Santa Cruz castle and Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz is located at the bottom of the "ria da Coruna", some 15 minutes drive from the center of A Coruna city. The shot below shows the bridge you cross in order to reach the fort, with the town in the background.
Although Santa Cruz is a town in its own right, its main claim to fame is a small fortified island some 50 metres or so off shore which you can reach by foot bridge.
We visited Santa Cruz in the evening after a day spent in the provincial capitol of la Coruna and found directions and sign posting very poor, particularly since the island and its castellated remains are a major tourist attraction and famous throughout the region.
Once in Santa Cruz, all you need do is park up and follow the line of cars, and any other
wondering visitors, and you will soon reach its small bay.
It is literally 3 or 4 minutes walk from the main road and is lined with several cafe/bars where you can get anything from a coffee to a main meal. This photo shows Santa Cruz castle as viewed from the old harbour.
In August the sun sets behind and to the right of the island which sounds appealing, but unfortunately hindered the taking of photographs, none the less Santa Cruz island is picturesque and strangely serene given its violent past.
Santa Cruz Castle and its history
Santa Cruz's castle which, through its enclosing walls, encapsulates the entire island, was built in 1594. Its construction was prompted by the successful, but short lived, invasion by Britain's Sir Francis Drake who managed to capture A Coruna in 1589.
Part of Drake's success was attributed to the lack of Galician defences to the west of A Coruna and this structure was designed to remedy the earlier weakness by preventing an inland invasion from this "weaker" coast. The ploy worked and A Coruna was never invaded again despite repeated attacks by the British in 1598 and the French in 1639. In the latter case the British fought with the people of Galicia against France.
Today the castle is a center for animal and environmental awareness and its central structure has a small visitors center that promotes these ideologies. A visit to the island and castle are free and you can purchase a small English language guide for 1 euro in the visitors center. We also noticed a very appealing poster of the island and when we asked if we could purchase a copy we were given one free of charge.
Below, the central structure that sits in the middle portion of the island and now holds the small visitors center.
The layout of the castle and its walls are quite straight forward. Although only a short distance from the mainland, the entire castle is surrounded by ocean and any cruiser approaching the bay would be forced to pass close by. To this end, a continuous (and still intact) fortified wall runs the perimeter of the island and two further structures sit at opposite ends of the main sea facing wall. Secondary defences, in the form of further walls then sit within the perimeter wall as does the castle building itself. A couple of small (circular in plan) station points also punctuate the wall.
If you like castles, islands or historic monuments, you should find Santa Cruz worth a visit. We also noticed that part of the visitor center was set up for presentations, although the last one had already taken place when we arrived.
The castle aside, Santa Cruz seemed pleasant enough and many people were enjoying a drink (and the view) in one of the bars over looking the bay and its island. Originally the town had a fishing economy, but that has long since disappeared and we noticed a medium sized hotel above the beach in the left section of the ria, overlooking the castle, confirming that tourism is now the mainstay of this small town - at least during the summer. We also could not help but notice that many of the houses between this former port town and A Coruna were grander than most, suggesting that Santa Cruz may form part of A Coruna's "stock broker" belt.
For more photos and our verdict, take look at page two of this Santa Cruz guide.