Fortresses to travel back in time
If you have ever dreamed of living adventures and being the character of a knight tale’s or TV series with a medieval setting, in the province of Pontevedra you can enjoy unique experiences that will become part of your history. The fortresses in the province of Pontevedra have witnessed the key events that have marked the evolution of the country over the centuries, and today they are the symbols of an amazing and fascinating ancient culture.
Fortress of Monterreal (Baiona)
Due to its privileged location, it was the target of continuous attacks of Portuguese, Norman pirates and English corsairs. Thus, in 1201, the King Alfonso XI decided that Baiona should have a tower and a defensive wall. This fortified complex, known as Monte Boi, would become a town, when after the Discovery of America, the Catholic Monarchs decided to create a village, hence the name Monte Real (royal hill).
The Fortress of Monterreal, having an area of 180,0000 m2 and 3-km long crenelated walls, has three defensive towers: the tower of Ronda, the tower of O Reloxo (clock), and the tower of the Príncipe (Prince), where, according to the legend, a masked prince of the House of Austria was imprisoned. Nowadays, the building houses the luxury hotel Parador del Conde de Gondomar, in honour of a noble from the 16th century that defended the town of Baiona against the numerous pirate incursions. Today, in Baiona you can enjoy its food and its numerous tourist attractions.
Castle of Salvaterra de Miño
Strategically located on a bank of the Miño River, the seventeenth-century fortified complex of Salvaterra de Miño is a perfect vantage point, from where you can enjoy amazing views. It has a rectangular floor plan and an area of 9,700 m2, and a central chapel devoted to the Virgin of Oliveira over the main entrance, as a vestige of the Portuguese occupation in the 17th century. There is also a twelfth-century wall which was built as a defensive structure against the Portuguese attacks. In 1949 the castle was declared Cultural Interest Site.
The Casa do Conde is also part of the architectural complex. The famous caves of Queen Urraca with vaulted ceilings, designed by the French engineer Carlos de Lessar, were used by the queen to organize a conspiracy against her half-sister Teresa of Portugal and Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor, popularly known as Pedro Madruga. There, she took refuge to avoid the disputes with the powerful Archbishop Fonseca. In addition, the fortress played an important role during the Portuguese revolts in 1640.
Castle of Santa Cruz (A Guarda)
The Castle of Santa Cruz, in A Guarda, at 81 metres above sea level, was named after Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis of Santa Cruz, as well as the fortress of the same name located in the town of Oleiros (A Coruña). He was Commander of the Armada during the reigns of Carlos V and Felipe II of Spain. The castle was built in 1663 as a defensive building, after the Portuguese invasion of the parish of Goián. It has been used for different purposes over time, from a cold meat to a ceramics factory, and today, it is the perfect place to enjoy the views over the Miño River.
One of the most outstanding features of this fortress is its irregular base. It used to be surrounded by a moat and four bastions known as Baluarte da Guía, Baluarte de San Sebastián, Baluarte da Cruz e Baluarte de Santa Trega. It was declared Cultural Interest Site in 1995. Nearby, to round off your journey through this beautiful coastal town, you can visit two important places of our heritage, the hillfort Castro de Santa Trega and the outstanding viewpoint on the Santa Trega Hill.
Fortress of San Lourenzo (Goián)
The fortress of San Lourenzo is also close to the Portuguese border. It was built in the 17th century, on the Spanish bank of the Miño River, due to the continuous attacks of the Portuguese. Coinciding with the invasion of Goián, the Portuguese also occupied an old building known as Fortín da Barca in 1663. Thus, once it was abandoned, after signing the Peace Treaty of Lisbon, Mariana of Austria ordered to build the fortress in 1671 as a defensive construction.
It has a rectangular floor plan and four bastions, one on each corner, and it is surrounded by a deep moat. Originally, it included a large number of outbuildings that do no longer exist, as the officer’s house, warehouses and stables, a chapel, the chaplain’s house, a bakery and a canteen. However, today you can enjoy the magnificent panoramic views over the natural border formed by the Miño River. It is a perfect spot to visit with your family.
Fortress of Castrizán (Soutomaior)
The Fortress of Castrizán lies in the valley of the Verdugo River. It offers privileged views of the paths and routes and the nearby area. It is a defensive work that originally included a thick wall, battlements, a moat to protect the main entrance and a three-storey homage tower at the centre. Today, at the hilltop of the Monte da Peneda Hill, there is chapel that may date from the 15th or 16th century, known as Nosa Señora das Neves da Peneda, which stands next to the remains of the old fortress.
The fortress was built in 1477 by order of the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Alonso Fonseca, using stones from the Viso Hill. It was intended for watching the Soutomaior Castle and his owner, Pedro Madruga, an avowed enemy who supported Doña Urraca and the Portuguese. However, Madruga managed to occupy and destroy the castle two years after its construction, once he had forced the archbishop’s allies to leave. Apart from admiring the remains of the fortress, visitors can also enjoy the rich landscape heritage of the area, especially the four-hundred-year-old cork tree under which, according to legend, the mouros (creatures of Galician mythology) hid a valuable treasure.
Fortress of O Castro and Castle of San Sebastián (Vigo)
After several attempts to fortify the city of Vigo in the 16th century, this fortress, aimed at protecting the city from the various English attacks, would not be built until a century later, in 1665, during the war against Portugal. Due to the orography of the terrain, the wall surrounding the city, which was flanked by three bastions, had an irregular shape. The project also envisaged to join the fortresses of O Castro and San Sebastián. According to the legend, these two buildings, and also other key points in the city, were connected through underground passages.
Today, from the viewpoint Monte do Castro, at the top of the castle, you can enjoy wonderful views over the Ría de Vigo and the Cíes Islands, and the beautiful garden of the park of O Castro, boasting exotic species of a great ornamental value. You can also visit the remains of the Castle of San Sebastián, close to the Town Hall of the “faithful, loyal and heroic” city that managed to protect its fortress with great courage. This feat is now commemorated in the major local festival.
Other fortresses near Vigo, Silleda and Nigrán
The province of Pontevedra boasts more examples of its fortified heritage. Thus, near the city of Vigo, in the north part of the Galiñeiro Hill, you can visit the remains of an old fortress originally used as a watchtower and that now serves as a vantage point. The Fortress of Rande, also close to Vigo, stood in this place and defended the Ría de Vigo against the Anglo-Dutch attacks. It had a square tower, whose remains are now under the bridge of the same name.
The vestiges of the medieval Fortress of A Férveda are part of a beautiful route in the region of Deza, and very close to its famous cascade and other fortified building, the Pazo de Cascaxide, with a rectangular plan and four floors. Your last stop can be the sixteenth-century Pazo da Touza, in Nigrán, surrounded by beautiful gardens.
All these fortresses are living vestiges of history and unique settings to live unforgettable experiences with your family. They give you the opportunity to revisit the past and create a magic future filled with adventure.