Leave the rugged Cantabrian coast behind you and wind your way up the dramatic gorge of La Hermida with the bubbling river Deva running through, into the verdant valley of Valle de Liebana with its Mediterranean micro-climate. As the valley widens you come upon the exquisite Mozarabic church of Santa Maria de Lebena, and the road will lead you to the delightful, little market town of Potes – “the town of bridges and towers”.
With the magnificent, snow capped Picos de Europa as a backdrop, Potes, the gateway to the peaks, nestles comfortably in a hollow, where the salmon and trout rivers, Deva and Quiviesa meet.
The C15th Torre del Infantado (now the Town Hall), stands with authority in the centre of the town and is surrounded by a maze of cobble stone, medieval lanes linked by bridges over the river. Seen by day, when all the tourist shops spill their wares out onto the street, they have their charm, but their magic comes alive at night, particularly after a shower of rain, when the stones wink at you in the soft moonlight.
With its emblazoned mansions and stone arcades, Potes hides a wealth of small shops as well as little bars and family run restaurants where “cocido lebaniego” – a very tasty chickpea and sausage mountain stew is usually the star dish, but there is plenty more.
Don’t leave Potes without a visit to the long established bar/shop Casa Cuba – Los Camachos (three brothers), tucked up a tiny backstreet. The traditional, friendly atmosphere in the bar alone, makes a simple plate of local cheese with freshly made crusty bread, taste like something from another world. And just across the river, there is another memorable stop – the family friendly, quirky, cave of a bar, La Sidreria, where you can play a game of chess, whilst enjoying one of their excellent wines or fresh fruit drinks along with a tempting tapa on the house, with live music thrown in if you are lucky.
Fiestas feature largely in Potes and when they are on, as in the summer months, the town can be fairly heaving, but it is great to see that traditions are kept alive and the spirit of the local people continues, from San Vicente Martir ( the town’s patron Saint) in January, to Carnivals in February, to La Santisima Cruz on 14th September and to the Fiesta del “Orujo” in November to celebrate the locally brewed and very popular liqueur – orujo (like an eau-de-vie).
There is no better way to work off the after effects of all the fun and excitement than to hike it up to the nearby monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana where a visit will earn you time off from purgatory! Founded in the C8th , an important pilgrimage site, it is allegedly the home of the largest piece of the “True Cross” in the world! You can’t get better than that!
Casas Cantabricas have the best selection of self-catering cottages and small hotels in the Liebana Valley near Potes