Menorca and the Camí de Cavalls

Back at the beginning of August I blogged about returning to Menorca and the Camí de Cavalls.

Menorca, the second largest of the Balearic Islands after Mallorca, has a coastline of 216km, is 47km in length and has a width of 20km at its widest point. The island boasts over 100 beaches and coves.

Last year we stayed in Ciutadella, the former Menorcan capital, which provided an excellent base from which to explore the island. Having explored many of the island’s attractions last year, the aim for this year was considerably more R&R interspersed with early morning trail runs for me.

On our travels last year we came across Cala Galdana in the South of the Island, providing the perfect mix of beach and easy access to trail. It was an obvious choice when considering where to stay this time around and, in all likelihood, will be somewhere that we return to in future years.

In terms of running potential, Cala Galdana lies on the Camí de Cavalls trail which runs around Menorca and, from my hotel, I was no more than 1/4 mile from routes East or West.

“Menorca is encircled by an ancient bridle path, known as the Cami de Cavalls, which enabled soldiers to ride between the many watchtowers situated around the coastline. Recently reopened for the first time in 400 years, the path stretches for almost 220 km and provides a link between idyllic sandy beaches, hidden coves and deep blue inlets. Over the centuries, it has been trampled by Moor, Catalan, French and English occupying forces. Today, it offers a perfect way for rambles, horse riders and mountain bikers to discover Menorca’s hidden secrets from stunning bays, coves and deserted beaches to woodlands and green valleys full of flowers and wildlife, through to medieaval and prehistoric remains.”

http://menorca-live.com/cami-de-cavalls/

We stayed at the Son Gavilanes hotel and could not have asked for a better experience. Our room, a family double room with an excellent sea view, was huge. The food was excellent, with morning and evening buffets providing ample opportunity for experimentation with local food as well as catering for all tastes, from seafood dishes through to Italian. The proximity to the beach couldn’t have been any better, with easy access to the lovely Cala Galdana beach right in front of the hotel.

Throughout our stay, despite it being the beginning of September, we enjoyed temperatures in the late 20s to early 30s. Even early in the morning, the temperatures were approaching and climbing in to the 20s and I will admit to toiling in the heat. However, given the fantastic trail, there was never any question of not running! My aim was to explore as much of the Camí de Cavalls and the various other routes as possible early in the morning before returning in time to catch breakfast. My longest run was just over 10 miles and, on this occasion, I returned to the hotel looking like I had been thrown in the sea!

My travels took me to the following beaches, both East and West of Cala Galdana:

  • Cala Mitjana
  • Cala Trebaluguer
  • Cala Macarella
  • Cala Macaralleta
  • Cala en Turqueta
  • Es Talaier

The trails were generally undulating and varied from hard packed dirt, to sand, technical rocky sections and sharp eroded rock. The trails I followed took me slightly inland, in to densely forested areas, along the cliffside and, at times, deposited me onto one of the many Menorcan beaches or coves. Certainly in the location that I ran, the trails could be described as being similar to Cairngorm routes and to the technical lochside section of the West Highland Way. Despite the relatively short distances between beaches, I often felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. However, with numerous Camí de Cavalls signs, waypoint and cliff route signs, there was never any real danger of getting lost. There were even reflective strips on posts and trees to aid running, walking and/or biking in the dark.

The scenery was varied, from remote, rugged landscapes, to forest and sandy beaches. One of the main problems I encountered was taking in all the scenery whilst also keeping one eye on the trail. With the prevalence of sharp rocks, loose stones and tree roots, this was not somewhere I wanted to fall!

The following images hopefully illustrate the kind of terrain and views that you will encounter, at least in the area surrounding Cala Galdana.

The Menorca Net website contains some excellent Camí de Cavalls maps:

I can’t recommend Menorca enough as a great destination for anyone looking to run on rocky, rooty, technical trails and hope to return again in the not too distant future. I was surprised at just how hot it could get even in September and would consider going even later in the year in future to make the most of the trails and to get in some longer runs. However, having said that, there’s a lot to say for relaxing on the beach in the sun after a great morning run!

Final Race Of The Season – The Speyside Way Race

This Saturday I will be joining approx 110 other runners in the penultimate race of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series, The Speyside Way Race. This will be my last race in 2012. With so many great ultras still to come this year, it seems almost premature to be discussing my final race and I know that, for many of my ultra friends, there are still at least a couple of months of training and racing to complete.

However, assuming I make it to the finish line on Saturday, I will have completed 7 of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series of ultramarathons and, at least according to my body, I am in need of a break. Fortunately, this will come soon enough as I depart for Menorca on 3rd September. My idea of a ‘break’ does involve some trail running, on the Camí de Cavalls trail around Menorca. However, I do plan on ‘mixing it up’ with plenty of walking, swimming (hopefully avoiding jellyfish – this time!) and actual relaxing as well! Once I return, I am going to focus on shorter runs, speedwork and minimalist running for a while.

This will be my 3rd time at the Speyside Way Race and am hopeful of improving on my previous times, 7:46:00 in 2010 & 7:23:45 in 2011, but will, as always, just take it as it comes. At this point in time, the forecast is varying between light and heavy rain.

The route follows the Speyside Way, from Ballindalloch to Buckie, including Ben Aigen.

The Route

  • Ballindalloch to Craigellachie:
    12 miles: Mostly old railway line, Suspension bridges
  • Craigellachie to Fochabers:
    13 miles: Some road sections, Woodland paths, Forestry tracks
  • Fochabers to Spey Bay:
    6 miles: Riverside & forestry tracks, Grassy paths
  • Spey Bay to Buckie:
    5.5 miles: Shore line path, Some pavement, Old railway line, Woodland paths
  • The route continues into Buckie town centre for approximately 0.5 miles

Best of luck to everyone running The Speyside Way this weekend and also to those who will be missing Speyside this weekend as they are tapering for the Glenmore 24 or UTMB races, both of which are on my bucket list.

Happy running.

Menorca And The Camí de Cavalls

My last race of the year will be The Speyside Way Race on 25th August and then, shortly after, I will be heading back to Menorca with Leanne. We visited Menorca for the first time early last summer and thoroughly loved it, although the heat did impact on my ability to run long distances and, as a result, my training and subsequent race times suffered. Or at least, that’s my theory. It could also have had a lot to do with the really fine food on offer in Ciutadella where we stayed. It would have been rude not to make the most of it!

Whilst touring the islands’s many attractions, we visited Cala Galdana, situated on the south coast of Menorca and known for its towering cliffs and horseshoe beach. One of the things that immediately appealed to me in Cala Galdana was the Camí de Cavalls, the ancient coastal pathway completely circumnavigating the island of Menorca.

We spent some time walking along the Camí de Cavalls last year at various points on our travels and I was particularly impressed with the trail in and around Cala Galdana.

So, rather than immediately rest up upon conclusion of my SUMS season, I plan to make the most of the running opportunities afforded by the Camí de Cavalls. The trail east starts right at the back of our accommodation, with little more than a few hundred yards before hitting the trees. The trail west is a short distance across the famous horseshoe beach.

Both directions offer unlimited running potential and access to beaches unspoiled by tourism. I have no plans to run huge distances and my plans may or may not be curtailed by the heat. However, the intention is to make the most of the trail, probably early in the morning for most runs and then again for leisurely walks with Leanne later in the day.

I am looking forward to a change of scenery after a particularly wet summer running in Scotland and am hopeful for some decent weather (Temperature averages are from around 21°C to 24°C at this time of year).

The only thing from last year that I would be keen to avoid would be my ‘session’ with the jellyfish while snorkelling. Having only given the jellyfish guide at the hotel a cursory glance upon arrival, I was not sure whether ‘my’ jellyfish fitted into the imminent death/anaphylactic shock category or the stings like hell but you will live category. The fact that you are reading this now points to the jellyfish being of the latter variety although, at the time, I wasn’t so sure, especially given that it felt like a combination of a bad burn and electrocution (neither of which I have admittedly experienced – thankfully!)

So, jellyfish aside, I can’t wait to return to Menorca!

Thanks to http://www.menorca-net.co.uk/ for providing me with some excellent PDF maps of the Camí de Cavalls route. No excuses for getting lost now!