Heading to Spain

The planning is over; the packing is done and the goodbyes have been said.  We are finally heading to Spain to start a new live in our cave house 🙂

Having weighed up the options, we decided to take the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao then drive from there to our cave house in Baza. This option was slightly more expensive but cut out over 800 miles and nearly 12 hours of driving through France. We could have got a cheaper ferry the following week, however after 3 weeks, we were more than ready to leave the UK. Also the cost of staying another week would have been greater than the savings of a later ferry.

As to going by ferry … only time would tell whether travelling the Bay of Biscay at this time of year was wise !

For those that may be looking to do something similar, at the end of the blog I have detailed the different options available and associated costs.

But for now, simply share our travel experience 🙂

Loading the car was like a Mensa challenge as we tried to get the boxes to neatly pack together, whilst slotting odd-shaped items into the gaps.

Once the car was loaded we said goodbye to our respective families and spent the night in Portsmouth in a good old-fashioned British B&B. Imagine an old Victorian building with a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors, run by your favourite Grandmother and you’ll get the idea. It didn’t have the clinical, modern and spartan feel of a hotel chain … it was chintzy, comfortable and welcoming. The full English breakfast (last for a while) was scrummy and was served on china plates with proper cutlery (no polystyrene plates and plastic cutlery here).

We arrived at the ferry port and boarded the Cap Finistere, which was to be our home for the next 25 hours.  Once aboard, we tracked down our compact but comfortable cabin (no window as that was an extra 25 quid !).

Wandering to the rear deck, we waved goodbye to Portsmouth and the UK … ready or not – Spain here we come 🙂

A quick wander around the ship revealed little to keep us occupied – a couple of restaurants and bars. As we were trying to save money, lunch was served in our cabin. It consisted of yesterdays cold cottage pie, a glass of red wine (we bought the bottle with us) and a Mr Kipling’s Bakewell tart.

heading to spainThe seas were pretty rough; venturing to the outer decks we were the only ones there. We have lived around boats for the last 10 years and still felt ourselves affected by the rolling seas and motion of the ship.

We passed the day by watching movies on the laptop, reading books and telling each other that next time we would drive all the way 🙂

However, by about 8 PM the swells had dropped and the remainder of the journey was much more pleasant. Sleeping in a cabin with no window was like sleeping in  our cave bedroom – whenever you woke up it was dark and a little disorienting.

The following morning we treated ourselves to a coffee and headed to the lounge along with our remaining food supplies. We passed the time reading as the internet was too poor to be used in any real capacity.

At about Midday, we were roused by a tannoy announcement. Land Ahoy … we were given the 30 minute warning to leave our cabins and return to our cars.  I have to say I felt a little smug watching people scratching their heads as they raced to affix the stickers to alter the direction of their headlights. Pre-planning (being a nerd according to my wife) meant I had done that the morning before we boarded. Smug mode 🙂

We departed at 1:15 PM, passed through customs and then plugged ‘Baza’ into our GPS. We hoped to get to our cave that evening, then the GPS advised us it was 540 miles (870 km) away with an arrival time of 9:45PM. That meant 8.5 hours of driving – although we were in Spain, our cave suddenly seemed a long way away 🙁

Within half an hour I had fallen madly, deeply in love with Spanish motorways; they are both traffic and roadwork free and a pleasure to drive on. Better still, with the exception of a 19 mile stretch, our whole journey was on motorways … but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

The first 2.5 hours passed by in the blink of an eye, although it hadn’t yet sunk in that we were in Spain. OK there was the odd road sign in some strange language. Maybe it was that the motorway made the driving so easy or perhaps it was because the Basque scenery was not too different to some parts of the UK. Our tummies were rumbling at this point, so we decided to stop at a roadside restaurant for something to eat. Stepping inside was what we needed to remind us of where we were.

heading to spainThe typical Spanish layout, along with the sudden alien babble of both customers and staff reminded us of the huge step we were taking.

That said, our Spanish skills managed to secure us a table and order our food and drinks – I had to smile when my ‘ham, eggs and chips’ arrived, as it  was beautifully sliced jamon, not gammon … happy days and a happy stomach.

We encountered our only toll roads of the entire journey during this first part of our trip, costing 21.50 Euros in total. We could probably have taken a route to avoid them, however, we were hoping to save on a hotel stay over by completing the journey in one day and didn’t want to incur additional driving time.

Now refreshed we were keen to get back on the road.  Josie took over the driving, the scenery started to change and we caught sight of our first snow-capped mountains. Having successfully skirted us around Madrid (the busiest traffic we encountered during the entire trip) and having passed the half way mark of our journey, she passed the driving baton back to me.

We now felt we could make it to our cave house that day, after a couple more hours we had a final coffee stop. It was too dark to make out much of the scenery, however, we felt a further lifting of spirits as familiar places started to appear on the signs – first ‘Andalucia’, then ‘Granada’, then ‘Guadix’ (next town to us) and finally ‘Baza’.

a year in review at one foot in the cave, heading to spain


We eventually pulled up outside our cave at 10:45 PM, tired but excited to have arrived at our new home.

Our lovely neighbours had been lighting fires in our cave for the previous few days (and had swept and mopped the floors), which meant we opened the door to a lovely welcoming open fire 🙂

So now the adventure really begins ! We have no furniture (other than a bed) and a lot of cleaning and renovation ahead of us.


So … Who are one foot in the cave ?

We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If its your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂

Finally as promised, I have detailed below the different travel options and costs of getting from the UK to our cave house in Andalucia.

Travel Options & Costs:

Heading to Spain: UK – Calais (France) – Baza (Spain)

Hotel in UK (allowing you to catch an early ferry)      60     GBP

Ferry from Dover (P&O)                                                  55     GBP

Or Channel Tunnel from Folkestone                            89     GBP

Hotel in France (estimate)                                              50      GBP

Fuel & Tolls in France (122.06 + 74.69) *                   196.75 GBP

(12.5 hours of driving. Distance 809 miles).

Hotel in Spain (estimate)                                                50      GBP

Fuel & Tolls in Spain (60 + 18.57)                                  78.57 GBP

(8.5 hours of driving. Distance 540 miles)

Total Cost using ferry                                                   430.32 GBP

Total Cost using Channel Tunnel                                464.32 GBP

Heading to Spain: UK – Cherbourg (France) – Baza (Spain)

Hotel in UK                                                                       60       GBP

Ferry from Poole (Brittany Ferries)                              79        GBP

(4.5 hour crossing – arrives 1:45)

Hotel in France  (estimate)                                            50        GBP

Fuel &Tolls in France (105.60 + 46.86) *                   152.46   GBP

(11.5 hours of driving. Distance 679 miles).

Hotel in Spain (estimate)                                               50        GBP

Fuel & Tolls in Spain (60 + 18.57)                                 78.57   GBP

(8.5 hours of driving. Distance 540 miles)

Total Cost                                                                      470.03 GBP


Heading to Spain: UK – Bilbao (Spain) – Baza (Spain)

UK Hotel                                                                           60      GBP.

Ferry from Portsmouth (Brittany Ferries)               404       GBP (If we had booked earlier and got the cheaper cabin it would have been 344 GBP)

Fuel & Tolls in Spain (60 + 18.57)                                 78.57 GBP

Total Cost                                                                      482.57  GBP    (422.57 GBP possible)

Heading to Spain: UK – Santander (Spain) – Baza (Spain)

UK Hotel                                                                           60      GBP

Ferry  (Brittany Ferries)                                               244      GBP

Fuel & Tolls in Spain  (60 + 18.57)                                 78.57 GBP

Total Cost                                                                       382.57 GBP

All crossing prices are based upon a January departure. Prices are more during peak seasons.

* the toll and fuel costs through France were taken from a website which calculated costs based upon your type of car and proposed route.


13 thoughts on “Heading to Spain

  1. Ian forrest

    Thankyou for this I’m driving from uk to Benidorm first week of march and have opted for Portsmouth to Santander ferry with an overnight stop in Soria, I hope my journey is as easy as yours appeared to be

  2. david stone

    Wonderful description Danny ! I had to re-read your description of the stickers being moved to aim the lights. I assume that the change was due to high beams aiming one way for UK, and opposite for every- where else ? What was the sticker part about though ? Have a blast and we look forward to reading more.

    1. Danny Post author

      Spot on with your deduction 🙂 UK beams blind drivers in Europe as we drive on the opposite side to them. The stickers readjust the direction of the beam. The problem is with so many car options, the manual with the stickers covers about 75 different placement options based on the make, model and age of your car. Its a mini mensa test !

  3. Liz Deacon

    Lovely story, read with interest, we too are heading to Benidorm from Normandy first week in March Ian Forest, Will follow your blog Danny and Rosie.

  4. Jim Rankin

    Interesting read, have made the same trip myself many times. One question though, with a difference in price of some £150, why did you do Bilbao and not the cheaper option to Santander. Have done both, traveling time in Spain after either ferry is practically the same. Have to agree with you about the roads/motorways, it’s an absolute pleasure driving over here.

    1. Danny Post author

      The reason was that it would have meant staying in the UK for an extra 5 days. We would have spent more in that time than we would have saved on the ferry. We had also spent the previous 3 weeks moving between relatives and friends and living out of bags, so wanted to get back into a routine.

  5. Chris.Potter

    The Journey from Bilbao port to Benidorm can be completed without ever leaving a motorway or dual carriageway or crossing high mountain roads and with minimal tolls via Saragossa, Teruel and Valencia. The time taken will vary according to the number of stops you make, but can be done in 10 to 12 hours.From Santander add an extra hour. Avoid any route through Madrid it looks shorter on the map but!
    35 years in Spain I know the quickest route not necessarily the shortest.
    Enjoy your life here.

  6. Paloma Montoro

    I have enjoyed your trip, thank you! As a Spaniard, i could follow your route, I am only sorry you didn’t especify if you went through Burgos, or if you chose another route.
    If any of you, coming from a ferry in England, need to stop at La Rioja, overnight, we will be very glad to offer a room the night at home, no money, just for a nice conversation in English. My husband is Anglosaxon.

    1. Danny Post author

      We went around the outskirts of Burgos but hear it is beautiful. A friend of our who has lived in Spain For 15 years was there for the 3 Kings celebration on his way back to his home in Extremadura and said it was the best celebration he had seen. We will be heading back that way in about 6 weeks and will make the effort to head into the town itself this time.

  7. paul martin

    Excellent Read again …. Im doing the drive from St.Andrews in Scotland to la Cala De Mijas on the Costa Del Sol taken my car over , also using the Portsmouth – Bilbao route in march !! thank you !!


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