Asturias: Old As Time

In Waitrose, in York, in the cider section, they sell El Gaitero.  Discovering this reminded me that I'd never written up my guide to Asturias, the beautiful region of northern Spain I had the pleasure of visiting last summer.

So here it is, Liam G. Herringshaw's Guide To The Top Things To Do In Asturias.

1. Visit MUJA, the Jurassic Museum of Asturias, Colunga.  Many things are forbidden there, but the clifftop setting is spectacular, and the dinosaurs are amazing.

2. Stay at La Quintana de Villar, Arriondas. You might get a morning view like this:

3. Drink la sidra.  Even better, go to Villaviciosa and drink 'El Gaitero' - the champagne of ciders, so it claims - at the factory where it is made (and where a painting of a piping Jasper Carrott adorns a wall).

4. Visit Castro do Coana, Navia Historical Park.  It's a Celtic hill-fort, about two-and-a-half thousand years old, and it's fantastic.

5. Dine on Asturian stew, or fabada asturiana.  No good if you're a vegetarian, but for omnivores and carnivores, this feast of beans, chorizo, and pork is absolutely delicious.

6. Visit the Oscar Niemeyer Cultural Centre (Centro Niemeyer) in Avilés.  Its design is incongruously futuristic (next to a motorway and an industrial estate) but the exhibitions are often world-class.

7. Stay in the Hotel don Pedro, in the centre of Avilés.  It gives you easy access to the old town, which is well-worth a wander round.

8. Visit the Pre-Romanesque monuments of the Oviedo region, especially Santa Maria del Naranco, a 9th Century courthouse-cum-chapel that is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage complex.

9. Listen to a local bag-piper, or gaitero.  If you don't like bagpipes, you probably won't enjoy it, but if you're in any way intrigued by the Celtic musical history of the region, give it a whirl.

10. Visit one of the coastal fishing villages, such as Puerto de Vega. With the seafood and the rocky coastline and the cider and the coloured boats, you could easily think yourself in Devon or Cornwall.

11. Visit the cave network at Tito Bustillo, Ribadesella, and its prehistoric rock art.  Already of global significance, new scientific analysis of the paint chemistry indicates that some of the pictures may be the best part of 30,000 years old!

Picos de Europa National Park

With a wave-crashed coastline, dramatic mountains, and secluded rural villages, Asturias is full of hidden (and often ancient) delights, and almost devoid of British tourists.  As a consequence, not many people speak English, but it's well-worth making the effort to brush up your Spanish.  If you do, you'll be treated to a magical holiday very few of your acquaintances will ever have experienced.