On the Cantabrian coast just a few miles West of Bilbao, on the road to Santander, is the beautiful town of Castro Urdiales. It’s a great place to stop for lunch on the way to catch a ferry over the Bay of Biscay, but it would be equally nice to stay there for a few days and soak up the sun on the beaches.
Outside of the holiday season the town has a population of around 32,000 but in the summer this can swell by two or three times that number. The beach is ample though and well equipped with showers to rinse the salty water off your skin. The ports is rather beautiful too with many small craft bobbing about in the water with the castle and the church forming a picturesque backdrop.
The town dates back to Roman times when it was known as Flaviobriga but little ancient remains can be found. Nowadays it is more famous for its fish industry, especially the preservation of anchovies and sardines.
The church of Santa María de la Asunción is impressive in its size. It was built in the 13th Century although construction wasn’t really completed for nearly two centuries. It is a national monument in Spain because of the images contained within: the White Virgin and the Reclining Christ, as well as three carvings of the Magi.
Nearby is the 12th Century Santa Ana Castle. It is slightly less impressive perhaps because it has been overly restored. Nowadays it houses a lighthouse which looks rather out of place in a medieval fortress.
The promenade is beautifully tiled and culminates in a statue of two fishermen (or perhaps their wives?) mending their nets. From end to end it’s about a 40 minute stroll each way, but you won’t regret visiting.