The best castles to visit in A Coruña: San Antón, Santa Cruz, Vimianzo, A Palma, San Felipe, Moeche

In the province of A Coruña there are many castles overlooking the sea. In the 16th and 17th centuries, several fortresses were built to defend the estuaries, since it was the time of pirates, and it was necessary to protect themselves from invasions. Next, 6 magnificent castles that are waiting for us:

Castle of San Antón (A Coruña). In the 16th century, various defensive fortifications were built on the A Coruña coast, such as Santa Cruz, in Oleiros; that of San Diego, in Oza and that of San Antón. The latter began to rise on the islet of San Antón, or Pena Grande, connected to land in the 20th century through the extension of the Las Ánimas dock. The castle was not yet finished when it was attacked by the English corsairs, Francis Drake and company, who would turn around after being defeated by the Coruña, with María Pita at their head. It was just built in the 17th century, then it would also be used as a lazaretto to isolate sailors with infectious diseases. In 1777 several reforms were carried out, adding to the complex a low battery, a chapel, a small port, battlements and the governor’s house. In the 18th and 19th centuries it functioned as a prison. Since 1968 it has housed the Archaeological and Historical Museum of A Coruña, which has valuable castro pieces, and the entire history of Galicia and the castle. One of the most mysterious areas is on the ground floor, in the Cistern. This is an old cistern carved out of the rock that over time has become a wishing well, so you have to bring some coins.

Castle of Santa Cruz (Oleiros). This castle is on the islet of Santa Cruz, opposite the beach, and is accessed through a wooden walkway. The reason for its construction, in the 16th century, was defensive, as we have already seen. In the 19th century it was owned by Emilia Pardo Bazán and family and, later, it served as a residence for military orphans. After a period of abandonment, it became the property of the Oleiros town hall and, since 2001, it has been the headquarters of CEIDA (University Extension Center for Environmental Disclosure of Galicia), which also makes it an educational destination. So a stupendous walk awaits us through the gardens, with Pino Insigne and all, and around the perimeter of the island; the best views of A Coruña and Santa Cruz; some exposure and, if it coincides, also environmental activities.

Vimianzo Castle. Just hearing the name seems to make you want to run, cross the moat and assault it, since every year the “Assault on the castle of Vimianzo” is more famous, the irmandiño festival of the Costa da Morte, which is already on the 26th edition. The construction, made by the Mariño de Lobeira family, dates from the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th. At the time of the irmandiña revolts it was destroyed and rebuilt later. In the 15th century it became the property of the Moscoso family, until the 19th century, when it passed to the Martelo family, which is why it is also called Torres de los Martelo. In 1972 it was bought by the council, which rehabilitated it. The medieval zone, although with successive transformations, is very well preserved. The castle houses a Terra de Soneira craft museum. In a tower there is a center of interpretation of the Costa da Morte.

A Palma Castle (Mugardos). It was built at the end of the 16th century to protect the Ferrol estuary. It was one of the three castles that formed the “triangle of fire”, together with that of San Felipe, just opposite, in Ferrol, and that of San Martiño, of which only a few stones remain today. Between A Palma and San Felipe, at nightfall, a chain was placed that blocked the entrance to the estuary. The castle had several extensions in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the development of the Arsenal. In the 20th century it came to serve as a military prison. In A Palma, wonderful views of the estuary await us and a good walk around the entire perimeter of the fortification and on the roofs. Next to the castle, in the sea, sometimes it seems that the tide reveals a small, round rock. The so-called “queen’s ass”, the stone that Mariana de Neoburgo stumbled upon when getting off the ship, when she arrived in Spain to marry Carlos III El Hechizado.

Castle of San Felipe (Ferrol). It was built in the 16th century, with the impulse given by Felipe II to the coastal fortification. In any case, the building underwent several renovations, the most important at the end of the 18th century, with the bastioned battery, a 100% enlightened construction. It was the first to be built of the “triangle of fire”; then those of A Palma and San Martiño would go. It is that the strategic importance of this corner of the coast needed strong protection. The castle was vital in repulsing General Putney’s English attack on August 26, 1800. The English troops were unable to ruin the well-protected Arsenal, so they fled to Altos de Brión, where they were defeated. Every year the victory is celebrated in the castle. The fortification has a lot to see and discover: batteries, gunpowder stores, ships, patios, cisterns, arcades… And first-class views of the Ferrol estuary, and the castle of A Palma, just opposite.

Moeche Castle. Unlike almost all of them, this castle is located in a valley, well hidden among trees. It is in the parish of San Xurxo, in Moeche, about 25 km from Ferrol. It dates from the 14th century, although what we see today is the product of reconstruction after the Second Irmandiña Revolt. A reconstruction that would be made by the imprisoned irmandiños themselves, under the command of the Osorios. The castle has an octagonal floor plan, and has a keep, attached to the wall, four rooms, a deep ditch dug into the rock, patio and stables. Inside is the Interpretation Center of the Revueltas Irmandiñas, a didactic complement to our visit.

Since 1980, the Irmandiño Festival of Moeche has been held in August. At night, at the voice of “Lume!” (“Fire!”), a symbolic assault is revived, with torches. The thing is completed with grilled sardines, music, dance…

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