Bears, Bovines and Bean Stew – Asturias


A typical Asturias scene.

The region of Asturias in Northern Spain is richly diverse. With 100s of beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and soaring mountains, Asturias has snow from October to May. Writer Robin Graham traveled there with his wife and takes us on a walk through the mountains. Asturias is off most tourists’ travel maps, and all the more reason to explore. 

By Robin Graham

Yesterday we hiked the Ruta de las Xanas, a well-known walking trail that scales a steep gorge just outside the town of Villanueva on Asturia’s Senda del Oso – a route that takes the cyclist or walker through the heart of bear country, winding its way through one of Spain’s most enchanting mountain regions, along a valley punctuated with picturesque villages should the odd refreshment be required.

The gorge climbs steeply and tunnels through rock at times to reach a little forest up above, replete with babbling brook, and beyond that some high open country (upper valleys and peaks) that will – cliché notwithstanding – take your breath away. There’s a restaurant up here, in the village of Pedroveya, that is famed for its fabada asturiana, a heavenly bean stew filled out with chorizo, morcilla and lacón (cured front leg of pork), so don’t do it on Wednesday, when Casa Generosa is closed.

Fabada Asturiana, bean stew


Valle de Lago

Tomorrow we’ll spend the first part of the day in the Valle de Lago, a six-kilometer-long valley that culminates with a glacial lake. The twelve-kilometer walk is not difficult, but better tackled in cooler weather – early morning or late afternoon. The valley is dotted with brañas, the traditional thatched houses used as shelters by the shepherds up here: these days they are preserved as heritage artifacts. Dairy cattle lounge around in small family groups. The well-tended pastures below contrast with rocky, serrated heights.

A ‘brana’ where shepherds used to stay.

Today though, this morning, none of the above. We’ve made it as far as the bench outside our room with a cup of instant coffee each and all we want to do is sit here and look. Across from our mountaintop looms El Angliru, a long ridge topped with the same stony ground. Between it and us three deep valleys converge on the little town of La Vega, far below.

Lake at Valle de Lago

As the first shaft of sunlight illuminates the mountain, nothing breaks the silence but bells – an unhurried melody chimed out from a church down there somewhere, and the tinkle of cowbells closer to us as local residents – butter-coloured bovines with big brown eyes – go about their business.

Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found,with accompanying photography, at He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed : @robinjgraham or liked (on Facebook) : Photography at

4 Responses

  1. Sue Sharpe says:

    There is something about the way that Robin writes that just seems to pick you up and transport you to the place that he is writing about. Moreover, it makes you want to go there and see it for yourself!

  2. Paddy Waller says:

    Paradise..great read Robin……all that Asturian food makes the mouth literally water!

  3. admin says:

    Hi Sue, We agree. Robin is unpretentious, up front and eloquent. Thanks for writing.

  4. Martin says:

    Nice writing. This is the Somiedo area of Asturias, much less known than Covadonga (I’m thinking about lakes here) but much less crowded and more beautiful, starkly so, in my opinion. Angliru is used quite often as one of the most difficult stage finishes in the Vuelta a España (cycle race). Never saw a bear here, though…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge