Remembering The Road To Ronda

Ronda is a city that captivates and is unforgettable.  One can hike the gorge, stay in a Parador, and eat delicious Spanish food, all within a few blocks of one another.  Robin Graham, our guest expert from Southern Spain, writes about this small city that many love. 

By Robin Graham

Ronda sits astride the Rio Guadalevín at the end of El Camino Ingles, or The English Way – an old road (largely extant today in the form of the A369) that began in Gibraltar and was used to access the Serranía Ronda highlands which provided respite from the heat and humidity of Summer on The Rock.

Hike, eat, be in the midst of rare history in Ronda.

At around a hundred kilometres long, the road had military uses as well as finding fame amongst the romantic and rather intrepid travellers of the 19th century, who no doubt would have set out from Gibraltar with mixed feelings – full of excitement but also a little fearful; the Serranía were patrolled by El Tempranillo and a host of other infamous bandits.

Typical white village in Andalucia.

By the time they reached Ronda (it won’t take you as long in your rental, and the bandit problem has been cleared up) they may not have felt that it was the highlight of their journey, having wound their way along the winding camino over high mountain passes and deep valleys, with The Rock and even the African coast visible at times behind them, and through a string of pueblos blancos (white villages)whose names betray their Arab and Berber origins – Casares, Gaucin, Benarrabá, Algatocín, Benadalid and finally Atajate – and that then and now could provide the traveller with a chance to pause for a while and refresh themselves in the kind of sleepy stop-ins that will never find their way into Fodors or Lonely Planet.

Still, even if the last stop isn’t your favourite, and even if you feel some irritation at times that you are not the only one – by a long way – who has thought to visit this place, Ronda certainly delivers eye-candy.

El Tajo is the precipitous gorge that the river has carved out here and that cleaves the city in two. On one side the old town, and on the other side the older town. Three bridges span it; the oldest is Roman and the newest, at merely two hundred and twenty years of age, is a spectacularly tall structure that towers above the hundred meter canyon.

The escarpment gives rise to a scene that can be found elsewhere in Spain but nowhere as strikingly as here. Sheer cliffs, crowned at the top by whitewashed buildings that almost seem to hang over the edge. Particularly in the evenings – when the coach tours have left – it is unforgettable. The gorge can be descended at a number of points but most interestingly perhaps via The Mine of the Moorish King – a set of more than two hundred steps built into the rock itself.

The city boasts some well-preserved hammam baths and a beautiful bullring (modern bullfighting was born here) but nothing beats a stroll – from stately squares to cobbled lanes – and while you’re here make sure to pick up some of the wines and cheeses for which the area is justifiably famous.

Try to make an overnight of it and take advantage of less crowded times.

Related Spain Scoop:   Many beautiful small towns in Southern Spain.

The Parador in Ronda has rooms with gorge views.

Hotel Don Miguel has rooms with tiny but spectacular little balconies right on the edge.

Robin Graham, from Tarifa in southern Spain, writes stories. Some of them are about places and some of them are just made up. A lot of them can be found, with accompanying photography, at http://alotofwind.com/He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed (on Twitter) : @robinjgraham or liked (on Facebook) : alotofwind.com.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    An excellent article. I’ve never been to Ronda (sounds like a country song), but it’s on my list now. And that picture of the balcony is enviable. Loved this.

  2. admin
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    It is a small walking city. Friendly locals and good tapas. Glad it is on your list!

  3. Posted July 14, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    A trip down memory lane for me. If only Ronda were by the sea I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to move there.

  4. admin
    Posted July 15, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Inka, I agree. Ronda is one of my all time faves in Southern Spain.

    R

  5. Posted July 22, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Great article found via Robin’s comment on my Ronda post. It really is a lovely little town.

    Nic

  6. admin
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes it is Nic, and Robin describes the experience well!
    R

  7. Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    If you want to know what Ronda (and Andalucia) was like in the 1960s then read Alistair Boyds classic The Road from Ronda http://books4spain.com/book/detail/the-road-from-ronda-1

    This book describes a number of horseback journey’s Alastair Boyd made from Ronda in the mid-sixties deep into the wild Andalucian countryside in a period just before “the great tidal wave of consumerism crashed upon the Spanish beaches and hurled its spray up into the remotest nooks and crannies of the land.”

    He and his companions make the most of this magic interlude, riding at will across a landscape as yet innocent of wire, sometimes barely touching a road in a whole day, getting lost in the mountains and meeting people who might have sprung out of the pages of George Borrow’s The Bible in Spain well over a century before.

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