The Quieter Costa Living; Beautiful Northern Spain Offers Authentic and Accessible Retreats, Reports Zoe Dare Hall

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Byline: Zoe Dare Hall

HUNDREDS of British holidaymakers had an unexpected introduction to northern spain when they found themselves in santander or Bilbao waiting to be shipped home when the planes were recently grounded.

Given the trying circumstances, some may have been put off spain's beautiful Costa Verde. But they will be missing out because the regions of Cantabria and Asturias offer an experience of spain that is a world apart from the betterknown Costas.

And for those now thinking that a holiday home should be accessible by a means other than plane, northern spain has 24-hour car ferries from Portsmouth or Plymouth to santander or Bilbao, in addition to the low-cost flights to santander, Bilbao, Aviles and santiago, 'The Costa Verde is utterly unspoilt, and with its myriad fiestas and parades, it feels spanish, rather than touristy. It's warmer than the uK, but without the uncomfortable summer heat of southern spain,' says Ann Hansen, an english emigree to Asturias, who runs Costa Verde Properties.

The terrain will be familiar for anyone who saw the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, starring scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem, particularly when they were frolicking on bikes and picnic rugs. The film was set around the Asturian towns of Aviles and Oviedo.

'We see most demand for properties in eastern Asturias, as it is easily accessible by air or ferry port and there are good fast roads,' Hansen says, adding that most buyers want cheap, rural stone houses they can renovate, within a short drive of beaches and towns. 'One of the most appealing places is Villaviciosa, an old market town 15 minutes from rodiles beach, one of the best in Asturias,' says Hansen, who is selling a 200 sq m detached stone house near Villaviciosa, in need of renovation, for [pounds sterling]95,000. she has a fully-renovated four-bedroom villa nearby for [pounds sterling]298,000.

'The seaside town of Llanes is also popular and Luarca, in Western Asturias, is close to Aviles airport. It's set in protected coastline, like a third of Asturias, so there's little development,' says Hansen, who has stone houses to renovate there from [pounds sterling]30,000 and a large, fourbedroom villa near the beach for [pounds sterling]268,000.

Like the rest of spain, holiday home sales have ground to a near-halt in the north. But the region attracts a very different type of buyer to the Costas, says Clive robbins, from Asturiasbased surveyors and legal consultancy, Blakemore Walker.

'When the market was booming, buyers were typically middle class, retired or with young families, seeking country retreats in Asturias or the most rural spots of Galicia,' says robbins. …