Quiviesa River

The valley of the Quiviesa River, from Potes to Puerto de San Glorio (click for the full map)

This valley, earlier known as Valle de Cereceda, today is officially named after the town of Vega de Liébana. The road along the river runs through 23 settlements and is an important link between the coastline Camino de Santiago and the Camino Francés.

The discovery of Cantabria
1. The Hungarian and his bear
2. In the valley of Liébana
3. “…but I’m not happy”
4. Deva River
5. Quiviesa River
Valmeo passes almost unnoticed at the beginning of the road. You have to cross the river by one of the two bridges, and only then it appears below, among dense vegetation due to the proximity of water. In this village stands the medieval house of the Colmenares family, which boasts of a number of famous preachers, sailors and diplomats, including the adventurous Don Manuel de Colmenares y Prellezo, who in 1823 revolted on the most conservative side to release Ferdinand VII of his constitutional obligations and to restore the traditional absolutism (to which, apart from Don Manuel, the intervention of the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis was also indispensable.) In Valmeo he issued a fiery proclamation, armed and captained a company of 1600 volunteers, fervently supported by the clergy of Liébana: now we know that it was the Prior of the Monastery of Santo Toribio who provided them with weapons and ammunition. The small medieval church of Valmeo has a 15th-century arched portal, framed by a rectangular row of carved stone beads. In most settlements of Liébana it is striking how few attention they pay to the aesthetic leading of telephone and electric cables on the facades of historic buildings, so that we completely feel at home.

Tudes. In the nearby Porcieda still you can see the rests of an ancient monastery dedicated to St. James. In this late afternoon all the inhabitants of Tudes, laying high on the hillside, were engaged in picking up the hay. It is a lively village with a charming tourist inn, which has well respected the traditional architecture, right next to the 16th-century church. As in almost everywhere in the valley, we found the church closed, so we could not see the two famous altarpieces from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Campollo and Maredes have grown together by now, but each has its own church. The abandoned one of Campollo still preserves various 16th to 18th-century carvings as well as a 18th-century nobleman’s throne with a carved back. There are also two very poor chapels nearby, one dedicated to Mary Magdalene and the other to St. Justa and St. Rufina. This latter is from 1573, according to an inscription inside. A graffiti in the churchyard of Campollo evokes a nearer past, when most Spanish churches ostentated the name of the Falangist José Antonio Primo de Rivera in their facades. A further proof that here the time flows more slowly than elsewhere.

Toranzo. On the opposite side of Campollo and Maredes, its church boasts of a medieval baptismal font and a 18th-century wooden statue of St. Anthony the Hermit. The year of foundation of the village is 961. As in many other settlements of the valley which take advantage of the power of the river, here once worked a smithy and a mill, now abandoned houses, shields over the doors, flowers, silence.

Bores. As it was to be expected, we did not meet the famous “girl of Bores” at whose sight the Marqués de Santillana (1398-1458) immediately fell in love, according to his renowned serranilla, nor any of her possible descendants. Bores, just as Campollo y Maredes, also has a neighborhood laying somewhat off the village, Campo, where the same Marqués de Santillana, that is Don Íñigo López de Mendoza built two towers separated by about fifty meters. They are still visible, but at the point of disappearing altogether. The pastors mentioned in the poem are still around, but fortunately none of them must earn his bread at such a young age as the one in the photo below, taken in the 1950s.

Enterrías. We wanted to visit this village by any means, because here was founded in the 13th century the Monastery of San Pedro de Montero. However, as we have seen, its only remains are the Pre-Romanesque lattice windows recently found. When we arrived, a group of workers were just restoring the Baroque Gómez de Enterría house. As we went nearer, the owner very kindly invited us to come in and to see the huge vaults on which it was built, as well as the 18th-century funiture, now covered by the dust of the works, while he was talking of the difficulties and costs (although partly subsidized) of maintaining a house like this. He even complained that “those of the Heritage” protest against the somewhat more modern isolation of the roof he built against the winter cold. An attractive traditional inn was also opened recently in the village, as well as an ethnographic collection in the Casa de las Doñas.

Dobarganes. We are at the height of a thousand meters. Here start a number of trails to the mountains, for example to the Pico Jano.

The result of a fox hunt in the upper valley several decades ago

These are the highest villages of the valley of Quiviesa. Before coming to Ledantes, we stop by the watchtower of Peñallana. A little further we reach Dobres. The road passes through several tunnels that link villages which lay very close to each other, but between which the communication had been almost impossible. In fact, the tunnels are quite modern. For example, they started to plan the road between Bárago to Dobres only in 1924, they began to build it in 1946, and it was not finished until 1967. The tunnels of Cucayo were began to drill in 1946 and were opened to traffic three years later. Cucayo (see below) lays now almost at the end of the road and from here you can look down on all the valley. Recently an inn was also opened here.

More above, before the road leaves the valley in the direction of León, at the height of 1609 meters stands the village of Puerto de San Glorio. Passing through it, we reach the ridge and reach the first village of León, Llánaves de la Reina. On this side of the mountain the vegetation is more sparse and the rocks barren. We have moved away from the influence of the sea which tempers the climate of Liébana, and entered a zone which is much drier and much colder in the winter. A lively debate in San Glorio is whether to build a ski resort in the nearby mountainside. If they do so, it will be almost surely the end of that population of brown bears which still survive in the forests embracing the head of the valley.

Llánaves de la Reina. Photo: Eusebio Bustamante.

Llánaves de la Reina. In 1911 only the parish church was covered with tiles. The houses were roofed like this one, with rye straw. It is harder and more durable than wheat straw. It must be placed very precisely, following a strict technology, but it has great advantages over the roof of tiles or stone. Among others, it offers a better isolation in the winter. A rye straw roof might last about twenty years without replacement.