Walking in North Castellon

Castellón is a large region, part of the Comunidad Valenciana in the east of Spain. In the extreme north of Castellón, about two and a half hours drive from the city of Valencia, the high land area of the Maestrazgo dominates. The major centre of population of the area is Morella. This wonderful old walled town with its castle built above it at over 950m above sea level, is a fascinating place to spend time in. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction particularly at weekends. As you might expect, the town has a wide variety of accommodation to suit all purses as well as a good selection of bars and restaurants.

We used Hotel El Cid which is located just inside the walls by the Sant Mateu gate. It is a warm and friendly place, very reasonably priced and with the most amazing views over the walls to the surrounding countryside. Its only drawback was the 280 steps that had to be climbed to reach the main street where all the town’s facilities are, not too welcome after a day’s walking! The hotel Don Jaime is more conveniently situated on the main street for those wishing to avoid the steps. There is ample free car parking outside the town walls near the Sant Miguel gate which is the main entrance to Morella and quite close to the old aqueduct. Parking is possible near Hotel El Cid but can be a lottery.

From a walking point of view, the Maestrazgo region offers a wide variety of terrain at altitudes of between 750 and 1300m above sea level. There are vast open sheep farming areas, peaceful forests, close and rich cattle farming land and spectacular gorges and deep valleys. Wonderful old stone walls are everywhere and there are many beautiful but sadly abandoned farmhouses dotting the landscape.The flora is mediterranean with pine and Holm and Holly oak forests as well as shrubs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender and Juniper. Above you will see Griffon Vultures and a wide variety of bird life. Wild pig and deer are common but you may also be lucky enough to see  Genet, Polecats and other indigenous mammals.

At such altitudes winters can be extremely cold even with some snow on occasions. Similarly the mid summer months can be very hot and dry. Probably the best times to walk in this gorgeous region would be March to June and September to November.    We walked in late September/early  October  2016 and conditions were perfect –dry,  warm days up to 24ºC, cool nights.

The area around Morella has a number of truly charming little towns or villages. This is a picture of Forcall which is a wonderful old town with very good facilities including accommodation. It would make a quieter alternative to Morella as a walking base and is only about 14 kilometres away. A little further afield at Zorita del Maestrazgo is the Hermitage of Balma (pictured below) which is built into the mountain. It should not be missed if you have the time. You can even stay there!  Just half an hour’s drive south west of Forcall is the ancient town of Mirambel of Knights Templar fame. To visit this historic place is like going back hundreds of years in time.

Much further away but within a comfortable 2 hours driving are the capital Castellón de la Plana and its nearby coastal neighbour of Grao de Castelló to which it is connected by electric tramway. To the north the Ebro Delta is a wonderful day’s visit to see the rice fields, the wide variety of sea and wading birds and to take a trip on the delta boats before enjoying a delicious fish lunch.

Having spent two weeks walking in and exploring Morella and its surrounding area, we can say that it is one of the most beautiful and interesting walking areas of Spain we have so far discovered. We have put together a portfolio of 11 walks which, between them, we hope will give a thorough insight into this region as well as a chance to visit and explore its many charming little villages and hamlets. We hope you give it a try; we are certain you will not be disappointed.   

Jim Arymar

Castellon



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