Independent Parent: We want to explore northern Spain. How can we find a house to rent?

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QWe would like to explore the countryside in the north of Spain in September or early October. Our three-year-old son will be with us. We were considering Asturias. Ideally we'd prefer to rent a house. Any suggestions?

QWe would like to explore the countryside in the north of Spain in September or early October. Our three-year-old son will be with us. We were considering Asturias. Ideally we'd prefer to rent a house. Any suggestions?

Jamie Prain, Abingdon

AAsturias, the region sandwiched between Cantabrica and Galicia in northern Spain, has a lot to offer families seeking a relaxed and varied holiday – but it's a world away from the sun, sea and sand of Spain's Mediterranean resorts. Its dramatic coastline is referred to as the Costa Verde – green coast – due to all the rain. Partly because of the unpredictable climate, its beaches are some of the most unspoilt in Spain. In addition Asturias's interior boasts the spectacular peaks of the Picos de Europa, the Cantabrican mountain range, and historic towns such as Gijon, Oviedo and Villaviciosa.

September and October are relatively good months to visit. Prices are lower than in the summer peak, and you should still be able to enjoy some sunny weather.

Two ferry crossings link the UK with Spain: Portsmouth to Bilbao with P&O (0870 24 24 999, www.poportsmouth.com); and Plymouth to Santander with Brittany Ferries (08705 360 360, www.brittanyferries.co.uk). These voyages take a long time – about 34 and 24 hours respectively – and involve sailing across the difficult seas of the Bay of Biscay. In addition, as crossings are infrequent, most are heavily booked until the end of September. You could take one of the shorter ferry crossings to France and drive, but this will be more time-consuming and risky, given the high accident rate on French roads.

From your home in Oxfordshire, flying to Bilbao from Heathrow with Iberia (0845 601 2854; www.iberia.com) is the most convenient link; the lowest return fare of £118 for adults, and £87 for under 12s, is widely available in September and October. Compare fares on British Airways (0845 77 333 77, www.ba.com) from Gatwick and Go (0870 607 6543, www.go-fly.com) from Stansted, though Go classes children aged two or over as adults. Alternatively, you could fly from Gatwick to Oviedo with Iberia, but in September this costs £320 per adult and £235 for your son. With a three-year-old in tow, travelling around Asturias is best done by car. Most parts of Asturias are a three/four-hour drive from Bilbao.

The seaside town of Llanes, on the eastern end of the Costa Verde, is one of the most popular choices for holidaymakers. It is about an hour's drive from Santander and Oviedo. Both this town and the surrounding smaller villages are a good place to base yourselves. The Individual Travellers Company (08700 773 773, www.indiv-travellers.com) offers a three-bedroom house that would suit your requirements in the village of Parres, 3km from Llanes. A week's stay, and the Plymouth-Santander crossing, will cost £1,058 for the three of you. This includes exclusive use of a four-berth cabin with en-suite facilities on board. The longer Portsmouth-Bilbao crossing will cost £1,008. If you prefer to fly, one week's rental including car hire will cost £602; added to the Iberia fares from Heathrow to Bilbao, the total is £925.

Brittany Ferries also has an inclusive holidays operation (0870 536 0360; www.brittanyferries.com). From the beginning of October, it has availability on a number of its properties in Asturias. Quintana is a small two-storey cottage only 8km east of Llanes and 3km from the beach. Seven nights accommodation from 2 October and a ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Santander will cost £653 for the three of you.

Casas Cantabricas (01223 328 721, www.casacantab.co.uk) offers self-catering properties in both Asturias and neighbouring Cantabrica. One of its most popular choices is La Pandiella, a stone house in the inland village of Sames. The village is located in the Desfiladero de los Beyos, a wooded gorge at the tip of the western Picos de Europa, well placed for visiting the beaches on the coast. One week's rental in September costs £340. Ferry crossings can be arranged, but if you opt to fly, the company can also organise car hire in Bilbao. This costs from £130 per week; you can order a car seat for your son in advance when booking at no extra charge.

The company offers another property that may suit your needs, actually in Cantabrica but close to the Asturian border. Hacienda de Maria is a collection of apartments housed in an attractive old building in the centre of the village of Torices, high in the western Picos de Europa. Each apartment has a well-equipped kitchen and guests also have the use of a swimming pool, barbecue and sauna. A week in a one-bedroom apartment with an extra bed costs from £280 until 15 September and £215 after that.

Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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