Galicia is a region located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula that stands out for its beautiful landscapes and its exquisite cuisine. These elements are the ones that exert the greatest attraction towards the place, but of course there are many more. One of them is its rich history, which we can see embodied in the best castles in Galicia.
Going through these constructions represents a walk that will not leave anyone indifferent. Below, we present 5 of them that you cannot miss if you visit these lands.
The best castles and their maritime fortresses
Galicia is a region that, mainly, looks towards the sea. Thus, it is not surprising that large fortifications were erected to protect ports and maritime cities. Some of the most important are the Castillo de San Antón, the Castillo de Santa Cruz and the Castillo de San Felipe. Let’s look at them in more detail below.
1. The castle of San Anton
The city of A Coruña is one of those ports that had to be protected against attacks by foreign powers from the sea. With this objective, in the 16th century the castle of San Antón was built. This fortress was built on a small islet located in the bay of the city, where there was a hermitage dedicated to San Antón.
According to an inscription, construction began on the fortress in 1587. Only 2 years later, although it was not yet finished, it proved its effectiveness in the face of an attack by the English navy, under the command of Sir Francis Drake. After the onslaught, construction continued, ending in 1590.
In the XVIII century, in addition to serving as a defensive bastion for the city, it was also used as a prison. Later, it was used as a pesthouse to keep isolated sailors who arrived in the city with an infectious disease.
The building was donated to the city in 1960. In 1968, it adopted the functionality that it still retains today, that of a museum. It houses archeology objects such as protohistoric goldsmithing, megalithism, the Bronze Age, castro culture, etc. Since 1994, the castle of San Antón is considered to be of cultural interest.
2. The castle of Santa Cruz
The castle of Santa Cruz, together with that of San Antón and that of San Diego, It was part of the strategic defensive network of the city of A Coruña. After Francis Drake’s attack on the city, it was seen that the castle of San Antón was not enough for the effective defense of A Coruña. For this reason, at the end of the 16th century and under the directives of General Diego das Mariñas, the construction of a new fortification began.
The fortress was built on the island of Santa Cruz, located in front of the city. Its construction finished in 1640, but in the 18th century it was extended with new bastions and pavilions..
When the maritime invasions subsided in the 18th century, the castle ceased to have strategic value and was abandoned. Later, in the 19th century, it was bought at a public auction by Xosé Quiroga, who had a small country house built.
Until 1939, the building belonged to the Quiroga family, until they donated it to the cavalry army to be a home for colonies of orphans from the Civil War. This activity continued until 1978, when they abandoned it again..
Finally, 11 years later, the municipality of Oleiros bought it to turn it into a center of reference in environmental education, a task that it carries out to this day thanks to the CEIDA (Center for University Extension and Environmental Dissemination of Galicia).
3. San Felipe Castle
If we move a little north, in the city of Ferrol, we find another of the wonderful castles of Galicia. On this occasion, it is about San Felipe. This was, together with the one in La Palma and the one in San Martiño, one of the 3 fortifications that made the Ria de Ferrol practically impenetrable.
Its construction began in 1557 and was sponsored by King Philip II, from whom it would take its name. The building that we can admire today is a remodeling that was done in the 18th century.
The defensive design of the castle allowed it not only to repel attacks from the sea, but also from land. Also, with the support of the other 2 defensive systems, it made access to the estuary an impossible task.
On 3 occasions it was possible to verify the effectiveness of the defenses of Ferrol: one in 1594, another in 1639 and the last in 1800. The first and the last were perpetuated by English forces, and the one in the 17th century, by French . In none of them were foreign forces able to penetrate the estuary.
More castles in Galicia
Galicia is not only coast. It also has great wealth inside and, therefore, throughout the territory we find fabulous castles. We cannot talk about all of them, as there are too many, but we will try to mention the most outstanding.
4. Monterey Castle
The Monterrey castle —on the cover— is a fortress that is located in the homonymous town, in the province of Ourense. This is one of the best preserved fortresses in Galicia and it is a true treasure because its walls have seen important episodes in the history of the kingdoms that would constitute Spain.
There are documents that show that at the beginning of the 10th century there were already human settlements in the Támega river valley. We have documentary evidence of the castle from the year 950. The privileged place where the fortress is located between Portugal and the kingdom of León, later Castilla y León, was one of the reasons why the castle was highly coveted, and that is why it passed through many different hands.
From its creation until the 18th century, different modifications were made to improve its defenses. The last ones ended in 1711 due to the War of Succession. Its strategic importance made it what is known as “the Galician acropolis”.
The complex is made up of a walled enclosure, a hospital for pilgrims, the castle itself with its homage tower and the Palace of the Counts and Torre de las Damas. As it could not be missing, there is also a church, that of Santa María de Gracia. The last works that were done were in 2014 to convert the site into a tourist hostel.
5. Sobroso Castle
This is a medieval castle located in the small town of Villasobroso, in the province of Pontevedra. We have documentary evidence from the 10th century, specifically in the year 983, when King Bermudo II took refuge in it with his troops.
This castle was the scene of one of the episodes in Compostela’s history, specifically when, in the year 1117, Queen Urraca managed to escape from the castle besieged by her son’s supporters. In the year 1467 it was destroyed, but its strategic role was still vital, and for this reason it was restored. Finally, in the 17th century, its position ceased to be strategic and it was abandoned.
It was not until the 20th century that interest in the castle revived. It was first bought by a resident of Villasobroso who partially restored it and, finally, in 1981 it was bought by the municipality of Punteareas, which turned it into a historical and ethnographic museum for the Condado region.
Do not miss the opportunity to discover the Galicia of castles
In Galicia there are many more castles. To name just a few more, there is the castle of Doiras, Moeche, Maceda, Nogueirosa, Ribadavia, Soutomaior, Pambre, etc. As you can see, it is not necessary to travel to France or Germany to visit impressive fortresses like these.
Nor is it necessary to travel to the American continent to visit impregnable maritime fortresses. In Galicia, you can do it.
In addition, you will be able to enjoy spectacular landscapes, accompanied by friendly locals and, above all, excellent cuisine. What better than admiring an impressive fortress from a terrace accompanied by a good wine and a delicious Galician octopus?