The region to which Soto del Barco belongs alternates mountainous systems and wide plains that open to the sea through the Nalón River. A fluvial environment that has been the key to organize this territory throughout history, endowing its people with economic resources and setting the pattern of daily activity.
Soto del Barco, practically the geographical center of the Asturian coast, It includes about 40 square kilometers and is inhabited by more than 4.000 people They are concentrated in the towns of San Juan de La Arena and the capital of the municipality, with the same name. Perfectly communicated (ten minutes from the airport of Asturias, and half an hour from Oviedo and Gijón), crossed by the Cantábrico highway, but keeps a romantic, at times also colonial, with ancestral jetties and mysterious fortresses in the distance. The council owes its name to an old boat that, in the absence of a bridge, was used in the past to communicate the two banks of the Nalón.
Between the two most populated population centers, in the last meander of the Nalón River, we encountered an amazing village. Only a handful of houses and cobbled streets that take us to the tower and defensive wall (private property). A site that was used for strategic purposes in the past. On a promontory of barely 40 meters of altitude, it provides an excellent visual domain over the mouth of the Nalón and justifies its long history as fortification. Known as the Castle of San Martin, the current tower stands on an old maritime fort. The archaeological excavations have allowed to date the origin of this enclave in the Iron Age. Located in the territory of Astures, more concretely in the one of the pésicos, it was integrated into the orbit of the Roman Empire and the area was benefited by the development of important roads. Through the council of Soto del Barco, the coastal route connecting the Bay of Biscay and Galicia flowed east-west. This itinerary was used in medieval times as route of the Camino de Santiago. Nowadays it is still one of the most beautiful sections of the Jacobean route of the coast.
Soto del Barco Tourism
On the coast of the municipality, the beach of Los Quebrantos and its surroundings (protected landscape). Wetlands, dune systems and marshes follow one another throughout this geography. In the summer months, the population of San Juan de la Arena is filled with visitors who come to enjoy its cuisine.
The interior of the Council also offers very beautiful landscapes and towns full of charm (La Corrada, La Ferrería, Ranón or Riberas, are some of them), with dozens of routes for pleasant hiking: the Ruta del Agua, the Ruta de los Sailors, the Route of the Sierra de Pulide, the Route of Los Veneros or the Route of Santa Eulalia.
El architectural heritage It does not follow behind: churches and chapels, unique buildings (Rula and Fábrica Lis, in La Arena, the unique Church of San Pedro in Soto del Barco and the neo-Gothic church of San Juan de la Arena), houses of Indians and palaces (that of the marquises of Ferrera, in Ponte, with a medieval tower of the sixteenth century, which is known as the palace of the Magdalena in Soto, mid-eighteenth century, the Palatial Mansion of the Plaza de Calvo Sotelo in San Juan de la Arena of the 19th century, or the Bouza Palace, in Riberas, a clear example of a rural house in Asturias).
A dense ethnographic heritage splashes from granaries and hundred-year-old breadbaskets in every corner of the council.
In Soto del Barco you also have to go to your winches, cider houses and restaurants. Field and sea, synonym of excellent gastronomy: good meats, excellent fish and vegetables. And as monarch Angula, in whose honor a gastronomic festival is celebrated in winter. The eel of La Arena is reputed to be the best in the Cantabrian and the most abundant.
Illustrious figures from a not too distant past have already savored the sea, the landscape and its food. Poets such as Rubén Darío or Ángel González, the painter Joaquín Sorolla or the Nobel Prize for Literature Seamus Heaney.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com