Rolling through the hills of Asturias is like a magical mystery tour – taking you way back into the past as if the 20th century never happened. It`s not all like that of course, but up in the mountains, the Picos de Europa, it seems `modern life` passed them by completely.

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Above is the stunning Lago Eñol, about 1000m above sea-level up a tortuous road from a tiny little town called Cangas de Onis. The latter is all about hiking, canoeing – chorizo and cheese, as well as a highly symbolic `Roman` bridge (in fact not Roman at all, but certainly picturesque). Asturians are big cider-drinkers, certainly the most enthusiastic consumers in Spain and one small coastal town, Gijon, actually claims 300 cider-bars. Take your pick. But in Cangas, above all they have a dazzing choice of 40 types of cheeses, from the intensive blue Cabrales (a more pungent, sharper version of Roquefort or Stilton) to Gamoneu, a crumbly mix of sheep and cow`s milk made high in the mountains.There are plenty of others —- and a lot of shops let you taste beforehand, perfect for the picky punter.

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The cows lead a contented existence, spending blissful summers in verdant high pastures then trundle slowly down the mountain to shelter from the bitter winters lower down in the valleys. Heidi and the edelweiss-studded slopes of the Alps are not alone. Asturian valleys like this one, Os Teixois, sometimes conceal something special – in this case an ancient water-mill which ingeniously uses hydro-energy for grinding. Not just that, it`s picture postcard pretty – and they chill their cider in the stream.

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But I think it`s the cows I envy most – what a spot, perfect for an unperturbed existence, only their clonking bells and a few carloads of visitors breaking the peace.

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