From the beach at Virgen Del Mar a small island is joined to the mainland via a bridge. Atop the island sits a hermitage chapel dedicated to the patron saint of nearby Santander, Virgen del Mar. A chapel has stood on this site since at least the year 1400 but the building has been partially demolished by storms on several occasions, and subsequently rebuilt. During the day the peel of the chapel bell can be heard on the hour and half hour, its beautiful sweet sound reverberating over the clifftop fields and inland to the town. However the chapel itself is only open on days of religious significance or holidays.
The beach here is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The campsite is heaving at weekends and the carpark is full of day trippers enjoying the beautiful sandy beach, rock pools and nooks and crannies around the island. It is a particular favourite with surfers and scuba divers. We also noticed that in nearby fields overlooking the beach, there are cordoned off areas which families appear to have rented. They come and park their cars in their ‘zone’, pull out their awnings, tents or parasols and set up their picnic tables, chairs and sun-loungers and wile away the day, catching up with family and friends. They enjoy food and take the sea air or soak up the sunshine, some a bit too much if you ask me, having witnessed a tanned hide or two.
This whole area is part of the Costa Quebrada Global Geopark, which stretches along the coast westward from Santander. The area is rich in geological features as tilted rock layers do daily battle with the power of the ocean. It also shows how the communities here have engaged with their geological surroundings over time. They provide a wonderful education service to schools and the public and the region is hoping for news of their admittance to the UNESCO Geopark Network in the near future. This place is well worth a visit, even if rocks aren’t your thing the coastal views and turquoise waters are just breathtaking and the walking paths and trails give access to secluded coves and inlets all along the coastline.