By passed by the A7, Torreguadiaro manages, for the time being, to retain the character of a small fishing village. The road through the village, the old N340, is amply sprinkled with speed bumps so you have plenty of time to appreciate the place.
There is very little written about the history of Torreguadiaro. The road itself, like most of the old N340, was part of the Roman Road, the Via Augusta, that went from Cadiz all the way to Rome but there is no evidence of any Roman, or for that matter Visigoth or Moorish settlements in the immediate area. Torreguadiaro is notable only for having two torres. The first, now a crumbling ruin visible from the road, was built in the 16th Century as part of the coastal defences in the area but within a short space of time started to fall down. The second was built in the early 17th Century and is now smartly preserved on the right as you go down the slip road to Sotogrande port. The later torre saw service right into the 19th Century.
The question then is why does Torreguadiaro exist at all and to answer that question you have to park your car and walk onto the beach. To the east is a rocky promontory protecting a small bay and then a large sweep of beach curving west to the new port of Sotogrande. Local fishermen started to use the beach and, as the threat from pirates decreased, built their cottages around the torre. There is a rough track called Vereda de los Pescadores that goes from Torreguadiaro, through San Enrique to Secadero and then up the Guadiaro and Genal valleys to Gaucin. It presumably became onerous to walk all that way twice a day. Today the beach is one of the nicest on the coast and now benefits from a new promenade.
After that burst of activity about 300 years ago, Torreguadiaro seems to have been forgotten until the last half of the 20th Century when the town you see now on the inland side of the road was built, together with a few buildings around the original cottages and the consortium responsible for Sotogrande built the up market urbanisations and port to the west.
If your beach walk takes you to the west end of the beach you will notice a patch of reeds around a lagoon. This is a protected area, home to waterfowl and various other migratory birds. You may also see some native terrapins. The vegetation and fauna is typical of what existed until the developers arrived. There is a larger patch on the west side of the Guadiaro estuary similarly preserved.
Bumping through Torreguadiaro you will also notice a couple of fish restaurants on the seaward side of the road, El Boqueron and Bar Pepe. The village still has an active fishing industry supplying the restaurants locally and you will find some of the less common fish available in these places that are not normally found for sale at supermarkets. Bar Pepe, established in 1969, is justly famous locally for its fish cooked in salt. Interestingly El Boqueron, run by Hamida and Gary, continues to fill a need that is rapidly disappearing in other fishing towns, that of the Freiduria, where you can choose your fish, have it cooked and take it home. The fish is fresh and reasonably priced but how long that will last with Sotogrande ever expanding is a matter for conjecture. Although predominantly Spanish there are a surprising number of restaurants supplying different food including El Aladin. This restaurant is owned by a lively character called Ahmed, Hamida's father, and his extensive Moroccan menu looks good. Definitely worth a visit. Across the road is Cafeteria Laila (Hamida's aunt would you believe) open from 8.30am for breakfasts and until the last person disappears at night.
A day in Torreguadiaro is no hardship. Relax on a nice beach, take a gentle walk, maybe indulge in a spot of bird watching, pop into any bar, café or restaurant for refreshments and a chat or sit outside and watch the world go by. It's a friendly sort of place, easy to have a coffee here, a drink there, a meal somewhere else and suddenly you feel at home in this surprisingly individualistic, traditional, village where social life centres around the eating and drinking establishments from first thing in the morning until - well - late.
The beach at the eastern end of Torreguadiaro is one of the best in the region for snorkelling because it combines rocky promontories with sandy bays, providing a range of habitats. Furthermore you are in water generally less than 3 metres deep so it is not difficult to reach the bottom if you want to investigate something interesting. On the day the bay was explored cold water was being carried in from the Atlantic, it was actually warmer on the bottom than the top, visibility was about 10 metres which is about average for this area, and the tide, such as it is, was incoming, so fish normally seen in deeper waters were coming inshore to feed.
So what can you expect to find? Sand Smelts formed silvery clouds swimming in formation and, nibbling at the outer edges of the shoals, were Sea Bass. Watching these shoals form, disperse when threatened and then reforming is an entrancing experience impossible to capture on a still photograph. Strangely they do not recognise humans as threats so you can actually swim in the shoal. Feeding off the rocks were colourful Rainbow Wrasse and their less colourful cousins, Brown Wrasse. On the bottom Molly Millers burrowed into the sand as they were approached. There were also a few Octopuses around. Normally they shoot off when you approach but one took a fancy to this lads fins and securely attached itself. This article can only be a taster, there was much more to see, colourful sea urchins and even more colourful fish, try it for yourselves.
Torreguadiaro is, perhaps, not the most obvious place to go and expect to see a variety of birds but you may be surprised. At the southern end of the beach, a pleasant walk down the new promenade, is a protected area enclosing a lagoon. There are two hides but the best view is from the water's edge at the Torreguadiaro end of the lagoon.
One morning in mid September, there were gallinules loudly protecting their territory against moorhens and coots, a heron regally viewing the commotion, egrets, one kingfisher and any number of swallows.
The reeds are full of warblers and buntings, more often heard than seen, and not easy to identify.
There is another bird hide on the far side of Sotogrande and there is a board walk along the beach leading to the west bank of the river estuary. Here you may find Dunlin, Sandpipers, Cormorants and the occasional Oyster Catcher.
As the autumn and winter approaches these will be augmented by the migrants that pass through on their way to Africa and those that over winter here.
© 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.