Gaztelugatxe. Castle Rock

Last October P, D the cat and I took a weekend road trip to Bilbao. D was his usual drama queen self in the car. We figured out to put the litter box available for easy access and remind him passing police, he had to get back into his transport box, which wasn’t happening as it’s D. He was at trooper all weekend enjoying pre cooked roast chicken we thankfully found in Hypercor otherwise who knows what would have happened if he had to eat normal cat food. The shits. Sadly it was his last road trip before he said his last see you later in December. I still can’t believe he’s no longer here. He missed his brother AJ and I think he just wanted to be with his brother. 

The Saturday we explored Bilbao, the Sunday we went to Gaztelugatxe. Castle Rock in English. A castle, St Juan de Gaztelugatxe built on a little islet along the coast of Biscay. Steeped in history it’s been a hermits hut, castle, fortress, refugee, chapel, laid under siege, caves prison to ‘witches’, Game of Thrones Dragonstone set and a pilgrimage site. Depending on how you see it the weather was in our favour. Sunny clear skies would have been great but the drizzly rainy day added to the feel. The way the sea crashed the shoreline matching the jagged rocks and coastline. The one time we got someplace early and experienced the lesser foot traffic before the afternoon visitors picked up. Had we been usual time getting anywhere foot traffic would have been high, queue for vistas while the Instagrammers got their selfie. 

Access is free although they prefer if you book online. Maybe it speeds up the ticket office work. Parking is plenty with overspill car parks. Hiking boots are recommend even though the path down is paved it gets slippery when wet and it’s steep in places. The Basque region is a luscious green thanks to its rainy climate. Walking back up, several were wishing they had different more grippy shoes as they clung onto the handrail getting down the 35 degree slope.

There’s a restaurant at the top with bathrooms with an amazing view point. For me walking down the path the islet peeking out through the trees was better with the bridge and jagged rocks beneath the stars. The rocks making perfect defence against sea landings. You can see how they were formed pushed up from the Earth too. The path up from the bridge you can see why it was the backdrop for Dragonstone. Remote and wild yet within easyish assess (I want to know how they got the film equipment there). 

The whole islet and waters are steep in history and superstition. If you place both your feet in the imprinted footprints at the start and end of the path apparently you ward off foot callouses for a year. Fishermen still pay respects before the fishing season starts. Ring the chapel bell 3 times for wish or for good luck and protection from evil spirts. Peeking inside the castle, it’s filled with model boats hanging from the ceiling as a sign of thanks for protection against sea dangers sailing. People make pilgrimages on the 24th June for St Juan. Legend has it he took 3 strides to reach the top. For the night of Sant Juan the whole of Spain lights up in celebration of St Juan and the last of the long days. Even with GPS, science, people still abide and/or respect traditions and superstitions. You never know if it’s because you did or you didn’t.

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