Galicia - Spain’s Celtic Atlantic outpost.
- On 01 03 2012
When I was still at primary school we were lucky enough to have Spanish lessons - it was a taster for the "College" - PBC Cobh, which had just started teaching Spanish. We liked it and enjoyed learning from a great teacher in secondary school - Adrian Gebruers. When we were in second year we went to Barcelona for two weeks with the school - my first encounter with Spain - and I loved it!
I studied the map of Spain and became very interested in the part of Spain nearest to Ireland - Galicia. The Spanish fishing boats that came to Bantry and other Irish ports were all from Galicia - I read some books about it's Celtic traditions but it was 500 miles from Cobh! The desire to go there was always with me and finally I got my chance when Denis Doyle decided that "Moonduster" would enter the Lymington Bayona ocean race - and I was on the crew!
This was back in 1978 and we had a great race and a fantastic 3 weeks in Galicia - the first of many. I love the coastline, the sailing, the food, the wine, the people, the towns, the architecture and the weather is better than Ireland! In this blog I am going to give the sailor a taste of Galicia and a few reasons to go there!
Galicia is an autonomous area in north west Spain and sits by the Atlantic going north from Portugal and turning east as far as the area of A Coruna. It is bordered by Portugal to the south, the Spanish autonomous communities of Castile and León and Asturias to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the north.
There are 4 component provinces - A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra - but it is the coastal provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra that are of interest to the yachtsman. There is however one place inland every person should visit - the capital - the amazing city of Santiago de Compestela. This is the famous pilgrimage city at the end of Camino de Santiago (The way of St. James) and must be the most unique small city I have been to visit. It is the hub for transport communications with the best service for flights (Aer Lingus has direct flights from Dublin) Galicia has a good bus service and rail connections to the two most populated cities - A Coruna in the north and Vigo in the south.
The friendly Galicians are of Celtic origin and readily identify with the Irish as they too share a diaspora - emigration began mid nineteenth century mainly to South America. Most of Galicia has a very rural feel to it and they farm the land as hard as they harvest the sea. The seafood is absolutely fantastic there and the perfect accompliant is the local Albarino wine.
The coastline is perfect for exploration. Most sailors from Ireland head for the nearest port - La Coruna - exactly 500 miles from Roches Point in Cork. La Coruna is the second biggest city after Vigo in the south and with a marina in the city centre it makes the perfect landfall. The marina is just a stones throw away from Piaza de Maria Pita which has lots of small streets radiating from it where you can do a proper "Tapas Pilgrimage" A great city to spend a few days! It is also home to one of the oldest lighthouses in the world "Torre de Hercules".
Another port where many choose to make a landfall is Muros. It is 50 miles further south but sometimes the journey from La Coruna to Muros is difficult if there are strong winds from the SW as it means rounding the famous Cabo Villano and Cabo Finisterre.
Galicia is famous for its fjord like estuaries - up to 15 - 16 miles deep. These are fantastic to explore and offer great shelter from the Atlantic when the weather turns nasty. The Rias Altas are on th enorth coast and include La Coruna and the Rias Bajas are on the west coast - south of Cabo Finisterre. Muros marks the gateway to the "Rias Bajas (Baixas)" and is a great town for a stopover. It is steeped in history and a really great place to eat fresh fish! Muros is at the entrance to Ria Muros with the ancient town of Noia at the head of the Ria.
Isla Salvora guards the entrance of the Ria de Arousa which is the biggest of the Rias Bajas with Isla de Arousa and Peninsula de O Grove being great places to visit. Ria de Pontevedra is the next one as we go south with Pontevedra at the head and the port of Sangenjo, which is the yachtsmans favourite, on the north shore. Most Irish yachtsmen are bound for the furthest south of the Rias - Ria de Vigo and just beyond to the Bay of Bayona.
Vigo is the biggest city in Galicia - a great seaport with plenty of marinas .......and boat yards - many Irish boat owners winter their boats here. The city has great restaurants and bars and very good transport connections.
Bayona is a beautiful resort town with a fantastic yacht club - Monte Real Club de Yates. When we arrived there back in 1978 having raced all the way from Lymington we were just outside the time limit! We got a fantastic welcome - and I got a great surprise when one of the mayors group started shouting - Eddie, Eddie, Eddie! He had been a pupil of mine in Cobh with a group of Spanish students! We had a fantastic week racing followed by a few weeks cruising - I really fell in love with Galicia.
I could go on and on but must finish off - not before advising you to visit Santiago de Compestela - the amazing pilgrimage city.
If you are interested in sailing in Galicia you may be interested in our Passage Planning and Pilotage for Galicia which will be held in the RCYC on Wednesday next March 7th at 19:30 - have a look at the link or call us on 021 4811237
If you have any comments on the blog above please let us know.