The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 8 February 2016

Natural Wonders at El Torcal

Parque Natural de El Torcal is described by the Rough Guide as being ‘one of the most geologically arresting of Spain’s natural parks’ and as Colin laboured his way up the roads to get there we could see that it was indeed spectacular – even though the views were somewhat curtailed by virtue of our having ascended into the cloud base.

The usual delaying tactics were deployed and a walk around the visitor centre had (the main point of interest being a small exhibit giving the history of how the landscape evolved) but even so, it was still in significantly reduced visibility that we set out. It was blowing a hoolie too, which combined with the fog and the altitude had us setting out dressed for a winter’s day in Scotland:

There are two trails leading from the visitor centre car park, one of which is 1.5km long with a time estimate of 45 minutes and the other 2.7km with a time estimate of 2 hours. We set out for the longer one … and arrived back in 30 minutes. We immediately knew where we’d gone wrong – we were trying to follow the yellow route, but the park, in its wisdom, had signed the colours at the critical junction in words, not by coloured paint. Not knowing that ‘amarilla’ is yellow, we’d followed the wrong colour.

No matter, we would have some lunch, hope that the cloud would finally lift, and head out for attempt two.

The cloud did lift and the surroundings became even more spectacular. It turned out that the yellow path (which shared the first and last half kilometre with the route we’d taken in the morning) was much more techical and demanding than the short route, adding even more interest and plenty of mud too; they had a lot of rain yesterday, we were told, making the shiny limestone rather slick in many places.

It’s going to be difficult to convey in my snapshots what the place was really like, as I think it has to be seen in person to be appreciated, but just imagine the sort of eroded limestone depicted below stretching out all around, for as far as the eye can see: 

It wasn’t an arduous day’s walking – in fact, the two routes together came in at a total of just under an hour and a half (4.2km), including many a pause to take photos and to admire the shapes, but it really was a fantastic place to visit and a side-trip that I would recommend to anyone.


  1. Bizarre!

    I've been hunkered down with a good book all day looking smugly out at an ultra dreish day. There are plans for Wednesday with a decent forecast

  2. The landscape reminds me of that depicted in 'Up', which is set in South America.