La Herradura: A week in Andalusia

Secret beach in La Herradura, Spain.

In March Stephen and I visited La Herradura, a small town on the coast near Malaga and Granada in Spain. So this post is a little late to be frank. But the onset of the Scottish autumn and nights drawing in has taken me back to those twinkly days and lighter evenings.

The name means horseshoe in Spanish, called so because of the shape of the bay. Which provides a stunning background for sketches and photographers alike. It was our third visit to Spain (though first to the mainland). Maybe the gods are trying to tell us something.


La Herradura isn’t a big tourist centre, more a town where regular Spanish people live. Although it is popular with divers, thanks to the gorgeous bay with its two arms which provide a bit of protection from the open sea. It’s about an hour’s drive by coach along the coast from Malaga. On the way the bus dropped passengers at Maro and Nerja, two local seaside towns which attract a more touristy crowd.

My sister and her family are living here in La Herradura so we took full advantage and booked a visit. For me one of the great joys of being abroad is wandering aimlessly around a town. And simply absorbing the atmosphere: the waft of freshly baked bread, the clink of coffee cups in local cafes, familiar greetings exchanged in shops as the day kicks off. I love starting a morning with one or two cappuccinos with no compulsion to reach anywhere in particular by a certain time. Just a date with my sketchbook. Enjoying the colours that bounce in the sunshine: ceramics, street art, pebbles, palm trees, beach flowers.


Secret beach in La Herradura, Spain.

Pastel sketch on La Herradura beach in Andalusia, Spain. By Glasgow artist Emerald Dunne.

We took a visit to the secret beach (secret according to my little niece, though I’ve an inkling a few more people know about it really…). This big rock put me in mind of the ones on North Berwick beach where I’d play as a child. And looking back over my sketchbook, I’m pleasantly surprised to see I’ve done more work in it than I thought I had.

Pastels again! Easy to pack and carry (shame I forgot the fixative). But I do think it’s time to do what my Pops suggests and branch out into water colour in my next plein air. For now though, I do love the bright colours and immediacy of my chalk pastels.

The cliffs jutting out into the sea look like a dragon in silhouette when sunset comes. I’m fond of sketching distinctive coastlines. And there’s a good chance I’ll use these sketches and photos to create an acrylic – or even an oil – on canvas in the foreseeable.

I bought my nephew and niece a sketchbook each, plus wax pastels and watercolour pencils for them to share. I’m hoping that they make the most of being in Andalusia and fill them up. Or develop a flair for art if they haven’t already. Meanwhile, Stephen goes from strength to strength. Here are a couple of his sketches, both created with a black fineliner. I think he wants to live in that house (or at least build our own!).


Horse shoe bay in La Herradura, Andalusia, Spain. From the beach during day time.

A wonderful place where my sister and bro-in-law tell me they’re busy making memories, as well as building a business. Lots of strolls and chats with their ever-growing children along the sand. It was a bit chilly when we were there and there were some grey days with the blues too. Thus a different atmosphere from summer and one you wouldn’t experience if you were actually living here year-round.

But who wouldn’t go to sleep smiling if they knew they could come here every morning?

Coincidentally, a good friend of mine was living here for a while on that dragon-like peninsula. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it while she was here. She told me about a great restaurant Cerro Gordo at the top of the cliffs, which we’ll add to the list for our next visit. The view alone will be worth the hike!

Speaking of next time…


Ah, what a shame we didn’t make it to Frigiliana. And written about here in this lovely travel blog Migrating Miss. The sparkly white houses festooned with colourful hanging baskets against blue skies must make it a perfect spot for artists. Not far at all from La Herradura, but a visit that necessitates a couple of buses. That said, you could walk there from Nerja, a wee bit further up the coast as these two young bloggers did. But I’m inclined to believe them when they say it’s a walk for the hardier among us.

I still want to walk up to the wee turret on the cliff top though.

We did manage a wonderful walk nonetheless, from La Herradura to the nearby town of Almuñécar. Which merits a complete post of its own. Stay tuned!

Horse shoe bay in La Herradura, Andalusia, Spain. From the beach at sunset.

Have you been to this part of the world? What were your impressions?

© Emerald Dunne Art 2018