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Somo time and the living is easy…

Somo time and the living is easy…

Being based in Somo really gives you the best of both worlds, with the heritage and hustle of Santander city across the bay, to the laid-back flip-flop lifestyle of the beachfront villages.

We ended up in Somo by mistake, but what a great mistake it turned out to be.

If you were to ask me right now, where I’d like to spend next summer, I’d have no hesitation in saying, Somo, all day long.

On Somo time, the living is easy…

Even in early June this place operates in slo-mo, with some places still dusting down the slumber of the off-season and the full holiday resort summer buzz yet to kick-in, even though the longest day is just around the corner.

Somo’s real charm is its small town simplicity and snail’s pace. What’s the hurry seems to be the vibe, you’re on Somo time.

somo set up
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We hit on Somo after leaving Biarritz and deciding to give San Sebastian and Bilbao a skip this time round. Running along the Cantabrian coast and approaching Santander from the opposite direction than planned (due to the cancellation of the Brittany Ferries Cork-Santander route only days before our planned departure). With the Connemara ship requisitioned for other duties due to rudder trouble on Brittany’s flagship Pont Aven, we were almost left high and dry.

A quick scramble and a late booking, albeit without a cabin berth, got us on board the Oscar Wilde instead and we were headed for Cherbourg out of Dublin, 1200km shy of our destination, Santander.

We made the best of the road trip via stopovers in La Rochelle and Arcachon, (both of which merit a blog review of their own) before approaching Santander from the ‘wrong’ direction, which is how we stumbled on Somo.

This laid back village is only 25km from Santander as you drive around the Bahia de Santander. It lays claim, along with its neighbouring villages of Loredo, Langre, Suesa and Galizano (the latter two slightly more inland) to an 8km long beachfront looking out across the Cantabrian Sea. All the villages and beaches are within easy walking or cycling distance of each other in the municipality of Ribamontán al Mar.

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Somo revels in its flip-flop laid-back lifestyle.
Somo cafe terrace
Somo ferry
Somo is connected to Santander with a regular ferry service, giving you the best of both worlds.

The beauty of it is that right across the bay is the stunning city of Santander, with all its old world charm and sophistication, mingling these days with modern chic. Somo is linked to Santander by a regular ferry service, which makes the 15 minute crossing every half hour, €5 for a return ticket.

Being based in Somo really gives you the best of both worlds, with the heritage and hustle of the city across the bay, to the laid-back flip-flop lifestyle of the beachfront villages.

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Once you are set up in your campsite, there is no need for any further driving or scramble for parking in busy Santander, as everything is doable on foot or by bike, via the ferry crossing on Los Reginas.

Santander, the capital city of Cantabria, is an elegant and stylish town stretched across a wide bay with many stunning beaches of its own. Small wonder it was popular with Spanish royalty fleeing the heat and humidity of Madrid in the height of the summer months.

Santander restaurant
Santander menus
Santander cafe
There is history and heritage here in abundance; ancient churches and cathedrals; markets, galleries and museums, many a nod to the city’s maritime heritage which also shows up on the menus of the city’s gastronomic delights, with its bars and restaurants galore revelling in the bountiful supply of succulent shellfish and seafood best explored in the Fishing Quarter in Barrio Pesquero and Puerto Chico.
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Somo church
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Santander building
Santander harbour
Santander shoreline
Santander from the waterfront. This classy city is a mix of old world and modern chic whose menu reflects its rich maritime heritage with a delicious choice of seafood delicacies.
If you have a passion for fashion you will be right up your alley in Santander where they shamelessly strut their style and lavish jewellery along the Alameda de Oviedo Boulevard or the pedestrianised Calle Burgos.
Somo terrace
That Friday evening 5 o’ clock vibe is always in vogue at the Surf Café on the beach in Somo.
Tunes on the dunes
But if you want to escape all that and crave a more simple life, well fear not, just hop back on that ferry and in no time at all, you are back on Somo time. A whole other world, hassle free, where you can walk along the beach to our favourite Surf Café at Las Quebrantas, enjoy some tunes on the dunes, with a refreshing chilled beer and a generous round of Martini, all for just €3.80, with some scrumptious fresh tapas too if you are a bit peckish. It’s far friendlier and more welcoming than the pretentious Surf Garden nearby.
Menus Maeve
For the record Somo has plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars of its own but once again beware of the siesta as when lunch wraps up around 4pm, the whole place goes in to its daily hibernation until they re-open usually around 8pm. But there is a great choice of options, delicious local delicacies and good value to be had on the menu del dia. We had an unlikely long leisurely lunch in the old school Las Dunas Hotel, proprietor on hand to greet you, white table linen, and waiter service, 3-courses, coffee and a full bottle of Rioja, all for €32.40.
Somo beach
Surfing Somo
Somo Surfer
Somo surf sculpting
This coastline justifiably bills itself as a ‘surfing reserve’ as these super safe beaches on to the Cantabrian Sea are a surfer’s paradise. There are surf schools and rentals on every corner with plenty of opportunities too for kite surf, paddle surf, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving.
Somo digs

There are lots of places too for fishing, cycling, hiking and trekking, with parks, mountain trails and Camino de Santiago route passing right through this area. The Caberceno National Park and nature reserve is less than half an hour away, as each bend on the road throws up yet another stunning cove, cliff face or forest.

There are plenty of campsites and off-the-beaten-track wild camp options to choose from all along this coastline. Plenty of hostel and other accommodation offerings too.

Somo camping
Somo campsite
Camping El Arbolado.
Campin in Somo
We stayed at Camping El Arbolado, which opens all year round. A family run facility it was well maintained, conveniently located and welcoming. However, it had more the feel of a neighbourhood than a campsite, with only a handful of touring pitches available; most of the residents were regulars and semi-permanent with other visitors hiring the really smashing cabins complete with their own BBQ area. 
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The campsite is a cosy, clean and quite spot with only the sparrows squabbling for crumbs to disturb the stillness between the hourly chimes and Angelus bells from the church of Iglesia Las Latas across the way in the village.

The cost for four nights was €103.60, with an annoying 50 cent metre charge for showers. (Pets are welcome, once on leads and many people had their dogs with them).

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Just up the road is Camping Latas, which sports an outdoor swimming pool, more options for touring campers and tents. It is also family run (ask for the boss woman Marie Jose, but be aware that while it opens weekends all year round, it doesn’t open fulltime for the season until mid-June. It too is just down the road from the beach; tariffs are inclusive of showers, but no dogs allowed.

Camping Somo Parque is located between the villages of Somo and Suesa and is a little further inland, about 2km from the beach. It opens from early March until mid-December.

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View from Camping Derby
The view of the beach on your doorstep from Camping Derby, Loredo.
Somo sunset
Camping Derby
Camping Derby Loredo, with its easy access to the expansive beach and a view across the bay to Santander.

However, the spot we are most excited about is Camping Derby Loredo, which we only hit upon the day before our departure, while on a farewell cycling expedition. It is situated right on the beach at its most northerly tip, to which we had not ventured until then. When we sussed it out, the services and facilities looked good, helpful staff and it was bustling with campers from all over. It was admittedly in contrast to the completely tranquil setting of Camping El Arbolado, but its big selling point has to be that you can walk down from your pitch to the beach with your surf board…

Camping Derby Loredo opens virtually all year round, except for a couple of weeks around Christmas and New Year’s.

Can’t wait to check it out properly and what a great reason to head back to Cantabria and some more tunes on the dunes, Somo style…

Somo snail
  •  The Festival Internacional Santander runs from August 3 to 31.

    Brittany Ferries sail  directly twice weekly on Mondays and Friday’s from Cork to Santander. Fares are subject to fluctuation and seasonal change and can be checked online. Brittany also sail directly from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander.

About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at Safe travels...

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