Thursday, March 4, 2010


In 1813 the Bidassoa river was the border between France and Spain. On the Spanish side was Wellington’s army. On the French side Soult and the French army. The river was considered not fordable as it joined the sea at Fuenterrabia. However local fishermen confirmed that it could be forded at low tide. At first light on 7 October 1813 the British 1st and 5th divisions crossed the wide estuary and the water came up only as far as the men’s waist at most.

Fuenterrabia today much expanded, and is a thriving Spanish seaside holiday destination. We could find no memorials or other reminders of 1813. Nor could we find any bars or café’s which spoke English, an ongoing problem with our complete lack of spoken Spanish!

To explore this area we spent two nights in the very impressive Parador. These are state run hotels, and this one is a converted 10th century Moorish castle. No expense has been spared in the conversion, and we have fond memories of the large dining room with a glass roof so that you can admire the castle walls. There is also a large collection of weapons, cannon and armour which decorate the castle.

From the bedroom window we had an excellent view of the river and of France beyond.

This peaceful garden, with the castle behind, was useful for sitting in the evenings and reading up on the next battlefield on the agenda.

At the end of a long promenade is this rocky breakwater. From here there are good views of La Rhune Mountain, the site of the famous light division engagement. The Rhune is the largest peak surrounded by low cloud.

Taken from the castle gardens looking across the river towards France.

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