Most Customers who travel to Portsmouth stay the Friday night at the Holiday Inn Express North because it is only 5 mins from the ferry terminal. Please remember vehicles over 5 meters long and 2.65 meters high will incur a surcharge; for example, a Ford Ranger is just over 5 meters long for which an additional charge will be payable. Please ensure you refuel before boarding the ferry.
I will be waiting for you to ensure the check-in goes smoothly. When everyone has boarded, we will meet to hand out 2-way radios and discuss the arrangements for disembarking the ferry in Santander. We sail at 12 PM to Bilbao, arriving Bilbao 8 PM.
We will arrive in Santander at around 2.30 PM. We will disembark and wait for each other at a pre-arranged point as discussed at our meeting on the ferry. When we are all together, we will hit the road to St Jean Pied du Port, where we will spend our first evening in France. St Jean Pied du Port is the start of the famous Santiago Compostela Pilgrim walk, and there are many exciting places to visit, and the town has some excellent restaurants for our evening meal. The hotel for the evening is the Hotel Camou, only 5 minutes walk from the town centre.
It’s time to start our adventure. After breakfast, we will visit the supermarket to pick up supplies for the day and refuel. We have lunch most days in the mountains, so it’s a good idea to have a cool box and picnic set (table and chairs) and a jet boil for hot water to make your “Yorkshire Tea”. We head back over the mountains towards Spain where we travel through lush pastures and high meadows; expect to encounter loose horses and cattle just about everywhere. We cross the border into Spain at about 1000 meters heading into dense forest before descending towards Lumbier, where we will stop for refreshments. From Lumbier, we descend further and then on onwards to the Bardenas Reales desert region where we are in for a treat as we ascend 500 meters via a series of hairpins on a dirt track to a hotel with a 360 panoramic view of the area. The views are outstanding, and we must make sure we catch the sun going to witness the extreme changes in colour the sunset displays.
After breakfast and a desert photo opportunity, we head back down and skirt round the desert, stock up on supplies and refuel then and head off into the park itself; it’s one of the wonders of Spain and quite strange. Once out of the park, we pass by Roman aqueducts, castles and into another dry region with rolling hills. Rarely will we see anyone in contrast to the morning in the park; even the towns and villages appear empty. You will pass through narrow streets where they still have bull runs. At this point, we are not too far from Pamplona. We spend about 3 hrs on a track that finishes near the town of Luna, where we rejoin a tarmac road for a run along the foothills of the Pyrenees to Ayerbe which will be our base for the next three days. Our hotel is in the town square in Loarre which has the magnificent backdrop of Castle Loarre. It’s a super place to spend our evenings with an excellent choice of restaurants.
We first undertake what has become a morning ritual, a visit to the local bakery to pick up supplies for the day before heading into the hills. We will pass the stunning town of Murillo de Gallego before heading onwards to Aguero, a village set in the foot of a massive rock formation. Then it’s onwards into the forest for a day of muddy tracks and water crossings and through wild boar clearings and deserted villages lost in time. We end the trail in Luna by the bull ring and rejoin tarmac for the drive to Ayerbe, where we will explore the town and perhaps enjoy a little tapas before heading back to the hotel.
A refuel, and we are off again. It’s a short that includes a fantastic route with great views, tracks and a bit of technical driving thrown in. We finish the day at the castle around 3 PM, giving you a chance to have a look around or enjoy a chilled beer while watching the birds of prey and Griffin Vultures overhead. We are here for three nights and, if you wish, you can have the afternoon or day off and relax.
We leave Loarre for the last time and head towards the town of Huesca. We will refuel, grab food for the day and hit the trails. Clinging to the mountainside, you will experience it all including viewing points, birds of prey, vultures, mountain tracks, deserted villages; it feels like you have entered a time-warp of forgotten lands. Lunch is at a local beauty spot with ash trees, streams and rivers running through it. A tarmac drive follows through a canyon where we quite often have to pull over for loose horses and cattle on the road. It’s then back on to a track into a village that has been empty for years, why we don’t know, and it’s a shame because it must’ve been stunning in its prime. Once again, we rejoin a tarmac single lane road running towards the mountains for our last night, and it will be one to remember. We arrive in Ainsa, a medieval town with ramparts, narrow streets and a beautiful square for our last evening meal.
You leave Andora for the 700 km drive to Santander (we will provide you with the route). It takes approximately 8 hours, and it’s comfortable driving but a long day. You can check in to Brittany Ferries and leave your vehicle then go into town if you so wish. You will sail on the cruise ship Galicia departing at 3 PM.
Relax on the cruise ship as you head back home. You should arrive in Portsmouth around 8 PM.