A unique mountain landscape accompanies us on this journey through the highest lands of Galicia. Marked by the remoteness and solitude of its rugged landscape, it is capable of transporting us to the times when hermits hid here.

In the Castle of Castro there lived a powerful count that had three beautiful daughters of marrying age. Another count, also rich and noble, sent an embassy to ask for the hand of one of the daughters. The count of Castro received the emissaries and when they explained the plan, because he had three daughters, he asked: Cal delas? (which one?). And this is the reason why people began to call that land Caldelas.
   Vicente Risco - Legend regarding the place name of Castro Caldelas

Dates of religious pilgrimages:
- As Ermidas: 8th September and 1st Sunday in October.

Other important information:
- Museo del Castillo del Bollo: Closes Mondays and Tuesdays. Contact: 988 323 030

 

Day 1

We begin the journey of this first day in the heart of the Ribeira Sacra, in the municipality of Esgos. Here, after crossing a thick pine forest, we find the first traces of Christianity in Galicia in the monastery of San Pedro de Rocas (Saint Peter of the Rocks). This temple, carved out of the mountain's rock, shelters an important treasure that is waiting for you to discover it: the remains of the only known copy in Europe of a Romanesque world map. The map, also known as the Mapamundi dos Beatos (of the Blessed) shows the dispersion of Christ's Apostles throughout the world to preach Christianity.

Another of the marvels hidden in Saint Peter's is his monastery, and its three chapels carved out of the rock. It dates from the 6th century and is one of Galicia's most ancient. Inside, you will be captivated by its unique bell tower located at the back of a great rock 14 metres high. Do not miss its anthropomorphic tombs, which have acquired from the accumulated rain and lichen a magical aura that you will not easily forget. Near these tombs, look for the miraculous fountain that is said to be capable of healing warts and even of softening wrinkles.

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Do not miss the chance to try its water and also of visiting the Interpretation Centre of the Ribeira Sacra  that is located within the same premises. This museum offers a description of what monastic life was like as well as insight to the most primitive traditions of the region, the craftsmen's trades and, of course, the wine culture. Do not forget that you are in the land of wines with Ribeira Sacra Denomination of Origin, one of the five acknowledged in Galicia

If you still have time and energy left, we can leave this monastery taking the Camiño Real de San Pedro (Royal Road of Saint Peter). A very well indicated route of ancient corredoiras (old cart paths) that run through lush autochthonous vegetation takes us back to Esgos. From there we head towards Montederramo, a place protected by high mountains, such as monte Meda and the mountain range of San Mamede, where you will find the ancient monastery of Santa María, founded during the first half of the 12th century. A single arch remains of the medieval structure, for its full renovation began in the 16th century. Something very unique about this monastery is the legend that relates its construction with the chapel over which it was built. It says that this church was built by a friar from the mountains of San Mamede with the only help of two roe deer, who carried the rocks for him. Precisely this monk—portrayed as a stone statue—is the one who guards the entrance to the church. An opportunity to discover all the corners of this religious ensemble are the guided tours that are available through the tourism office. There they guide you through two of the main jewels, the Processional Cloister and the beautiful Cloister of the Hospedería (inn). If you have enough time and enjoy nature, lengthen your stay for an extra day in Montederramo to discover its birch forest by following the hiking trails.

With the restless feeling that we are being watched by the guardian hermit of Esgos whom we leave behind us, we reach Castro Caldelas. There we travel its streets until we reach the sanctuary of Os Remedios (the Remedies) and its castle. First of all, we visit the 16th century church that awaits us at the main square, where formerly the ancient chapel of O Prado was located. Inside, visit the Museum of Sacred Art. Outside, a stone cross with an image of the Apostle Saint James and Our Lady of El Pilar are witnesses to the Way of Saint James pilgrims that passed through here seeking shelter at the monasteries of the Ribeira Sacra

With regards to the castle, its construction was ordered over 600 years ago by the Lord of Castro, after winning the lands by fighting alongside the king nicknamed O Xusticeiro (The Avenger). The huge and rough walls of this castle will enable us to direct our steps in search of our past. The ethnographic museum that it houses today, shows us the importance of Castro Caldelas in the history of the area thanks to the large number of objects that were unearthed during the reform: the rocks, linen looms and farming tools will take us back for a moment to medieval times. The visit is a unique experience to imagine what life was like at that time in a fortress like this one.

Our journey proceeds towards Pobra de Trives, where we  cross the spectacular Roman Bridge over River Bibei. From the times of Emperor Trajan, today it continues to be fully operational. This major work of Roman civil engineering rises above a height of almost 23 metres. The height is impressive especially when you see its amazing pillars from the edge, while they impassively support the continuous attacks of the river. Do not leave without tasting a genuine bica manteigada de Trives, a delicious handmade pastry made from almonds and which is typical of this region.

To conclude this first day, the chestnut tree of Pumbariño awaits us impatiently in the lands of Manzaneda. This tree is believed to be around one thousand years old and it is unquestionably the main feature of the grove of Rozabales. To get there, we cross a lush corredoira escorted by hundred year old chestnut trees that provide shelter and serenity. When you arrive before the veteran Pumbariño, try to surround the more than 12 metres of diameter of its trunk, which will no doubt offer a beautiful snapshot.

Day 2

We begin the second day of our journey in the Ourense municipality Bolo, where the day starts at the spectacular sanctuary of As Ermitas. This is an imposing building located at the foot of a high hill by the river Bibei. This sanctuary, wedged between terraces, takes its name from the hermits who sought solitude in this remote place.

The current sanctuary that houses it was carved directly from the rock and was built on top of the ancient hermitage. One of the singularities of this sanctuary is the image of the Virgin, that is guarded in the centre of the main altar by several silver angels that dance and ring little bells.

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During Easter Week, many believers come here to participate either in the procession or in the Stations of the Cross, going from the sanctuary to the high part of the town, like an evocation of the ascent of Mount Calvary. It is traditional to round off the religious pilgrimages, which are followed by thousands of devotees, with a helping of octopus feira style and to accompany it with wines with Valdeorras Denomination of Origin, from the famous wineries in the area.

Without leaving the region we also visit the castle of O Bolo, from the 12th century, which belonged to the Counts of Lemos. It was almost demolished after the Revoltas Irmandiñas (revolts against the nobles), and for many years it was given various uses by the neighbours, such as a school, a jailhouse and even as the festival field. You may now visit its interior and be captivated by its fascinating history.

To end our route, in the vicinity of O Barco de Valdeorras, we visit the medieval monastery of San Miguel de Xagoaza (Saint Michael of Xaogaza), by the banks of the river Mariñán. The monastery, completely renovated, can be visited for it was converted into a modern winery where cultural events are also held. Originally, this monastery was a priory of the Knights Templar, but later it passed to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, later known as the Maltese Order. A close look at the church door reveals the Maltese Cross carved by the stonemasons as an active testimony of their glorious past.

In these landscapes, the grapes hang over the edge of the mountain, as a result of the calm work carried out by the vine-growers who patiently transform the slopes into small farming beds—or terraces—and which are eye-catching to visitors. In these lands of Valdeorras the mountains become humanised landscapes and the grape vines, rather than plants, are nature's jewels that are cared for with art and affection.

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