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Review: Lerate and the surrounding area



An attractive area of fertile farmland and scattered small villages

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2244 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • May 2013
  • Husband

21 people found this review helpful

We spent four nights at Lerate camping, Aritzaleku on the shores of the large dammed lake of Embalse de Alloz. It is a lovely setting among low rounded hills with wooded sides with fertile farmland in the valley bottoms and rough grazing on the tops. The landscape is dotted with attractive isolated villages.

LERATE is a small and well cared for settlement just above the campsite and good views across the reservoir to the small villages on the hills beyond. The large stone houses have been carefully renovated and several had swallows nests under the eaves. The church is set below the village and is typical of the area with large square tower and windowless nave. Apart from a post box, there rare no services in the village, something which we found in other settlements. There are good views across the reservoir to the small villages on the hills beyond.

We had been attracted by the sight of IRURRE as we drove out of Lerate every morning. Set on the hillside, surrounded by fertile arable land, it is dominated by the bulk of its massive church.

There is a small calvary at the road end and a steep and narrow road climbs up to the village. It is a very attractive village of carefully renovated stone or plaster houses with a fortified tower house with machicolations on the tower. The narrow streets inside the settlement are made of concrete. The huge fortified church looks more like a castle keep than a church and has a small wall round the front which contains a grave yard. It has a small bell tower, a very tall windowless nave and a modern brick porch over the door.

GARISOAIN is set on the hillside above the road, surrounded by fields of beans, wheat and vines. There is a big church at the end of the village surrounded by two stone walls with a graveyard. It has a very tall nave with small transepts which have small windows. The nave is buttressed and has a small window. There is a large tower and later sacristy on the south wall. It has a pantiles roof and the south doorway is set under a pantiles porch. Three round pillars with acanthus leaf capitals support round arches with zig-zag and chequerboard decorations.

The village contains a blocked and disused well. There are several large stone houses. Several are derelict and it hasn’t been as expensively renovated as Irurre. There is a new Sideria at the edge of the village providing some local employment and a covered games area for the kids.

GUIRGUILLANO is set on a ridge surrounded by poorer land with scrubby vegetation and small fields on any available bit of flat land. This is still a traditional working village which hasn’t been extensively renovated. The 13thC church at the end of the village was modified in the 16thC. It has a square bell tower and large east apse. At some point the nave has been lowered which gives the church a strange appearance as the east apse now towers above the nave. There is a simple south door set back in a stone porch with stone benches. On the wall by the door is an undated war memorial.

There are good views down to ECHARREN DE GUIRGUILLANO on the hillside below. This is dominated by its fortified church at the top of the settlement and a huge fortified courtyard house at the start of the village. This has corner towers and machicolations above the doorway.

By now the weather had packed up on us and it was beginning to rain steadily. Light was poor for taking photographs so we regretfully headed back to Lerate camping, Aritzaleku. There were several more villages in the area which we would have liked to explore. Tourists flock to the lake for the water sports but few stop off in the villages. We enjoyed them. Each was different and there was always something of interest to find. Unlike many areas, this still retains the feel of a working villages set in the landscape and is well worth exploring. Unfortunatley all the churches are kept locked.

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