700 Steps Down, and 700 Back Up Again!
To get to the Faro del Caballo lighthouse (near Santoña in Cantabria) you have to descend about 700 steps, and to get back up you have to climb them again! The exact number of the steps seems to be in some doubt, because, we suspect, no-one has ever managed the complete descent or ascent without losing count on the way.
The lighthouse was built in 1863 to mark the headland that protects the entrance to the port of Santoña. Construction of the access path with its 700-ish steps was entrusted to prisoners from the local prison. With the lighthouse having been turned off in 1993 the steps began to deteriorate until they were restored in 2013 by more prisoners from the local jail as a part of a project to integrate prisoners into the task of caring for the environment.
The route to the Faro del Caballo starts on the Paseo Marítimo in Santoña and it is a 5km walk from there to the start of the descent. Essentially you will be following the southern edge of the headland, but the path is well-marked and it’s not difficult to find your way.
Along the path you’ll be pushing your way past some hawthorn bushes so long trousers are recommended. Take care too, because parts of the path are steep and the high cliffs are never far away. The stairway itself down to the lighthouse has a cable handrail on most of it’s length.
On a calm day the sea below the lighthouse is a great spot for swimming. You’ll have to climb down (and up!) another 100 steps but you’ll be rewarded by crystal-clear water, a diving platform and steps to climb out easily.