From Betanzos to Ortigueira
Los Andrade Castle. Pontedeume
San Andrés de Teixido
Nature and history by the Atlantic Ocean
Near to the city of A Coruña, in Galicia (in northwest Spain), we will enjoy an area of spectacular scenery, with valuable monuments and monasteries surrounded by forests. Its coastline has the highest cliffs in Spain and stunning estuaries, like the Ortigueira estuary, that form the Rías Altas region of Galicia.
It is advisable to travel this route by car, with the option of going for walks and bicycle rides. You will need approximately three days to complete the route. It is an ideal route for families.
We start in the town of Betanzos, located at the head of the Betanzos estuary, which has attractions including the three Gothic churches of San Francisco, Santa María del Azogue and Santiago. You can also visit As Mariñas Museum and O Pasatempo Park, a curious historic garden with sculptures, caves, paths and artificial lakes.
The next stop, about 20 kilometres inland, is Santa María de Monfero Monastery. Medieval in origin (10th century), it is one of the few monasteries in Galicia to be completely rebuilt between the 16th and 18th centuries. A highpoint is its Baroque church (17th century), with a splendid doorway. You should also see the Chapter Room, the three cloisters and various rooms.
From here, we head back to the coast. A road brings us to Pontedeume, on the banks of the Ares estuary. Here, it is worth visiting two buildings associated with the powerful family of the Counts of Andrade: the Torreón Keep (located in the town centre, the only remnant of the counts’ old palace-fortress) and the Castle (at the top of the Peña Leboreira hill).
From Pontedeume, we make for San Xoán de Caaveiro Monastery (approximately 20 kilometres inland), where the outstanding feature is the 12th century Romanesque church. From here, we go to the Fragas del Eume Nature Reserve, which has the most important Atlantic forest in Europe. There we will see the ravines and canyons cut by the Eume River, and the eye-catching exuberance of the vegetation. This Nature Reserve is of great ecological value because of its flora and fauna.
We go back to Pontedeume to take the road to Ortigueira and its estuary (about an hour by car). The spectacular meeting of mountains and the sea in northernmost Spain offers splendid landscapes. These include the Santa Marta de Ortigueira Estuary, Cape Ortegal and the cliffs formed abruptly where the A Capelada and A Faladoira mountains meet the Atlantic Ocean.
In the town of Ortigueira we can visit Santa Marta Church (neoclassical from the 18th century), the old Dominican Convent (founded in the 14th century), Ortegalia Museum, Meixido Ethnographic Museum and many beaches. If you go on the route in July, do not miss the famous Celtic World International Festival that takes place here every year. It is a one of the world’s leading folk music events.
The coast road brings first to the town of Cariño (about 20 kilometres away), which conserves its traditional seafaring flavour. Next, we head towards the A Capelada Mountains to reach the San Andrés de Teixido Shrine, which is the second most important place of pilgrimage in Galicia, after Santiago de Compostela.
We end the route by returning to the starting point. On the way, we will visit the stretch of coast between the fishing town of Cedeira and Ferrol Estuary. The many fine sand beaches and the Valdoviño sands and lagoon (or A Frouxeira) protected nature area are worth seeing. In the city of Ferrol we can take the coast road that brings us back to Betanzos. If your journey coincides with the second weekend in July, you can enjoy the Medieval Fair held in this town.