When you step into the garden of the Castle of Soutomaior, in the municipality of the same name, in Pontevedra, you travel back in time, to the period of the minstrels, the traditional trades or the medieval battles. This area located by the River Verdugo, close to the sea but at the same time hidden from it, has it all: a drawbridge, a two-walled fortified area and even an inner bailey. These elements would take you to the scene of any medieval tale that comes to mind. Along the first metres of the hillside where the castle is settled down, you can contemplate the panoramic view that this fortress provides. And the first scenes start.
Even though there is no evidence about the origins of this perfectly preserved castle, it may date from the 12th century. Later it was linked to Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor, known as Pedro Madruga. The most famous member of the family of Sotomayor promoted the restoration of the castle, which changed its defensive character into a more residential one. After several conflicts, Benito Fernando Correa took possession of the castle in the 18th century. Later the Marquis and the Marchioness of Vega de Armijo turned the building into their summer residence. During this process of transformation into a welcoming home, one of the most spectacular gardens in the province of Pontevedra was created. The Provincial Council of Pontevedra purchased this property in 1982.
If you want to get to know in depth the inside of this beautiful and historic castle and the garden, with more than 25 hectares (61.77 acres), considered the most important botanical garden in Galicia, you can choose from three different itineraries: the camellia garden, the vineyards or the surrounding forest that surrounds it. We will discover them one by one:
- The camellias. The flower of the East that fills with colour the landscape is the protagonist of the garden. Next to chestnut trees, which are over eight hundred years old, you can find dozens of camellia trees. There are up to 25 different species of different colours, sizes and shapes that accompany you from the stairway which gives access to the park. Once you get back on the path again towards the castle you can observe the hundred-year-old specimens that had the privilege to be the first camellia plants in Galicia. Its age adds another appeal to a garden located in the Route of the Camellia and recognized as International Garden of Excellence in 2012. Furthermore, in matters of age, there is a clear winner: the Camellia japonica from the 19th century, the oldest camellia specimen in the park. A total of two hundred camellias caress the visitor, who, after leaving behind an entrance surrounded by camellias, discovers recticulatas and longicarpas of different colour shades.
- The vineyards. The wine is an important part of the identity of As Rías Baixas. And, in this case, the area of Soutomaior is popular for the high quality of its albariño white wine. If you walk through the vineyards of the castle you will discover different spaces: a central area, characteristic of gardens, and a steeper one, at the back of the property.
- The forest. A poor soil with a limited depth turned into a natural carpet: this is the forest ground of Soutomaior. This is along itinerary with a steep beginning. However, the route combines camellia trees and forestry species, which make the passage from the garden to the forest very pleasant. The Chapel of San Caetano, a small stream and beautiful panoramic views will accompany the visitor, who will walk under the shade of all kinds of plant species. Ornamental bushes, chestnut trees, oaks, pine trees, eucalyptus, sweet gums, arbutus or laurels compete against each other and all of them seem to win.
That is Soutomaior, a perfect union of architecture and natural environment and also of a park and a castle, nowadays turned into a palace, which has several noble lounges and a Neo-Gothic jewel known as the Gallery of Dames..
This municipality has a historic castle, which was the scene of several battles and a place where the use of weapons prevailed. Soutomaior rises gracefully in the valley of the River Verdugo. It might seem that it does it with strength, with the endurance typical of a medieval fortress that today stands out as a palace. But it is the delicacy that wins all the battles. The flower of the East provides subtlety; the vineyards, character, and the forest, wilderness. All of these characteristics shape Soutomaior, where architecture and natural environment merge together.