Along the Cantabrian Coast
Santillana del Mar, Spain
Santillana del Mar, lying a little inland of the Cantabrian coast, is a charming little town which preserves the atmosphere of the past and is now protected as a national monument. With its old mansions flaunting their coats of arms, Santillana - now bearing the marks of a thriving tourist trade - gives a unique picture of the way of life of the old country nobility of Spain, even though some of the houses are now occupied by souvenir and craft shops. The town grew up in the fifth century around the Monasterio de Santa Juliana and was granted its municipal charter in the 13th century. Two centuries later, with the creation of the marquisate of Santillana, many noble families moved to the town and built the palaces and mansions which give the town its special character. Santillana is also known as the fictional birthplace of Gil Blas, hero of the picaresque novel "Gil Blas de Santillane" by the 18th century French writer Alain-René Lesage.
Convento de Regina Coeli (El Museo Diocesano Regina Coeli)
Calle de Santo Domingo
The town is entered by Calle de Santo Domingo, on the right hand side of which is the 18th century Casa de la Villa (now a hotel), notable for its semicircular balconies.
Keeping left where the street divides, we come into the Plaza de Ramón Pelayo, in which, on the right, is the 17th century Palacio Barreda-Bracho, now the Parador Nacional Gil Blas. On the left rises the massive Torre Borja-Barreda (15th century), with a Gothic-arched doorway.
Casa de los Valdivieso
From the Palacio Barreda-Bracho, Calle de las Lindas leads into Calle del Cantón, at the corner of which is the Casa de los Valdivieso.
Marqués Coat of Arms
In Calle del Cantón are the Palacio del Marqués de Santillana and the Casa de los Hombrones, with a coat of arms supported by two warriors.
Plaza de las Arenas
Plaza de la Colegiata
From the Casa de los Hombrones in Santillana del Mar we turn left, following a small stream which feeds a cattle-trough in the Plaza de la Colegiata, the square in front of the church. The most notable houses in the square are the Renaissance-style Casa de Quevedo and the Baroque Casa de Cossío.
The collegiate church of Santillana, the most important church of the kind in Cantabria, occupies the whole of the north side of the Plaza de la Colegiata. It was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier church in which the relics of St Juliana were preserved, and has an image of the saint over the main doorway. The interior of the church, remodeled in Gothic style, has groined vaulting. Its most notable features are the sarcophagus of St Juliana (15th century), a retablo with paintings by Jorge Inglés (1453), a Mexican silver altar frontal and Romanesque sculpture on the high altar.
C 6316 goes west to Oreña and follows a winding course to the picturesque little town of Comillas, which in the reign of Alfonso XII was a fashionable bathing resort. The central feature of the town is the paved Plaza Mayor, with the parish church. West of this is the park of the Palacio de los Marqueses de Comillas, in which is a pavilion designed by Gaudí. On the far side of the main road, on a hill between the town and the sea, is the massive brick-built complex of the former Pontifical University (Universidad Ponteficia), from the forecourt of which there are fine views of the park and the town; from the rear of the building there is a prospect of the sea and a number of beautiful beaches.
San Vicente de la Barquera, Spain
C 6316 finally joins N 634, which continues along the coast to La Revilla and San Vicente de la Barquera, an old-world little port town with a large beach which makes it also a popular holiday resort. It lies at the mouth of the Río Escudo, which is crossed on a long bridge. It preserves part of an old battlemented wall, a ruined castle and the fortress-like church of Santa María de los Angeles (13th-16th century), with a Romanesque doorway and Gothic monuments.