The north west area of the Galician coast has a love it or hate it feel. You can also sit on both sides of the fence, as there’s disparity between the area on a nice sunny day compared to a cold wet day. Unfortunately this area doesn’t have the wealth of the east coast, and you really notice this when you look around the towns. The majority of the buildings are low cost and of concrete construction giving a less than aesthetic appearance. In contrast the natural landscape is simply stunning, you have it all here – beaches, forests, rivers, mountains, and on a sunny day these are the features that stand out. When the weather turns, you do get dragged back down to the grim reality that this area is struggling, and particularly with the older generations here – there’s a lot of hard faces that give that slightly depressing small town feel that the people run away from in their youth.
As we’ve driven around the coast it’s hard to get an accurate picture of the place, as we’re out of peak tourist season, so similarly to Cornwall, some of the areas we’ve parked up in seem a little baron. With weathered old men shuffling around the towns, and shops that don’t seem to bother opening you can get the urge to just skip large sections. Then on a sunny day, the same place can feel completely different. All of a sudden people start arriving with their surfboards and the beach transforms from a bleak oil painting and becomes alive again.
There’s a small pocket of the Galician coastline that I really love, between Muros and Fisterra, but travel just a little more north of this area and you can quickly start feeling as though the locals still chase people with pitch forks. I think you would need to know the area well to find the good spots, and if you’re just trucking around you may get increasingly frustrated as you aim for a place name on a map only to find another lifeless town where people just stare at you. I’ve found with most travel you can go to the most stunning places in the world but its the people and the buzz that you remember and the experiences that you take away with you. So you may need to dig a little deeper here to find what you’re looking for, and possibly this could be why this area hasn’t quite taken off yet.
Here’s some info on the places we’ve seen, but each area will be hit or miss dependant on the weather, time of year or other varying factors that I don’t know about.
Muxia – Great lighthouse/viewpoint. You can park up overnight here, and wake up to the most stunning view. You may be a little battered by wind over night but I would say it’s worth it. You have to drive through the narrow town roads to get here, so some larger motorhomes may struggle. Town’s a little dead, but there are the essentials.
From Muxia we could see another lighthouse flashing away in the distance so we thought we would take a drive over there too.
Faro de Cabo Vilan – Nice lighthouse, decent viewpoint, and there’s a little informative display in the building next to the lighthouse showing old photos, lamps and maps etc. You can’t park up overnight here, but there’s plenty of coastline near by. I wouldn’t go out of you way to get here though.
Praia de Traba – This was a very scenic beach, with good facilities. There’s a cold beach shower and toilets that get some abuse but are cleaned daily. There’s some off road parking near the beach, and it’s slightly off the beaten track, so not many vehicles passing through. This area transformed half way through the day as the sea mist set in late afternoon and stayed all evening and into the night. There’s very little lighting out there, which combined with the mist gave quite an eerie feeling. This beach is possibly better for a windy walk with your dog rather than getting your speedos and sun lotion on.
Praia de Caion – This was a nice little park up for a night. The beach is a little more populated than most in this area, and as always the landscape is stunning. There’s a beach shower that will test your resolve but you can recover from the ice cold water temperatures with a nice Earl Grey while looking out over the ocean. The car park is slightly above the beach, so you can watch the surfers below. Again the town is dead, for example on a Saturday morning the local Panaderia didn’t open until 9:45Am. We were outraged, and in protest we searched out another bakery that was two miles away. We found Panaderia carracedo in Arteixo, this was great little find and with such friendly service. The bread was lovely but the Spanish just can’t get pastries like the French.
A Coruna – This whole area is very industrial and this gave noticeably poor air quality. It’s just a modern industrial city, I’m sure there’s nice bits, but we just couldn’t get over the close proximity of these huge stacks kicking out plumes of smoke that you could taste for miles. I would skip this whole area.
Praia de Doninos – Near to Ferrol, this seemed to be a very popular beach. When the sun’s shining the huge carpark will be full. This isn’t always great when you want to get your table and chairs out and have lunch. The beach is really nice, showers, toilets etc, etc and quite nice cliff walks leading from the beach. You can easily camp here, and I’m sure mid week it will be quieter. By this point we had started moving through places a bit more quickly and in general we’re getting a bit bored of this area.
Valdovino – Stunning beach, slightly odd people. There’s a decent car park with toilets, and a nice board walk, but again the town was dull.
Cedeira – Head towards Rua Area Longa. There’s a carpark area on the river front. This seems to be an unofficial motorhome park up. There’s no facilities, but it’s a nice change from beach carparks. Waking up to the river mouth in the morning is quite relaxing and it’s a very safe area, so we left the van in search of a nice restaurant in the evening.
We discovered there’s very little in the town other than nice restaurants, but this suited us, as we were just passing by. We tried the Pizzeria Lanus, as it was very busy, but finding ourselves in that awkward situation where the waiter was so nice that we couldn’t really say anything negative. The restaurant and service was exceptional, but they get away with using cheap ingredients which doesn’t sit right with us, and the result is the food tasted like a supermarket bought pizza.
Praia de Estiero – Ending on a high, this is a great spot. It’s like a free campsite, just set back from the beach there’s shade and a cold shower in the wooded area between the beach and the park up. You will often have the beach to yourself, and when the suns out this place is a secret paradise. A bakery van turns up a little after 10am each day, but stock up and stay here for at least two days. This area is a little wilder than your usual beach car park, and with this you get a few extra insects and it is pitch black at night, so stepping out to take an old man pee in the middle of the night is interesting. I would only recommend it here if there’s other motorhomes or vans around, as it’s a bit creepy on your own, but definitely give it a go. Head towards the right hand side (east) of the river to find the right place.
I’m feeling bad about grouping all of these places together, but maybe this symbolises our thoughts here. It’s nice but we’re starting to hurry through rather than savouring every moment.