Montseny in autumn - Baleária

Montseny, Autumnal tresure

Text David Revellés. Photos: Kim Castells, Manel Canes, Diputació de Barcelona, Òscar Rodbag

Wherever your gaze may wander, as autumn finally takes hold Montseny is festooned in a dreamlike kaleidoscope of colours: a patchwork of ochre, dark green, reddish brown and gold of centuries-old woodlands, while the light, filtered through flecks of mist, provides a fairytale natural backdrop. But that is not all. It is not merely a feast for the eyes. In late October and early November the landscape of Montseny unleashes a torrent of subtle scents and sounds: the damp earth as one hunts for wild mushrooms or chestnuts, the fleeting movement of wildlife among the fallen leaves around the lake of Santa Fe, the delicious world of beech, chestnut and holm oak trees; the smoke from the farmhouse chimneys dotting the valleys, the drowsy babble of streams and springs… This is Montseny in autumn: a true delight for the senses. 

 

Every season of the year has its own particular charm in the Montseny Nature Park, but it is in autumn when this little corner of the world, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, adorns itself with its most beautiful finery to enchant visitors. Just a stone's throw from Barcelona (a mere 88 kilometres from the Catalan capital), it offers a unique haven for hikers, wild mushroom gatherers, families with children, lovers of kitchen garden cuisine and city dwellers yearning for a a natural contrast to the concrete and tarmac. This inviting profile is to a great extent shaped by the fact that the contours of Montseny, with their remarkable biodiversity and the cultural imprint left by mankind over the years, provide a truly varied array of leisure opportunities within a distinctive natural setting. There are, for example, the delightful villages, with their delicious food and drink, alongside the mountain peaks, a great attraction for hikers: El Turó de l'Home (1,712 m), Les Agudes (1,705 m), El Matagalls (1.698 m)…

 

Seasonal walks 

The best way to savour the autumnal ambience which floods over Montseny at this time of the year is unquestionably to head down one of the marked hiking trails which abound in this expanse of nature. Any of the paths crossing or circling Montseny provides access to features of the uplands which in themselves are worth a visit. The journey has never been a better destination. The town of Sant Celoni, for example, is an ideal jumping off point from which to follow such traditional routes as that leading to the Valley of Santa Fe. It is the ideal location, above all having stopped off at the Can Casades Information Centre to stock up on all the practical information, to embark on walks and outings around the region. This is not the only cultural sight worth seeing with a view to making the most of a journey into the mountain's man-made heritage. Others include the Masia Mariona, in the town of Mosqueroles, and the Casa-Museu l’Agustí, a farmhouse which offers a unique opportunity, above all for the youngest visitors, to learn about local country life in the 18th century. 

 

From Santa Fe there are two different routes heading into the autumnal landscape of Montseny: one option features the peaks of El Matagalls and the towering slopes of Les Agudes as its signposts, taking the road leading to Sant Marçal and from there heading towards Viladrau. The other is to take the forest track linking Santa Fe and La Costa, a charming village in the borough of Fogars de Montclús, with this route providing the option of making use of the car park located at the foot of El Turó de l'Home, the highest peak in the massif. 

 

There are plenty of other alternatives to, all of them hugely appealing. One could, for example, stop off in the village of Montseny, before heading up to the moorlands of El Pla de la Calma. Or take a trip to Montclús Castle, which is easy enough to reach to make it a suitable family outing: a number of chambers can still be made out among the fortifications, above all the circular watchtower which, after all these centuries, still looks down on the natural gateways to Montseny. 

 

To bid a final farewell to Montseny with an autumnal picture postcard in the mind's eye, while breathing in pure air and a touch of history, there is nothing to match one of the most famous sights: the monumental complex at the Turó de Tagamanent (1,055 m), a privileged setting dating from the 10th century… Topped by the few remains of the castle and a hermitage, the summit offers a panoramic view spread out over a mantle of ochre, russet and gold. This is Montseny's final gift, a true autumnal treasure. 

 

Mushroom gatherer's paradise

 

A trip into the autumnal landscape of Montseny has for decades been one of the sacred rituals of wild mushroom hunters. As well it might be. The Montseny massif is one of Catalonia's most bountiful areas in this regard. The reason being that, thanks to its biological variety, some of the most delicious mushrooms grow here: royal agaric, goat's foot, the most famed Montseny mushroom, porcini, chanterelle, fairy ring, horn of plenty… delights which the restaurants of Montseny make the very most of, to the delight of discerning gourmets.

 

Water, fairies and spas

 

The importance of water as an essential element of the ecological make-up and history of Montseny can be seen at every step, whatever the season of the year. The 600 natural springs which the massif contains themselves provide a telling indication. During autumn this watery nature can be sensed and enjoyed in a thousand ways: by heading to the source of the Tordera, Montseny's quintessential river, at the Fonta Bona, taking in on the way the views of Les Agudes from the col of Sant Marçal (1,106 m). Or by taking the pulse of this liquid element at Viladrau, or the rich industrial water-related heritage of Arbúcies. 

 

There is no better way to round off a good walk while experiencing Montseny's water culture than to pamper oneself at a thermal spa. One suggestion: stop off in La Garriga, home to the Balneari Blancafort (www.balneariblancafort.com), a luxurious spa facility with a Templarium in the true tradition of Roman thermal baths.  Another equally enticing option is Balneari de Codina (www.balnearicodina.com), in the village of Tona, one of the classic thermal spas in the district since it first opened  in 1913.