While the most popular part of the Dalmatian tourism map is undoubtedly the coast, the biggest surprises and delightful discoveries for the intrepid explorer are to be found inland.
Taking advantage of a business appointment, we decided on a family day trip with horse-riding to the historic towns of Sinj and Trilj, which lie a little north of Split the other side of the motorway.
It was a day of nature, horses, Roman treasures and excellent food, but the undoubted highlight lay down a small road off the beaten track – the mills of Grab.
With the mighty Cetina river never far away in Zagora, the exposure to fast flowing water and clean and pure nature is never far away, and there were plenty of picturesque river scenes with abundant animal life to be enjoyed.
Stone buildings and arched bridges which had seen better days perhaps, but whose semi-inhabitable status and air of gentle decay emitted a particular beauty in the natural surroundings.
At the end of one especially charming path, a small hive of activity, and on popping our heads into the building with the noise disturbing the quiet afternoon idyll, a rather peculiar site – a fully operating mill with ancient wooden equipment.
One of the famous Grab mills, located on the beautiful river of the same name.
The mill is the oldest working mill in Dalmatia, some 600 years old, and production methods have not changed in the centuries since production started, as undoubtedly the stunning peaceful scenery had not – a spectacular find.
Production was ongoing, and buyers constantly coming – here is one of the storage rooms – delightfully quaint.
With the abundance of animals, the mill proved popular with the little ones.
And while the mill might have been the find of the day, its secrets were only just being unravelled, as owner Iko Samardzic came over to introduce himself, his art and sculpture… and his powers for predicting the future.
“This little angel will be a doctor,” he pronounced authoritatively of our eldest. “And this little princess a professor.”
And then a door of the complex was opened, and a selection of Iko’s sculptures revealed, sculptures he claimed to have been showing to CNN and the BBC recently.
But it was back into the mill for the little ones to learn more of the milling process (and the chance to get a little dirty no doubt).
A true hidden gem off the main tourist route, but as part of a family day trip from Split, an unforgettable addition.
And just a few hundred metres from that particular mill, another fun attraction for the little ones, a fish farm in what had also once been a mill, complete with a special variety of local crabs. Fishing doesn’t get easier than this.
A fabulous day out for the kids, one of many attractions for all the family within an hour of Split. To reach Grab, take the Mostar road from Sinj, turning left at the bridge as you enter the town of Trilj.