Having hiked in Asturias a few times before I was prepared for open trails and amazing views. The Camino Real del Puerto de la Mesa, high up in the mountains provides all this, along with an amazing insight into local history.
The GR-101 is a path that runs from south to north through Asturias, leaving Torrestío and ending at Las Cruces, after passing through Belmonte. The route follows the old Roman road of La Mesa, more commonly known as El Camín Real. This route linked the Castilian plateau with the town of Gijón.
The Roman road is around 45km long. This trail also has a variant, the GR-101.1 Camino Real de Cueiru to Villanueva, which is what we walked (in reverse).
For an Open Street Map view of the whole of the GR101.1 click here – we opted to walk as far as the old historical town of Bandujo / Banduxu.
Walking the GR 101.1
We started our walk along the trail from Castanedo del Monte, a small village in the hills above the old industrial town of Trubia and heading for the medieval town of Bandujo.
Should you wish to start the trail lower down the valley is possible to walk up the hill from Villanueva, along the old packhorse trail, following the signs for Cuevallagar. (We used this route to head down to Villanueva a few days later and I can confirm its easy to navigate and a lovely walk through the woods – although preferable downhill!)
From Castanedo del Monte the trail, signposted as the GR 101.1, heads out of the village on a small lane which hugs the side of the hill and looks out over the woodland and valley below.
The lane eventually turns into a dirt track and heads into the woodland towards the old local mines. The town of Trubia in the valley used to be a bustling industrial town with workers coming up the hill to work in the mines. Now the mines are abandoned and provide an interesting feature along the walk.
From the mines the path winds up the hillside to eventually reach the top and the village of Linares, where you can follow the road to reach a small car park where people come to sit and admire the view.
Here the Camino Real del Puerto de la Mesa, is at its peak. The track now heads across the top of the hill, giving amazing views to the mountains beyond as it winds along.
On a scorching hot day at the end of August it was beautiful, but also a shade free place to be at midday. We continued along the track as it wound around the hillside, past farm fields and small limestone escarpments above. Despite being a walking trail this is also farming country, with lots of cattle roaming, and the occasional farm truck whizzing past kicking up the dust.
Around lunchtime we reached Cuevallagar, a plateau with a perfect lunch spot near a tree.
After a feast of Asturias cheese and bread with cider we followed the GR101.1 towards Maraviu, turning off the track to head across the grassy plateau. Eventually the track re-emerges for a while and you start to wind downhill to a bend where you reach a junction and turn right to end up in another grassy field. Here you head across and uphill to reach a gate and the road.
We were met at the gate by an old farmer tending his cattle and a small yapping chihuahua. He offered his chilled CocaCola from a hidden freezer box, which Leah of course accepted in her fluent Spanish. He confirmed that we were on the road which headed down to Bandujo.
While the route was no longer the official trail and now a tarmac road it was still quiet and peaceful and on arriving near Bandujo I could see why Leah had insisted that this was our goal.
The church of St. Mary in the centre of Bandujo is of medieval origin and underwent restoration in the 18th century. The palace of Bandujo and its tower is one of the best preserved late medieval defensive towers in Asturias. This building also served as a prison and town hall.
Here we were lucky enough to be met by Dan, Leah’s husband for a lift back to Villanueva.