Castello de San Felipe, Ferrol
If you opt to visit Ferrol and are (as you will be) disappointed, only a short drive around the ria lays the magnificent coastal fortress called the Castello de San Felipe.
This castle is no more than 15 minutes from the city of Ferrol, but reaching it involves intense concentration, firstly and primarily to ensure that you do not miss the intermittent signs whose frequent absence and vanishing acts plague many Galician tourist sights, and secondly because the final couple of kilometres involve driving on a very narrow road where your automotive skills will be challenged somewhat.
Above, the magnificent Castello de San Felipe, as seen from the hills above the bay.
The trip however is definitely worth the effort and the fortress, when you arrive at it, shows Galicia and its fledgling tourism at its best. The cost of entry is a mere one Euro per person and a guide leaflet is available in not just the native tongues of Spanish and Gallego, but also English, French and German (and free of charge). There is a ticket man at the gate and he was courteous and helpful even though he spoke no English. There is also a reasonable sized car park at the castle and surprisingly the fortress is never overly busy with tourists.
Right, a view showing some of the battlements of San Felipe castle.
The castle of San Felipe, which you also need to pause and admire from above during your coastal drive to it, is deceptively large and although appearing flat has several levels. The guide information is first class and even the toilet facilities, hidden in the middle of the battlements, are good. Our visit was partly disrupted by rain, but we still spent the best part of two hours wondering around and any adventurous kids (of all ages) will definitely enjoy it. It is also a good spot for a picnic and a quiet haven if you have spent time visiting the busier tourist spots in places like la Coruna city and Betanzos.
A short historical summary
The first Castello de San Felipe was built on the site in 1598 and was connected to the new significance of the Atlantic in the context of the discovery of the Americas. Castles were also
built on the opposing bank although little sign of them now remains. It was in the eighteenth century that the fort took on much of the appearance that remains today and it was designed to hold batteries of cannons in order to repel attackers as they entered the ria (bay). The castle has many segments and inner and outer chambers with the main quarters in the most secure areas in the structures center. When looked at in plan, the geometric design is highly complex and was well ahead of its time. It is said that the walls were never breached by land or sea and the area was impregnable from all attacks. One of it most notable battles (as ever against the British) is still celebrated annually.
What we thought of the castle
To summarise, a trip to the Castello de San Felipe is one worth making if you are staying in or near to la Coruna or a location close to it. It is also somewhere for the whole family to enjoy on a number of different levels. If you are a castle or heritage fan you should get a buzz from it.'