Monday, March 18, 2013

In the footprints of the Roman legions.


  Walking in the Cantabrian Mountains: Fuentes de Peñacorada.

General introduction.
This post will give a description of an easy and beautiful marked route near the southern border of the Central Cantabrian Mountains. The importance of the route lies both within the spectacular landscape and the cultural heritance.

This route is called "La Huella de las Legiones", which means literally "The footprint of the Legions". The designers of the route are completely convinced that we are dealing with a Roman way, which was constructed during the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC) to reach the local Celtic settlements called "castros".
Those "castros" were invariably built in inaccessible places, very difficult to conquer. The general idea is that the Romans built some main ways following the mayor river valleys and many smaller sideways which led from a main way towards the Celtic settlements in the mountains. In this case, our route is interpreted as a sideway of the main way along the river Esla (generally recognised as a Roman way), which led to a castro situated at the Campurrial pass.

According to the historians Eutimio Martino and Siro Sanz, this way has all the same characteristics of some closeby and widely recognised Roman ways in other parts of the Cantabrian Mountains. Considering the fact that the region has been under roman control for more than 400 years, since the Cantabrian Wars till the beginning of the 5th century when the Suevi, the Vandals and the Alans entered Spain, it is not far fetched to imaging that they also constructed a network of roads in the Cantabrian Mountains. Because those ways were the "natural" connection between the villages, they have been maintained and repaired in the centuries since, which means that they are only partially original (in the meaning that not all the slabs of stone were literally laid down by the Romans). In medieval writings of before the year 1000 this way is already mentioned, which at least proves a minimum age of more than a millenium.

Other cultural aspects are the ruins of a medieval castle, "el castillo de Monteagudo" on top of a steep mountain and traces of a Celtic settlement.


This circular route can been done in slightly less than 3 hours, but if you want to take pictures, admire the views and rest occasionally, than I would count with some 4 hours. The distance is 7,8 km with a accumulated height difference of 300m. Using the new Euromide ( I have calculated the 4 parameters of difficulty (increasing in difficulty from 1 to 5):
Severity of the natural environment:       difficulty 2
Guidance on the itinerary                        difficulty 2 
Difficulty in displacement                        difficulty 2
Amount of effort required                        difficulty 2

The route will be described by means of a series of photos, each with a short explanation.

Location of the route "La Huella de las Legiones".
The route begins in the small villages of Fuentes de Peñacorada (Springs of Peñacorada), some 70 km north east of the city of León, and close to the village of Cistierna. This village is situated in the southern border of the Central Cantabrian Mountains. The 3 maps are successive amplifications finally showing the exact location.

The black rectangle of this map shows the location of the next map, which is situated between the cities of Oviedo, Santander and León. The route is near the village of Cistierna.

The black rectangle of this map shows the location of the next map, around Cistierna y Guardo.

The location of the route is indicated with another black rectangle with dimensions of approximately 4 x 4.5 km.,some kilometers north east of Cistierna.

Our route shown in a relief-map taken from Google Earth.The high mountain is Peñacorada, and the flat terrain behind it is the Northern Spanish Meseta.

 The route begins in the upper part of the village, just next to a source flowing from a cave entrance.

 Looking back, we have a nice view of the village of Fuentes de Peñacorada.

 Soon we reach the Roman way.

 A great sphere of mistletoe, a nice place to bring a girlfriend.

 This rock with a lot of cobbles inside is called a conglomerate.

 The photos were taken at the beginning of autumn, after a very dry summer, which explains the dry soil, and the hawthorn almost without leaves.

 On top of this peak we can find the ruins of the Monteagudo castle.

Evergreen oaks are growing on dry limestone rock, while the poplars (yellow) grow in the valleys.

 View to the west.

A hawthorn full of lichens.

 After a dry summer the cattle has eaten all the grass. Do you want to play golf?

 Lots of sloes on a blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). The fruits are collected after the first frost and used to make Patxaran, a digestif liqueur.

 Looking down the valley. To the left we have a small beech and to the right evergreen oaks.

 A fiendly horse.

 Almost at the pass, the highest point of the route.

 The valley of Fuentes.

View to the east from the Campurrail pass. The high white mountain in the middle is the Espigüete with a height of 2451m.

 Traditional bridge over a small brook. We are descending towards the village.

The special form of the poplars is due to cutting of the branches, used  to feed the cattle. Nowadays this habit is nearly extinct.

 The hayfields we only find close to the village, which means we are almost there.


  1. Lijkt me een mooi gebied om te wandelen, de foto's doen mij denken aan mijn Spaanse wandelvakanties (Cuenca en Mallorca vooral). Spanje is echt een prachtig land om te wandelen met een schitterende natuur.
    groetjes Ghita

  2. Kennelijk heb ik deze post gemist,
    maar ook deze leek me heel mooi om eens te wandelen.
    Als ik tenminste ooit nog weer eens in Spanje kom.

    Groetjes, Helma

  3. Hallo Helma,

    Je weet maar nooit, leuke vooruitzichten hiuden in ieder geval de moed erin.

  4. Podías haberme enviado un correo para vernos... :)

    Fuentes de Peñacorada es uno de los pueblos más bonitos de León. Un entorno privilegiado.


  5. Hola Javi, pues ponerte en contacto cuando quieras. Vivo en Cistierna y muy amenudo voy al monte en las cercanías por ejemplo Fuentes está a 6 km de Cistierna.

    Un saludo