San Andrés de Teixido-Ferrol-A Coruña
The excursion takes place within the limits of A Coruña province, along the so-called Ártabra coastline, the land of the ‘ártabros’.
Ancient legends of the Celtic oral tradition that Galicia shares with Ireland speak of Breogán, the son of Brath, as the founder of the city of Brigantia or Briganza (Art-o Briga). He is said to have built there (present-day A Coruña) a tower or lighthouse that was later reconstructed by the Romans and renamed the Tower of Hercules, which marks the end of this excursion. However, Breogán is much more than this: he is the mythical father not only of the ‘ártabros’, who lived in this area, but of the entire Galician nation.
This area’s scenery is a combination of sea and mountains, with a coastline dotted with many beautiful beaches, some of which are calm and sheltered, located inside the rías, while others are wild, virgin and open to the ocean. The landscape of the A Faladoira and A Capelada mountain ranges is beautiful but rugged, reaching the seashore as spectacular cliffs more than 500 m high. This is a region of natural viewpoints, cruceiros (stone crosses), wild horses and legends, which includes Galicia’s most famous rural sanctuary: San Andrés de Teixido.
The first part of the excursion follows a winding coastline, rich in landscapes, formed by the numerous rivers flowing into this region of gentle contrasts, featuring estuaries, leafy forests, fishing villages and a shimmering sea.
Before reaching Cedeira, we come across many beautiful beaches, such as Vilarrube, Pantín and Valdoviño, which is near the lagoon called Lagoa de Valdoviño. Here the beach and wetland together form a protected Nature Reserve.
Cedeira, or Cetaria, from the Latin ‘cetus’ (tuna or whale), is a peaceful fishing village with less than 8,000 inhabitants. Its old quarter is made up of narrow streets with lovely small houses, some of which feature stone coats of arms. In 1953 it was declared a Municipality of Tourist Interest.
San Andrés de Teixido
After Cedeira, we head towards San Andrés de Teixido, one of Galicia’s most important religious and pilgrimage sites.
According to legend, St. Andrew, one of the Twelve Apostles, came by boat as far as the cliffs of Teixido. There his boat capsized and was turned into a crag known as A Barca de San Andrés. Nobody helped him, but God promised him that he would have a sanctuary and a pilgrimage that would last until the end of the world. He was also told that all mortals, either dead or alive, would visit the site, giving rise to the popular saying that to San Andrés de Teixido ‘vai de morto o que non vai de vivo’ (goes after death the one that doesn’t go while alive).
The Monastery of San Andrés is known to have existed back in the 12th century, although the present-day building began to be built in the 16th century, continuing into the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition to its religious significance and its beautiful striking scenery, San Andrés de Teixido is a fine example of deep-rooted traditions of remote origin, such as the votive offerings hanging from the trees.
A short distance away from San Andrés de Teixido is the Garita de Herbeira Viewpoint, with spectacular views of the highest cliff in Europe: a 600-metre drop into the sea with a 80%-plus gradient.
One of Galicia’s seven main cities and, until a few years ago, one of Spain’s largest shipyards, Ferrol is Europe’s largest Enlightenment city built overlooking the sea. A city designed with reason, marked by its orthogonal urban planning, its linear and modernist architecture, and the silhouette of its old shipbuilding industries. But Ferrol’s most important constructions are undoubtedly the Castle of San Felipe, erected at the entrance of the ría by Felipe II, and the Arsenales Militares (naval dockyard), whose history goes back to 1749. Many of the city’s identifying features are centred on these two constructions.
Everything in this town is evocative of the sea. Seen from the air, it seems about to break away from its narrow isthmus to once again become the island that it was thousands of years ago. Since Roman times it has lived from sea trade. Its important ports -trading, fishing and sports – speak of its maritime vocation.
Its waterfront, a balcony overlooking the ocean, brings it yet closer to the sea. You can walk around the entire peninsula without leaving it once, and also reach the Parque Celta and the Roman Lighthouse of Hercules, the oldest lighthouse in the world to be still in service, the unmistakable symbol of the town. There is also the Archaeological Museum, set within the castle of San Antón, the fabulous Aquarium, and Domus, the Casa del Hombre (House of Man) which, together with the Casa de las Ciencias, in Santa Margarita park, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, are the main cultural and didactic assets of a town that takes pride in a museum network not lacking in a few small jewels, such as the Museo de Arte Sacro, the Museo de los Relojes and the Casa de Emilia Pardo Bazán.
La Marina, with its houses with enclosed balconies, Calle Real, ideal for shopping purposes, Plaza de María Pita square and its serene old town with its stone houses and stone-paved streets, where the Colegiata and the church of Santiago stand out, are so many other attractions in a city that is densely populated, but that has a fine quality of life.
The city’s special relationship with the sea is clearly seen from Monte de San Pedro, a privileged viewpoint that used to house coastal batteries and has now been reconverted into a city park.