In true celebration of St George, visit Catalonia where our patron saint is honoured all year round

IT may be St George’s Day for us next week, but there’s a region in Spain where our dragon-slaying patron saint is celebrated all year round.

I am on a road trip across Catalonia, where legend has it St George, known locally as Jordi, comes from.

You can spot his flag and image proudly displayed everywhere in this north-eastern part of Spain.

And when it comes to St George’s Day, the Catalans honour their romantic local hero with a little more panache than back home in England.

Catalonia’s biggest draw is its capital Barcelona, but the region has so much more to offer.

Just an hour from Barcelona is Tarragona — a beach resort with remarkable Roman ruins, including an amazingly preserved amphitheatre.

Then there is the ancient city of Lleida, with its enormous cathedral ruins inside a hilltop fortress, which clearly took a pasting during Spain’s civil war in the Thirties.

My digs were just as historic — the 4-star Parador de Lleida is set within a 17th century church and cloister.

For scenery straight out of Arthurian times, pay a visit to Montblanc and its 13th century city walls and streets.

Catalans say this was where St George once lived and where he brought back his damsel in distress.

I visited during a medieval festival honouring him, which featured an impressive re-enactment of his legend. While in the town I went to a cheery local tavern called El Comerc del Mallol, which serves home-made tapas of seafood and meat, washed down with lager in brown ceramic mugs.

This is a wine-growing region and one producer nearby is a Cistercian monastery in Poblet, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Here in the foothills of the Prades Mountains, monks and nuns busy themselves with the noble task of making delicious vino, which is available to buy.

Their ancient blond-stoned buildings — some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see — are an oasis of peace and quiet, all only 90 minutes away from boisterous Barcelona.

You can even stay at the monastery from about £60 a night.

Exploring further north, I headed for the Lago Sant Maurici National Park in the Pyrenees Mountains.

The Hotel Pessets in the village of Sort caters for Barcelona’s skiers and snowboarders in the winter and mountain trekkers and white water-rafters in the summer.

The 3-star hotel and spa, located by the ferocious Noguera Pallaresa river, boasts cuisine as adventurous as the white-knuckle sports outside. My dish was a large squid stuffed with pork sausage meat.

As strange as it sounds, this alpine surf and turf was a work of genius. It definitely fortified me for the next day’s trekking through tiny mountain villages, with giant vultures hovering above in the clear blue sky.

Returning to Barcelona — a three-hours drive from the mountains — I was struck by how much lies beyond the capital.

Catalonia has so much more to share than what the patron saint has already given us.

Go: Catalonia

GETTING THERE: Ryanair fly to Barcelona from Luton, Stansted, Cardiff and Liverpool with fares from £15 one-way. See ryanair.com.

STAYING THERE: Rooms at the Parador de Lleida from £75 per night. See parador.es. Rooms at the Hotel Pessets in Sort are from £70per night. See hotelpessets.com.

MORE INFO: See catalunya.com.



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