A day trip to Montserrat

A mountain range an hour outside of Barcelona that requires a train, cable-car and funicular to get to? Sign me up.

A photo of the Montserrat mountain range taken from an airplane. A plane engine is visible in the foreground.

My overriding impression and memory of Montserrat is of it being a utterly bonkers landscape. Completely improbable in appearance. It dominates the horizon as you fly in to Barcelona - an otherwise flat landscape is suddenly punctured by this weird and steep serrated mountain range.

A photo of the side of a metro platform, taken from the opposite side.
Looking straight down a train platform, with tracks on either side. There's a train on the left hand side.
The front of the lower Montserrat cable car station. It has bright yellow letters on the side, reading "Funicular aeri de Montserrat".
The view from the upper cable car station in Montserrat. There's a yellow cable car on the right, and mountains in the distance.

From the train station you can choose to take a cable car or a rack railway to the Montserrat monastery. Because of stupidity I can only put down to short-sightedness by the operators, you can’t choose one for your outbound and the other for your return.

A view of the town of Montserrat. The cathedral is in the foreground, with mountains looming behind.

The town and monastery look like a set out of Game of Thrones.

Looking up the tracks of a funicular railway from inside the train car.

Several short funiculars are available from the town to further up the mountainside. You can also hike up, but these cut out some less interesting parts of the ascent. Plus, it’s a funicular!

A view of Ermita de Sant Joan on the Montserrat hills.
Ermita de Sant Joan on the Montserrat hills.
A panorama half looking over the Montserrat countryside and half looking at a path along the side of a mountain that is covered by steep rock.

Not wanting to double back on myself, I found a path on OpenStreetMap that would lead me to the summit of Sant Jeroni. It wasn’t marked on the public maps, but how badly can OpenStreetMap lead me? The answer is very.

A view down a cut v in two rock faces. Both faces are very steep.
Do you see a path? I don't see one.

The ‘path’ was 100% not a thing, and meant an hour of hair-raising descent down the side of the mountain (wearing trainers), clutching at branches as I went down. I was very glad when I eventually joined a real path heading up to the summit.

Looking up at the peaks of some mountains in Montserrat. The rocks are bulbous and separated like molten lumps.

The peaks of the mountains look like something from a cartoon book - or perhaps formed in a giant lava lamp. Bulbous and absurd. I think they look so ‘off’ because they don’t ‘taper’ away like most mountains - and they don’t look eroded in the same way.

A photo of some mountains in Montserrat as seen from the peak of Sant Jeroni
View from the top of Sant Jeroni.

In Catalan, Montserrat literally means “saw mountain”.

A panorama taken a the top of Sant Jeroni in Montserrat. The sky is gloomy but clear skies can be seen in the distance.
View from the top of Sant Jeroni.

Within 30 seconds of my arrival on the summit it started to rain, followed by fog, followed by fog and rain. Somewhat of an anticlimax. Queue a proper drenching.

A self portrait of Ed Horsford, silhouetted by strong sunlight behind him.

Sunny at the base though.

The view from the Montserrat train station, looking up at the hills overhead.