Camino del Norte – Into Asturias

We’re still on the Camino del Norte in Northern Spain. Are you still with me?

Steel town

It was obvious when the trail left Cantabria and entered Asturias; there was a river and a large sign welcoming us to the Principality of Asturias. At this time, we had walked for miles and were facing a long climb up to Colombres and into a huge hostel.

We faced a large closed building and nothing else in the village. Nothing to do but to continue into the next town.

You can do all the research you want but never confuse the map with the territory or in this case information on the web with reality. You can’t be so exhausted that you can’t move on, if needed.


After that hiccup, Asturias turned out to be a cultural oasis of farms, large, working towns as well as many deserted villages. This is where we first learned about horreos. Since the “h” is silent in Spanish, that’s pronounced like the Oreo cookie.

Hórreos are granaries found in Northern Spain.

As you can be see in the photo to the left, the wooden buildings are raised off the ground by stone pillars, so that mice and other vermin don’t get in. Nowadays, many horreos have been turned into living spaces. Smaller ones are built as decoration. These buildings are very common in Asturias and in Galicia.

Trail split

Asturias is also where the Camino del Norte splits. Turn left and you leave the Norte to walk the Camino Primitivo.

Stay straight and you continue on the Norte, which is what Beth and I did.

You can discuss the merits of either decision all you want. I wanted to stay on the Norte to say that I had walked the Norte, put it on my hiking resume, and cross it off my life list of trails.

The trail took us to Gijon, or Xixon in the Asturian language. Unlike the Basque country, this is the only time I saw a word in the Asturian language, an Iberian romance language.

Best of all, the trail took us to Aviles, a working steel town like in Flashdance.

Steel manufacturing is long gone from the area. But a river walk is lined with large, wonderful steel sculptures. Some hikers complained that the approach to the city was very industrial. Well, industry is part of life, one hopes, and part of the culture.

Pedro Menendez

Aviles is also the birthplace of Pedro Menendez, the conquistador who founded St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States.

Since I know St. Augustine mostly through national parks, this is the home of Castillo San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument.

I had written extensively about both units in Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, so it was exciting to me to see the connection with the real live city in Spain.


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