One of best way to understand a city than to look at its territory and geography and Tarragona is no exception.
The walk from Tarragona to Torredembarra is about 4 easy hours and, once there, you can return via the regular train service which runs hourly. There is some signposting, but not too much, so you need to rely a bit on your intuition which may or may not be a good thing especially during the first half journey, the rule of thumb being to keep mostly next to the coast line.
As a commercial port since roman time, Tarragona has a long lasting relationship with the sea, something which is not that obvious at first sight due to the physical separation imposed by the railway line. If you find the crossing points to the sea you can start your journey east.
Start at the far end of Platja del Miracle and walk up to the road running alongside the hideous, close to to the public, concrete platform which is another disaster legacy of Tarragona. Pass the walls with nothing inside of the Forte de la Reina and follow the winding tarmac road until you reach our best kept beach: la Arrabassada.
Continue east, up the short costal climb, walking past the dilapidated ex sanatorium of the Savinosa on your right. The dark history of the Savinosa time during the dictatorship has been well documented: it was used as a “holiday resort” for children from families with low income, yet, instead of respite, accounts tell of a hellhole with rigid discipline and abuse. Thankfully this is no longer the case and the Savinosa is now a fenced up wreck whose future is currently under review.
Walk towards the next beach, much of it used by naturist and climb to the next rocky outcrop. This is a highly confusing trail so keep to the coastal part as much as you can and don’t go inland. It could be a beautiful spot but it has never been properly signposted or cleaned up. It’s a seedy area uses for sex and I would not venture too much into its hinterland. Follow the (even more confusing) overlapping fences and a ten minutes later you’ll reach the wide open stretch of the Platja Llarga. This is when the nice bit starts.
The Platja Llarga is over two and a half kilometres long and roughly 45 metres wide; there has been a long fight to prevent developers taking over and so far the sandy stretch has been largely left undisturbed. There are a few restaurants and a sailing club and a discrete camping area that fringes the second half. Keep walking along the sandy stretch until you reach the perimeter of the Bosque de la Marquesa, a area of preserved mediterranean woodland with stunning views to the sea below.
This much loved hiking spot was bequeathed by the pragmatic Marquesa de Bárcena, Caridad Barraqué in the sixties; handed a blank cheque she refused to sell the land to developers telling them that with the money she would only buy a place like this so there was no point in selling it in the first place!
Before you enter the woodland note at the far end the rectangular cuttings in the rock left by the romans who used the local stone as ballast for their boats. Although the signposting is poor, there are some markings left on threes and stones and the the main path is well worn and easy to follow. The dense and fragrant mediterranean woodland, stretching ahead for several kilometres, offers the perfect canopy during the hot summer days.
Inevitably, at some point, your eyes will meet with a secluded beach, hidden below, known locally as Waikiki. Waikiki, which goes by the official name of Cala Fonda is also one of those worst kept secrets as there is a pilgrimage line heading its way during the summer. When you look at it from above you’ll understand why because, as beaches go, Cala Fonda is the bee.
The path turns right towards the promontory with Torre de la Mora, an impressive 16th century tower built to look out for marauding pirates. At the far end there are steps and a small gate. Follow the yellow arrows leading through well kept bungalows until you descend to a beautiful beach which crystal clear water of platja la Mora.
Get to the other end and climb the steep path to the top until you meet a shallow wall with a gravelled path. You have arrived to our local version of Beverly hills, a secluded, wealthy area with expensive designer concrete / steel / glass / cubic villas built discreetly into the rocky hilltop. The walk continues along the Mediterranean scrub, eroded coast cliffs, until the stunning castle of Tamarit comes into sight.
Like the Torre de la Mora, the “castle” of Tamarit started off as a watchtower in the 11th century, looking out for Saracens pirates which blighted this area with incursions from the sea. There is still an ancient wall enclosure which shows the original perimeter of the building. Its present romantic look, however, is the product of more recent history. When american, businessman, art collector and philanthropist Charles Daring visited the area back in 1916 he fell in love with the original ancient ruins. Daring was no stranger to Catalonia; in 1910 he had already built the Palau Maricel in Sitges with the help of the artist Miquel Utrillo which he hoped to turn into an artist colony. Thanks to his vision the the old walls of Tamarit were restored and the ruins underwent a major development: additional buildings were added a the main summer residence was built over a former abbey. Nowadays The Castle of Tamarit used as an upmarket convention centre and wedding venue – its visual appeal casting a romantic shadow on the the stretch of beach below.
The path loops around the castle of Tamarit, back onto a long stretch of sand, following the perimeter of a nature reserve towards Altafulla. Walk past the erstwhile fishermen’s cottages , now turned into holiday lets and second homes until you reach the a set of concrete steps which take you to a residential area. Follow the road until a signpost leads you back to the coastal walk.
Continue towards Torredembarra along the rugged sea rock, past the little sandy cove known as Cala Canyadell, heading towards the modern iconic lighthouse. Built by architect Josep Maria Llinàs and 58 metres in height, it was inaugurated on the 1st of January 2000 it is the last lighthouse built in Spain in the XX century. It is also the tallest lighthouse in Catalonia.
Soon after the marina of Torredembarra and its large stretch of urban beach comes into view, and with it the end of your journey. But instead of heading straight to the railways station continue until you reach a row of bars and restaurants, perfect for a last beer or meal where you can ponder upon a landmark that looks like a apocalyptic metal totem set adrift in the sea, Alfa i Omega by Rafael Bartolozzi.