Basque Woodland

The Basque Country (Euskadi in Basque) straddles the border between southwestern France and northern Spain. If you include Navarre (I’m not going to go into the arguments for or against including it as that would involve treading the minefield of Basque independence and Hispano-Basque relations), there are four Basque provinces in Spain and three in France. (You often see the graffito 3+4=1 in the Basque country, but once more, I’m not going there!) Last weekend we spent a wonderful couple of days in a small village, Galartza, in Gipuzkoa (I’m using the Basque spelling here) and I was stunned by the beauty of the forests we trailed through.

Gipuzkoa, like its neighbour, Bizkaia (using the Basque spelling once more; Biscay in English) has a maritime climate and the woodland plants to be found are very much what you’d expect to come across in an Irish forest. Everyone in the Basque Country tells you how much like Ireland their landscape is, how green it is. But it’s a different green and the mountains are much newer, much sharper. The place has a less gentle and somehow more closed-in feel. And there’s no bogs! And although the symbol that many Basques stick on their cars to let everyone know they’re from the Basque Country is a sheep, I didn’t see half enough sheep to merit comparisons with Ireland!

Below are photos of the landscape and some familiar trees and plants I came across, all examples of the flora that spread to Ireland from the Iberian peninsula after the last ice age. In the forest were plenty of ash, beech, holly, pendulate oak, holm oak, birch, whitethorn, elder and of course black pine.

Whitethorn - Crataegus monogyna

Whitethorn – Crataegus monogyna


Basque Woods

Basque Woods

Basque Mountain House

Basque Mountain House

Holly - Ilex aquifolium

Holly – Ilex aquifolium

Gipuzkoa woodland view

Gipuzkoa woodland view

Beech - Fagus sylvatica

Beech – Fagus sylvatica

View from Galartza

View from Galartza

Unfurling fern

Unfurling fern

Gorse - Ulex europaeus

Gorse – Ulex europaeus



About ucronin

Microbiologist, brewer, writer, fan of James Joyce, guitar player and gardener, U. Cronin was born in the county town of Ennis, Co. Clare. He's spent much of his adult years moving country — between Spain and Ireland — and at present he is to be found back in his native town. Author of five novels and working on a sixth, U. is back in the lab and engaging his passion for looking for bugs using very bright lasers. Let's hope it turns out well!
This entry was posted in Being Irish Abroad, Plants, Spain. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Basque Woodland

  1. Stan says:

    Looks like a fine place – great variety and views. I was in Barna Woods outside Galway last weekend, which is always lovely but fairly flat; and it doesn’t have much biodiversity since it’s populated mainly by beech, which tends to block other trees (including natives) and canopy away the sunlight. Makes for a pleasant walk, but I’d sacrifice ease of passage for a bit of range and rough!

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