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.