Start and Finish: Casares Village
Distance: 8 kms
Grade: Low if you go there and back, Medium if you return via the steep track.
Essential Equipment: Boots for the round trip, walking shoes would be suitable if you follow the there and back route. Food and water.
General Description: This is one of the first of the walks to be properly signposted by the Junta and is designated SL-1. If you only have walking shoes then this walk is possible as far as the Mirador after which you should retrace your steps for a total distance of 10 kms.
How to Get There: Drive to Casares village and park in the car park at the top of the village between Restaurant Mi Cortijo and Villas and Fincas. Leave your car and walk towards Villas and Fincas. On your right you will see two map boards with a tarmac track leading up the hill.
Take this track up the valley, passing farms and fincas. You will pass a fountain and shortly afterwards the tarmac ends and the track becomes unmade. The views of Casares behind and down are stunning. On a clear day you can easily see the African coast.
You are now on an old smugglers track used to take contraband from the coast into the interior via La Puerta de las Vinas. Keep on the track until you reach the saddle that marks the top of the pass. You are now overlooking the Valley of the River Genal and opposite, on the north side of the valley, Benarraba and Algatocin. Closer is the village of Genalgaucil on the south side of the valley. The land below is part of the Monte del Duke estate, given to the family by Franco and now owned by an Italian family. It still has its own private police force.
On your left is a barrier that can easily be bi-passed to continue up a track leading along the crest of the wooded ridge. Do not take any of the paths that lead to the right. Keep your ears open for snuffling pig like noises. There are a few wild boar here although you are unlikely to see them.
Emerging from the woods the path starts to descend slowly on the Crestellina side of the valley. Above, on your right, are the crags of Crestellina. Within one hour Julie and I had seen any number of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus), a Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) and two Peregrines (Falco peregrinus). Julie is becoming a bird watching snob saying things like 'Oh its only another griffon'.
Depending when you do this walk you may also see some butterflies. We saw a Speckled Wood (Pararge Aegeria, normally April to Ocober), a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera, normally May - August), and a Brown Argus (Aricia agestis, normally May - August) enjoying the mid October warm sunshine.
At the end of the ridge is a Junta signpost pointing right, 300 metres to a Mirador. It is at this point that you should have boots to carry on. The views from the Mirador are from Casares, over Sabinillas and down the coast to Sotogrande, Gibraltar, Algeciras and Algeciras Bay. On a clear day the Riff Mountains can also be seen.
Retracing your steps to the sign post turn right and descend to the group of buildings just below. This is a new refugio. The path continues beyond the refugio and descends very steeply until you reach, at the bottom, a broader track where you turn left and immediately right to shortly emerge on the main Casares road. Turn left and walk back to your car.
© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.