I had a marvelous holiday in Northern Spain once. Flew to Madrid. Drank Gin and Tonic all afternoon. Got the Sleeper train to La Coruna (Corunna as Wellington had it). Mooched about there. Used buses to get to Malpica which is very lovely. Rough camped on the moorlands overlooking the sea. Galicia is a lovely area and using the sleeper is a good idea. There were fairly reasonable bus services throughout the area and Accommodation was cheap. We just toured around for a week, stopping wherever took our fancy.
There is plenty of town life if you want cafes and bars, otherwise there is lovely countryside, quite like the West Coast of Scotland, moorland, rocky coast with sandy bays, small fishing ports, just hotter!
You won't find many Brits there and English isn't as widely spoken as it is in the usual destinations. There were a lot of Spanish people on holiday there and it may be hard to find accommodation. It will be fiendishly hot in July but you might not realise with the wind off the Atlantic so you can get badly sunburned if you're not careful - I did.
May we suggest St Jean-de-Luz (Donibane Lohizune) here you have the best of both worlds. You will have everything on your doorstep: 8 Kilometres south is the Basque town of Irun with its amazing market based around alcohol, tobacco products and fresh fruit. Do not worry about carrying your passport the locals wander back and forth across the border as if it did not exist. The bridge over the Bidasoa doesnt even have a border post just a sign!! 10 kilometres east is Saint-Ignace and the Petit Train de Rhune takes you up the Pyrénées to Franco-Spanish border and amazing views over three countries and a wonderful (very cheap) Basque Trash Shop and Café. If you are fit you take the train to the summit then walk down an amazing day out take your camera and a very large memory card. Walking shoes are a must, also buy at least two bottles of water at the BTS for the walk down it takes about 3 hopurs.There are three very good golf courses very close at hand within 5 kilometres of the town. If fishing is your thing then there are facilities for both sea and river fishing. It is also a centre for bathing, windsurfing and wreck diving!! July is the Sardine and Tuna festival plenty of opportunities for drinking but beware of the Madiran (a local wine) that is very tannic and dry an acquired taste!! As for the Basque style of cooking absolutely fabulous sheep cheese and cherry conserve with crackers is a delight when served with a chilled white Rioja or Grenache.
Emsav. Your post made me feel warm, hungry and wistful at the same time. Looking at Google pics of the area at the moment it looks fantastic.
What is the best time to visit the area. My wife is a ginger so sun and heat are a problem (they don't burn gingers there do they)? April,may. September or October?
Late May or early September are good times to visit the area - temperatures are around 21ºC on the coast, if you go into the Pyrénées it will be somewhat cooler. At the summit of La Rhune (906m) it can be as low as 15-16ºC and you are above the clouds!!
Do not bother to pack your Speedo's because the Atlantic is rough and ******* freezing. They make the worlds best Paella around that border and you can eat the seafood raw. Take local buses to anywhere tourists do not go and you will have fine food and ace wine.
The Basque language has no Latin root and is closer to the phonetic languages of China and Japan. Nobody knows why. I am not sure that will help you, but you never know.
You'll need to display your passport when buying fuel around the France / Spain coastal border. Guess it's anti-terror practice, rather than law, it means the person on cctv is also passported at the same time. Saw locals having to do it too.
Grand bit of the world, done both coasts with biker mates, never found a bad place to stop. People, even Policia, like British bikers there and want to chat.
San Sebastian is an awesome place; the tapas centre of Northern Spain. An afternoon spent in the bars is fun; a small beer and a single tapas in each one until you have had enough. Plenty of history, but not much beyond 200 years old as the Navy burnt the place down!