The Bay of La Concha... what can I say without resorting to the typical clichés? The sugary phrases often used? In this audioguide, you won't hear expressions like "idyllic setting" or "pearl of the ocean". I'll just say that this unusual coastal site includes three beaches, a beautiful promenade, white railings and an island.
The first beach starts at the Royal Nautical Club in the shadow of Mount Urgull, and sweeps round to the Miramar Palace, accounting for about two-thirds of the promenade surrounding the bay. Between this palace and the Wind Comb sculpture lies the second beach, called Ondarreta. The third beach is only a rumour, said to be found on the island of Santa Clara, and only revealing itself at low tide.
Along the whole length of the promenade, there runs a bicycle lane, well worth trying if you have the chance. It is lined with fluffy tamarisk trees, not tamarinds, as some people mistakenly call them, from the city hall to La Perla spa. In Ondarreta, the promenade is flanked by carefully-tended gardens of flowers and hedges, as far as the Tennis Club, beyond which you have a short walk to the Wind Comb, at the foot of Mount Igeldo.
An unusual note is struck by the presence of the remains of a prison at the end of the beach below the Royal Tennis Club. Only visible at low tide when the sand bank has been consumed by storms, this prison was in use between 1890 and 1948.
But let’s stroll back to La Concha, following the white railings...
Way back in 1910, the promenade was remodelled entirely to make the most of the tourist boom San Sebastian was experiencing as the favourite holiday resort of Queen Isabel II. At this time, the lower arcaded walk at beach level was created along with the current building of La Perla and the famous railings, inaugurated in 1916 by King Alphonso XIII. Although "recycle" was not a word much in vogue in those days, somebody must have thought it was a shame to melt down the previous railings, so they were relocated to the River Urumea, along the Paseo de Francia, where they can still be seen today.
By the way, just letting you know that those railings that surround the Concha Bay, are classified and protected as Urban Heritage, and can only be used along the La Concha promenade and the Alderdi Eder gardens next to the City Hall…
Facing the bay, about a kilometre from the promenade, is Santa Clara Island. Declared a Historical Centre of National Interest, it's worth spending an afternoon there. Between the 1st of June and the 30th of September, there is a regular ferry service which will take you across to discover its secret places, its lighthouse (inhabited until 1968), its sea-sculpted cliffs and its unique view of the city which it protects from storms.