La Calzada de Mena
At the foot of the Pico del Cabrio and parallel to the river Hijuela, runs an ancient paved path joining the village of Irús with that of Arceo, crossing a zone of abundant vegetation, predominantly holly, beech and holly oak.
There are three hypotheses about the origins of this ancient communication route: the first claims it to be part of the Roman road connecting two ancient Roman colonies Flaviobriga (now Castro-Urdiales) with Pisoraca (now Herrera de Pisuerga) and which crossed the Valle de Mena.; the second maintains that due to its position and direction plus the construction methods employed it cannot be older than the eighteenth century; finally the third theory suggests that it could have been an ancient Neolithic route that has since been used by successive occupiers- local indigenous populations and later the Romans without ever building it up in the Roman fashion.
A description of the route:
Leave the picnic area at the entrance to the village of Irús and after a few metres turn to the right into an alley leading to the church, skirting it to the left and going down to the cemetery.
Follow the same path through a wire fence, closing the gate behind you. Shortly after this point, the paved path becomes visible. Following this path and keeping the river on your right, bear left at the first crossing of paths.
After about 200m you come across two spectacular waterfalls that form the river Hijuela in times of high rainfall and snow. On a small path that deviates from the paved route the base of the second waterfall can be reached.
300m further on from this point a second path appears that goes down towards the riverbanks and which should be ignored. Continuing on the paved path, you come across a gate and two wire fences, all of which you go through, closing them carefully behind you before proceeding along the path towards Arceo.
Other points of interest
In the village of Irús: - Examples of traditional architecture among which the pointed entrances of the terraced houses from the late Middle Ages and the characteristic Mena cubic houses stand out.
The parochial church of San Millán de Irús, built at the end of the fifteenth century in the Isabelino/Elizabethan-Gothic style, has a fortified appearance and inside consists of a single nave with a perpendicular gallery crossing it, entirely covered with pointed vaulting and decorated with pictorial elements from the end of the fifteenth century. To visit the inside of the church, contact the parish priest.
In the village of Arceo: - Examples of traditional architecture and incipient urban development of the late Middle Ages as seen in the terraced houses.