Shakespeare in the Mountains takes place in the mountain village of Villandás in Asturias, Spain. We walk, we eat and we read. The walking part of this triad is close to my heart and I want to talk a little about the kind of walking I have planned.
If you want to have a look at the kind of landscape you will be walking in, have a look at this photo essay. The author takes us on a trip up from Grado into the mountains. You will notice how the valleys deepen, there are more trees and mountain meadows and then suddenly the tree cover thins out and you are in the higher altitudes.
Villandás is 18km from Grado in the south. It is nestled in one of those mountains valleys and the walks will be up hill and down dale with plenty of trees and, from the ridges, spectacular views of the valleys on either side.
I like to walk across country, but I am not going to do this with you because Asturias is not designed for rambling. There are no public footpaths like there are in the UK, for example. Most of the lanes have a purpose and that purpose is to get to a field. What this means in practice is that, if you want to follow a footpath, you will end up in a field. If you want to cross the field, you will have to climb a wall or a hedge at the other side.
Carmen has expressly forbidden me to take you where I normally walk because I often come back covered in mud and grime. She says that it is much more civilised to walk along one of the country lanes- on which you are unlikely to see any traffic- instead of fighting through the undergrowth. “You are not bringing a load of mud into my new house,” she says.
I have planned circular walks that take in a mixture of scenery, from woods to clearings to farmland to mountain crests, but you will be able to do all of the walks with a firm pair of walking shoes. You do not need heavy-duty walking boots unless you have weak ankles. A good pair of hiking socks is of course indispensable.
This year we will be walking in November and December. It is hard to say what the weather will be like. Last year it did not rain until after Christmas, except for the odd drizzly morning. I cannot guarantee that it will be this way, but autumn is not the time of heavy rains in Asturias. From February to April is the main rainy season. However, it may be cold in the mornings and the evenings. It will not freeze and there will not be snow in the village. If it does snow on the mountains we will make an effort to get up there, because it is special.
So, you will need some warm clothes. Modern hiking kit is excellent- warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm- and is much less heavy in your luggage than many changes of clothing. Bear in mind that we are going to be doing five walks of approximately three hours duration, so you do not need to prepare as though you were going on an expedition to the antarctic.
Getting back to the triad of eat-walk-read, I want to reassure you that the focus is on reading Shakespeare. You do not have to go walking if you do not want to. And you do not need to be worried that it will all be too hard.
And, yes, there are bears.
And, no, you will not see one unless you go with an expert to Somiedo. But here is a little video that has some great images: