Costa cantábrica by narrow gauge rail

It is remarkable where some ideas come from. The thought of travelling the length of the north coast of Spain by the narrow gauge railway only really hit me during my cycle ride from Kimbolton to Santiago de Compostela last year (click here). When I got to the Spanish border, and started tracing the ancient Camino along the north coast, I kept crossing, and re-crossing, and then running alongside a narrow gauge railway line, and every so often, I would see a small two coach train ambling along or resting in a small station (sometimes in the middle of nowhere).

I discovered this line started at the border with France and, 700kms/450miles later, finished in Ferrol in Galicia. The stretch starting in Bilbao is known as the FEVE (Ferrocarriles de Vía Estrecha), and it was our intention to begin with an artistic ‘pig-out’ at the Guggenheim, hop on the FEVE and trundle the 600 kms to Ferrol, stopping at several places en route to drink in some of the history and, of course, some of the local wines and cider!

If you would like to learn of some of the highlights of this little heralded route, tune in to the next few posts. The train is not a tourist train, even though it runs along an astoundingly beautiful coastline. It is used by local Spaniards to get from A to B, stopping at any of the 250 stations en route (many of them no more than ‘bus shelters’). It is a modern, comfortable two coach train running along a track which, one minute is carving its way through narrow cuttings and forests, and the next minute opens up to magnificent vistas of the rugged coastline on one side, and the jagged peaks of the Picos on the other side.

If you are a senior, you may want to apply for the Tarjeta Azul (Blue Card) which will give you a 50% discount (if you are over 60 years). We happened to be the very first non-nationals to apply for this card on the very first day the new computer system came into operation, and we discovered they hadn’t adjusted the software to accept Passport numbers (instead of ID cards). We persisted over several days, we chivvied the authorities in Oviedo (where they have their central hub) and…… cut a long story short, they eventually corrected the software and  gave us the Blue Card. If you succeed in getting one for yourself, we will be delighted to receive your acknowledgement of appreciation!

Ahora, a continuar con el viaje……;0)


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on October 16, 2012, in Spain. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. this sounds like such a great trip! we’ve travelled in asturias before as well as along the camino frances, but I would definitely like to go back to spend more time in the north — so beautiful and such great food!

    • … are right, the north is so special, and doesn’t suffer the levels of costa tourism as in other parts of Spain. If there is such a thing as the ‘real Spain’, this is as close as you’ll get.

  2. Frank, I was wondering where you were last Friday when we were at Little Gidding. Now I know, and as usual, with you lovely posts, this sounds wonderful. Have you your bikes with you too?, and where are you staying? Peace etc, Caroline from DownUnder, but now again UpOver!

    • Caroline, this is a retrospective of a trip that happened about 10 days ago, so not the reason for my absence. The real reason was the funeral of a neighbour. But hope to see you next time!

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