A Guarda-Crecente: a route across the municipalities that border Portugal
Whether or not you are a first-time visitor, the southernmost regions of the province of Pontevedra have a lot to offer. But let us start from the beginning. If you set off on the Atlantic coast, A Guarda is your first stop. When you visit this municipality, you must allow some time for, at least, these four spots:
The mountain of Santa Trega features a combination of archaeological, landscape and religious values. An example of the first is its citania, a large hillfort settlement that is considered one of the most relevant exponents of castro culture in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Only a small part of this settlement has been dug up, and its origins have been documented to date back to the 4th century BC. At the top of the mountain, two elevations lay an entire world of picturesque sceneries at our feet: the peak of O Facho, rising 328 metres (approximately 1,077 feet) high and offering a broad panoramic view of O Rosal; and the peak of San Francisco, which, at 341 metres (approximately 1,119 feet), is the highest point in Santa Trega. The cruceiro (stone cross) of San Francisco, the Via Crucis (sculpture representations of the way of the cross) and the ermida (a small chapel) of Santa Trega make up the religious legacy.
Terraces, restaurants, narrow streets and seaside-style buildings form the fishing port, a meeting point for those looking to enjoy the pleasures of life in A Guarda: the arrival of the boats, the unloading of the fish or the traditional cuisine. Forever linked to the sea, the rapport of this town with the ocean is apparent every step of the way: in the monuments to sailors, in the seaside promenade, in the fish market and the guild of fishermen, in the Ruta das Cetarias, where visitors can see a number of fish hatcheries, or in the Sea Museum.
A Guarda is also home to various river and sea beaches. Among the former, we can highlight O Muíño, A Lamiña, A Armona and O Codesal. The latter include Area Grande, Fedorento and O Carreiro, which open to the Atlantic in the form of small coves.
Its past as a town of sailors and fishermen is also present in A Guarda. You will get constant glimpses of it as you walk around the town centre, structured around the fishing trade: this area treats its visitors to an urban landscape made up of small streets, the so-called casas indianas (houses built in the American fashion by returning emigrants), and sections of the still preserved medieval wall, as well as a modern and lively shopping district.
We leave behind A Guarda, and O Rosal makes an appearance. The two major tourist attractions of this municipality, which is also very close to the mouth of the River Miño, are wine tourism and hiking. As far as the latter is concerned, emphasis must be placed on the Route of the Mills of O Folón and O Picón: these constructions, declared Heritage of Cultural Interest, are a living memory of the hustle and bustle of the old days. Furthermore, by exploring these lands, you will walk along the fishermen's path River Miño-Tamuxe, linking the beach of As Eiras to the surrounding area of the River Tamuxe. The mill of As Aceñas and the ruins of an old steam sawmill are waiting for us in this family-friendly itinerary.
Tomiño is the third municipality on this route leading to Crecente. At this point, one of the last stretches of the River Miño forms an estuary that has become a refuge for numerous bird species, among a wide variety of other resources. The boundaries of this municipality have been historically demarcated by the riverbed, and the fortifications are proof of it. At the border, characterised by its perfect shape and its symmetry, is the Fortification of San Lourenzo de Goián, around which the Espazo Fortaleza was created. The Castle and the Tower of Tebra, with their Renaissance-style appearance, reign over the valley of the same name. As for ecclesial architecture, major churches include Santa María de Tomiño or San Vicente de Barrantes, although the entire municipality is dotted with religious elements, such as cruceiros (stone crosses) or petos de ánimas (stonework constructions representing souls in Purgatory).
Many spots in Tomiño tell us about its past. The petroglyphs of the Tetón mountain, considered to be among the most significant in Europe, are a case in point, and so are the casas and escuelas indianas, houses and schools that bear witness to the importance of emigration, only a few decades ago, in this municipality in the south of the province. Its recreational areas, its cuisine and its wine culture are also the perfect reasons that would attract anyone looking to have some rest. If you prefer adventure tourism, hiking routes are the right alternative. One visit that will be hard to forget is the one up the mountain range of A Groba, overlooking the Atlantic.
Then we will move on from Tomiño to Tui. This town is the Galician gateway to Santiago de Compostela if you started the Way in the south. The centre of the town is the cathedral: its construction began in 1120, with Romanesque foundations, but it was concluded in the Gothic style, and its portico is considered to be the first example of this artistic movement in the Iberian Peninsula. The old town (with the diocesan museum, the Chapel of San Telmo, the Convent of the Order of Saint Clare, the Church of San Francisco or the Convent of Santa María), is one of the most visited and one of the richest in terms of heritage. If we look up, we will see the Aloia mountain. The 700-hectare natural park is a space for flora, fauna and beautiful landscapes; it also features a walled enclosure and an ermida (a small chapel), which are worth a few pictures.
After we leave Tui on our way to As Neves, we enter Salvaterra de Miño, the next stop of our route, which has a palatial, ecclesial and cultural flavour. The noble manors known as Pazo de Lira, Pazo de Petán and Pazo de Fillaboa; the large entrance door known as Portalón da Inquisición; the house of Teáns; the count's medieval castle or the Pazo de Santo Amaro are scattered from north to south. You will also feel like you are travelling back in time just by looking at its 17th-century castle and walls, the Chapel of A Oliveira, the Church of San Lourenzo or the caves of Dona Urraca. If you prefer some exercise, the public park of A Canuda or the River Miño's promenade are the perfect spot to get to know this municipality step by step.
And it is these steps that will then take us to As Neves. In this case, the River Miño and its surroundings merge one more time to offer their visitors some of those landscapes where the hours don't just go by: they fly. This is what happens, for example, in the recreational area of Santa Mariña in Liñares. But, of course, this is a municipality that you can also enjoy by walking, and a variety of routes (such as the friars' path or the fishermen's path) make it possible. Before you leave As Neves, you absolutely must visit Ribarteme (the religious celebration known as romaría of Santa Marta is one of the most popular), the A Senra bridge, over the River Termes, and the As Puntaleiras bridge.
In the lands of Arbo, the River Miño is the king of the territory and the element that shapes its landscapes. The bridges, such as the one that links this municipality to the Portuguese town of Melgaço, are an essential part of the scenery and they also offer spectacular views. Another major one is Mourentán bridge, over the River Deva, which you can visit on a guided tour. The importance of resources such as wine and lamprey in the area has helped to boost the creation of an interpretive centre where you can always learn something new: for example, about the pesqueiras or pescos, typical constructions that are associated with the fishing trade. Other unique elements that are worth a visit are the hórreos (a type of stone granaries) of Mourentán or Almuiña and the Pazo da Moreira.
The last municipality on this route is Crecente, its easternmost point. This is the end of a journey that we started by the Atlantic, where we still have a lot to discover: from castles (we can admire the Tower of Fornelos, located in the mountains), to constructions such as the ermida of A Virxe do Camiño, the Romanesque Church of Albeos, the viewpoints of the Coto da Cruz and the hill of Guillade, remains of Celtic castros (hillfort settlements) or the fortified Pazo da Fraga, all of which will take you back in time. And, from the beginning to the end, this route is in touch with our neighbour Portugal.
A Guarda, O Rosal, Tomiño, Tui, Salvaterra de Miño, As Neves, Arbo and Crecente. The south of these eight municipalities in the province of Pontevedra shares a border with the northern regions of Portugal. As they touch our neighbouring country, these lands are washed by the waters of the River Miño. And they playfully seduce their visitors.