The walker in Mallorca

The sunshine might be fading, but winter proves to be a fine time for a walk on the Mallorcan wild side. Mick Webb steps out from the town of Sóller

A walking holiday through Mallorca's varied landscape had long been on my wish list, but a walking holiday in November hadn't. The guide books were ambivalent about the chances of Balearic sunshine at this time of year. However, undeterred, my partner and I looked out our dusty walking boots, packed swimming costumes and caught the plane to Palma for a long weekend in Sóller, on the island's north-west coast. A rain-filled grey sky greeted our arrival, along with local paper headlines announcing that a cold front had lowered the temperature by 10 degrees. Maybe we should have waited till spring after all. But an hour later, as we rattled, creaked and groaned our way up into the Tramuntana Mountains on the ancient narrow-gauge railway that links Palma and Sóller, patches of blue sky hinted at brighter things to come.

After an hour of geriatric but relaxing travel there was a fine view down into a wide valley filled with red-roofed buildings and almost completely encircled by an amphitheatre of mountains. This, after a couple of twisting hairpin bends, turned out to be our destination as well as the end of the line.

As a general rule of travelling, the nearest hotel to a railway terminus is best avoided - but that's not the case in Sóller. A mere stone's throw from the classy little station is the equally neat and tidy Hotel Guía, though our journey from one to the other was delayed, very pleasantly, by an exhibition in the station foyer featuring a series of prints by Miro and some stunning ceramics by Picasso. And it was free. The town's main square, La Plaça Consitucio was equally close at hand. The open-air terraces of its cafés and restaurants were deserted and rather sad at this time of year but there were two entertaining and playfully-decorated modernista façades belonging to the Church of Sant Bartomeu and, perhaps surprisingly, the Bank of Sóller. The architect was Joan Rubio, who studied under Gaudí and was clearly an assiduous pupil.

Even on a Saturday afternoon out of season, Sóller's unsuitability for 21st-century traffic was patently obvious as queues of cars built up in its narrow twisting streets. Traffic flow is further complicated by the tracks of the ancient tram which links Sóller with Port de Sóller. As the sun went down, we took a tram ride down to the sea, passing between gardens bright with startlingly-coloured bougainvillea and then enjoyed a gentle warm-up stroll around the port, set in a shapely bay. The Maritime Museum and most of the hotels and restaurants were closed, but on the evidence of those people who were around, I would guess that the main language of Port de Sóller is not Spanish or Catalan or Mallorquín but German.

Walking in earnest began the next day, after a wake-up whistle from the eight o'clock train to Palma. We found our way through the maze of streets flanked with miniature shops to the edge of town, crossed the not-very-busy bypass and set out along the Camí de Castelló, a path that leads to the village of Deià. For a couple of hours we strolled in warm, sunny weather along a well-marked track past olive groves, orange and lemon trees and smallholdings whose vegetable gardens were decorated with red peppers. We avoided the temptation of orange juice and cake at a country house called Can Prohom but unwisely decided to sample the ripe black olives, whose flavour, before curing, is bitter and quite disgusting.

The path meanders down to the coast. At the bottom of a narrow ravine is the Cala de Deià, a rocky inlet with a tiny beach. A scattering of young Mallorcans were sitting on the pebbles, texting away, while a group of elderly Germans were swimming in the lively waves. We would, of course, have joined them but lunch was calling so we climbed back up to picturesque Deià, clinging to the crags at the top of the ravine. This was the home of the writer Robert Graves, who was followed here by a host of artists, literati and glitterati. If Michael Douglas was lurking in one of the green-shuttered houses we failed to spot him - he owns property on the island. At the top of the village with its twee eateries we had an oil-free Spanish omelette and a glass of robust, local wine before retracing our steps back to Sóller. The rapidly advancing evening was filled with the scent of orange blossom and the huge wall of rock beyond the town was painted in glorious shades of orange by the setting sun.

The Deià walk was the hors d'oeuvre for Monday's main course: an 18km trek through the coastal mountains on the east side of town. After an undemanding beginning along the floor of the valley, the path turned abruptly upwards and kept on climbing through terraces of ancient, gnarled olive trees where equally gnarled and ancient farmers were employing low-tech methods to harvest the crop - shaking the branches. Birds and birdsong were everywhere and as we reached the pass at the top of that first breathtaking climb, two huge black vultures sailed overhead. Then it was downhill on a well-crafted path formed from large, rounded boulders towards a distant patch of iridescent dark green at the bottom of an almost uninhabited valley, totally enclosed by mountains.

The green patch resolved itself a grove of orange trees and the adjacent farmhouse provided the freshest orange-juice you've ever tasted, straight from the tree. I became the interpreter in a rather surreal discussion between the farmer and a group of German hikers. The latter were trying to locate a path back to Port de Sóller and refused to believe the farmer's assertions that the path no longer existed - "Look, here it is marked on our map and the map is not old, it is this year's."

We had no such problems with our route and, after another stiff climb, were rewarded with an uplifting view across the Mediterranean.

The next stretch of the path must be a contender for Europe's best cliff walk. Staying about 100m above the clearest aquamarine sea, it takes you round a sequence of headlands with views down to rocky bays and inlets virtually unreachable from the land. The breeze was gentle, the sun's rays were warming - not scorching - and the birdsong continued. But even in paradise there are serpents and our particular problem was that this was not a circular walk, so we had to get back - somehow.

In the summer and early autumn this is not a problem, as there is a regular boat service from our destination, Sa Calobra, back to Port de Sóller. But not in November. With this in mind I'd taken the phone numbers of some local taxis and charged my mobile phone but had not taken into account a complete lack of network coverage.

I kept my concerns to myself until at about four o'clock we reached the little beach at Cala Tuent and driven by a mixture of pride, aching knees and blistered feet, took the plunge into what turned out to be surprisingly warm water.

On the beach behind us the last two of that day's few visitors had untwined themselves from a lengthy embrace and were walking to their car. And with them, I realised, was going our only chance of getting out of here. We leapt up and were dressed and holding out our thumbs before they'd driven out of the car-park. A charming couple of young doctors - he was German, she was Spanish with a shared language of English - they took us back to Sóller. Although we didn't quite make it to Sa Calobra, we agreed that we would both be delighted to have another go next November.

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE

GETTING THERE

The writer travelled to Mallorca with easyJet (0905 821 9005; www.easyJet.com), which flies to Palma from Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Newcastle. Palma is also served by MyTravel Flights (0870 241 5333; www.mytravel.com/flights), bmibaby (0870 264 2229; www.bmibaby.com), BMI (0870 6070 555; www.flybmi.co.uk) and Air Berlin (0870 738 8880; www.airberlin.com).

STAYING THERE

Hotel El Guia, Carrer Castanyer 2, Sóller, Mallorca (00 34 971 630 227; www.sollernet.com/elguia). Double rooms start at €80 (£57), including breakfast. The hotel is now closed and will reopen in March.

Gran Hotel Sóller, Carrer Romaguera 18, Sóller, Mallorca (00 34 971 638 686; www.granhotelsoller.com). Double rooms start at €257 (£184), including breakfast.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Mallorca tourist information (00 34 971 712 216; www.visitbalears.com).

Spanish Tourist Office (08459 400 180; www.tourspain.co.uk).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future