If you fancy a different day out with the family on a last minute Sotogrande holiday, then a picnic by the River Guardiaro is great fun. It is necessary to hire a car to get there as there is no public transport going direct.
From the mouth of the river in Sotogrande it is possible to follow the meandering river back a few km from the coast and find a great spot to picnic. The best places to picnic are located behind Sotogrande itself, so once there, take the junction off the N-340 coast road to Guadiaro and then follow signs through Secadero to San Martin de Tesorillo.
Once in San Martin just keep following the through road and soon the road turns into a track (Don’t worry cars can get along it, although you might have to wind your way round the potholes). Follow the track for about 3km and you will then come to a well worn track off to the left where it is possible to pull over and park.
You will notice from your car the beautiful countryside with lots of fincas and hipico’s (stables). It feels very rural out here even though you are only maybe 6 or 8 km inland. It is also very famous for its orange groves, which you will see for miles around.
There are very often farmers and labourers selling them by the bag on the side of the road. Keep your eyes peeled too for the cotton plants (more obvious when the cotton is in bloom around autumn-time!) which is quite a sight.
Once at the river site it is possible to walk along the banks and find yourselves a suitable spot to picnic. There are bins provided for any rubbish, but there are no shops or anything so you’ll have to bring whatever refreshments you need with you.
It is advisable to check the ground and bring a sheet or ground cover to sit on as there are quite formidable ants in some areas! If you are there on a Sunday there will be a lot of Gibraltarians who come along for the whole day, pitching tents and lighting barbeques!
Most of the time the river is gentle and fairly shallow and ok to swim in, although after heavy rain it can be a bit of a raging torrent so be careful. In the height of the summer it does dry up to pretty much nothing, there is no shade and it is extremely hot, so the best times to visit here are spring and autumn.
The one thing you will notice is the peace and tranquillity all around. You may spot buzzards and birds of prey circling overhead, we were lucky enough on one visit to actually see an osprey grabbing a fish out of the river!
You can smell the wild mint in the air, and many other herbs. Surrounding the river are great bamboo forests and great eucalyptus trees whose leaves rustle in the wind.
It is quite easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol here and completely relax.
Driving back, you can either go back the way you came, or if you carry on up the track you will pass more farms and orange groves, and gradually climb up higher and see spectacular views all around the valley below, including the river itself and Gibraltar in the distance. This whole area is part of the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.
Up to the left you can see the whitewashed town of Gaucin standing precariously on the edge of the cliff face. Always within view on your right are the big propellers of the wind farm, which is where you eventually come out.
You can then see the hillside town of Casares equally perched on the side of the mountain. Follow this road (A-377), alongside the wind farm, and you will eventually come to Manilva and then back out at the N-340 in Sabanillas just east of Sotogrande.