coast boasts over 200 beaches, and the municipality of Llanes alone has more than 30.
The days settle into a comfortable pattern. We choose the next day’s beach the evening before (using the excellent AsturPlaya website). I tell our kids that we are talking them to natural, unspoilt beaches that are popular with nudists. Their prudish responses surprise me so, of course, I tell them that naturism is popular here, and that when in Rome (or Asturias) they will have to go with the flow … they don’t find me funny.
Our favourite playa changes daily. Initially, we declare Playa de Andrín to be perfect, but then we visit Playa de Toranda at Niembro with its big beach and lovely swimming. Our sandwiches are a little gritty once the wind picks up, but you can’t have it all.
Or can you? The two Playas de Barro and Xiglú seem to tick everybody’s boxes. Again we time the tides right, and benefit from the linking of the two beaches. The eastern Playa de Barro is a generous expanse of sand, offers brilliant bodysurfing, and a bar with a view, while Playa de Xiglú‘s rocky cove is a quieter, smaller space with pools in which to wallow after the cold of the sea.
Then we find the village of Celorio on a day that starts cloudy. We walk the verdant coastal pathways above its cluster of beaches, and stop at the viewpoint Mirador de Celorio where the kids chase themselves in panoramic shots, and we admire a surf school warming up in wetsuits.
The tide starts to recede, the sun clears the sky, and we scan around for the best beach to spread out in. Playa de las Cámaras is small and empty, and accessible via a ruined monastery (no Health & Safety bars our access). Perfect.
Low tide reveals our little beach meeting the next one, which greets the next one, and thus one huge stretch – dotted with rocks newly released from the sea – sprawls between us and the beach bar of Playa de Palombina. Bonus. (Please forgive my increasingly sunscreen-enhanced photos).
Back to the Perfect Playa
Surely there is a perfect playa to suit everyone’s taste on this coast. Choose from urban or rural, isolated or with a buzz, wide or narrow, a beach strewn with stones to climb, or caves to hide in, and islets to admire (but not too closely due to the currents).
We loved them all, but Celorio’s pretty, interlinking beaches with the potential to be tidally secluded or not, won us round – it was the only playa we went to twice (during which time I tried out the fun of the panoramic photo chasing too … and almost disappeared).
And – to my prim and proper kids’ horror – you definitely can get down to your birthday suit on many an Asturian beach, but Playa de Torimbia might be your first port of call.
Asturian Details blog post – for a tiny bit more on this relatively unknown gem of Northern Spain and how to get there.