Basque Pyrenees

Experience the raw energy and pride of the Basque people on an eight-day trip that immerses you in their landscape, history, and gastronomy. Top 7 activity holidays in France The Times newspaper 2016. Dates 2019: 27th April - 3rd May, 22nd - 28th September

This is a walk that starts in France and finishes in Spain but this is the Basque country and the border is meaningless. Occupied by a passionate people, who speak a language that has no known root, the differences with the rest of France and Spain are not subtle ones. Red shutters the colour of bulls’ blood and striking galleried churches are among the sure signs you are among the Basques.

Our aim on these walks it to knock down the barriers and be immersed in the Basque culture and in particular its food and drink. Over the eight days we weave together an experience that includes walking in the green foothills of the Pyrenees, following smugglers' routes into Spain and stopping regularly to sample the region’s delights. Menus and picnics feature such delicacies as trout from Banka, cured Basque pork and the deeply tannic Irouleguy wines.

One of the highlights of the trip is two evening wine and champagne tasting sessions with Minette Constant, Master of Wine, in the comfortable surroundings of the drawing room the 17th century manor where we are based for the first three days. The week ends in San Sebastian, the culinary capital of the Basque.

Another winner in the Basque party is the beauty of the manor house we stay in for our first three nights. This is the start to all the contrasts that thread through the week. The owner was a Parisian interior decorator and its quirk and charm has made it one of the most popular of all starts to the The Walking Party itineraries.

James and Mini Constant, Master of Wine, host this trip. Hotels, restaurants and visits have been carefully selected to reveal the character and colour of the Basque country. All meals are included and lunch will be a mix of picnics and restaurants.

Accommodation

BETOUZET

A proud and beautiful manor house with barns, garden and views stretching down to the Pyrenees. Modern pictures and sculptures catch your eye as you enjoy sitting with a drink in front of a roaring fire; or pick a spot outside on the terrace, under a shady tree or by the pool. 6 well-appointed bedrooms each with its own bath or shower room. Sauna. Jacuzzi. A gorgeous place to start. Wifi. 3 nights

HOTEL ARRAYA

Set in the heart of a typical Basque village with half timbers and red or green coloured shutters and with a wonderful Escher style staircase at its heart. the Fagoaga family is the third generation to manage this 3 star, family-run, 16th century hotel. 16 character bedrooms each with their own bath or shower rooms. Wifi. 3 nights.

HOTEL NIZA

Over the border into Spain the elegant, 3 star Hotel Niza stands overlooking the gentle lapping waves in the famed Concha Bay of San Sebastian. 40 bedrooms all en suite within walking distance of the centre of town, the old town and within a stone’s throw of the beach. Breakfast is served in the dining area overlooking the bay. Wifi. 2 nights

Grade Of Walking

We will cover a maximum of 66 kilometres. There are hills as we are in the foothills of the Pyrenees (locally known as the Pyrenankles) but there is nothing too strenuous. It may make you puff on occasion. We do not have donkeys in the Basque as there are too many fences and styles. The paths are good and solid and sometimes you will walk on the road but these are country lanes bursting with grass so you are always in a very rural atmosphere until you finish the week in San Sebastian.

We always suggest walking the morning walk. For those feeling tired in the afternoon there is always a vehicle to take you back to the hotel. Our hotels have been carefully chosen (see ACCOMMODATION) so they are all excellent places for relaxing, reading and just taking it easy. The fact that we do not officially offer time in the villages that we stay in, as we always have walks on offer, means that often people will take an afternoon off to enjoy village life

FOOD & WINE

Basque food is traditionally associated with the Americas such as chillies and beans as they believe they discovered America before anybody else, but just didn’t want to tell anybody about it as the cod fishing was so good. There will be picnics and restaurants along the way with the highlights in San Sebastian with some excellent pre-dinner “pintxos”.

Basque wine dates back to the 11th century when the pilgrims drank it along the route to Santiago. The generically named, full-bodied Irouleguy reds are made with the Tannat grape, Some vineyards soften the Tannat gutsiness with Cabernet. The delicious whites are made from the Gros Manseng grape.

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DURATION

7 Days

DISTANCE

41 miles

PRICE

€2690 pp

SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT

€360 pp

DATES

28 Apr - 4 May

22 Sep - 28 Sep