Cliffs, spirituality, fog, mountains...all the landscape and ethnographical features typical of the Galician coast are condensed in just over 20 kilometres on the route between Cedeira and Cape Ortegal. Much of the route provides continuous views of the Atlantic, taking the visitor along some of the highest cliffs in western Europe.
Cedeira, a coastal town whose name is also that of a charming ría, is the starting point for this journey, which takes in some of the most spectacular lookout points on the north coast of A Coruña province.
The narrow streets in the old town are delightful for strolling around. Starting at Praza do Peixe, the route passes through Cedeira, in search of the road that will take us to Santo André de Teixido.
The first kilometres go through the carefully tended valley of the River Condomiñas, a beautiful example of Galicia’s traditional meadows. At the end of the valley the route begins to climb and the landscape gradually changes, leaving villages and farmland behind.
The sloping road and extensive wooded areas remind us that we are close to the A Capelada mountains. Visitors must bear in mind that there is livestock in the area and there are cattle grids on the roads to prevent animals crossing.
The lookout point at Chao do Monte is a turning point in the route. With our first sight of the village of Teixido, the route opens up to the Atlantic and from this point on we have continuous views of the sea.
The intersections on the way into Teixido are marked by crosses and cairns, reminders of the old routes followed by pilgrims on their way to the Santo André shrine (pilgrimages have been documented since the fourteenth century).
It is also known as Santo André de Lonxe because of its remote, solitary location among mountains and cliffs. It is a place of worship where religious and pagan traditions are combined. The animals that roam along the paths must be treated with special care as, according to traditional belief, they represent the souls of those who did not visit Saint Andrew the apostle during their lives, as the popular saying states: “A Santo André de Teixido vai de morto quen non foi de vivo”. (He who did not go to Santo André de Teixido when alive goes when dead).
The typical mountain scenery of the A Capelada range (shrubs, crags, pine woods, etc.) contrasts with the coastal landscape and provides amazing 360o panoramic views: the immensity of the Atlantic in one direction and the backdrop of the mountains in the other.
Descending towards Cape Ortegal, there is a succession of lookout points on both sides of the road, alternating views of the open sea and the Ría de Ortigueira and the municipality of Cariño.
Cariño means “affection” in Spanish but research shows the name of the village has other origins. In many parts of Europe, place names of pre-Roman origin include the forms “carn-” and “corn-” which mean “stone”: Cornwall, Carpathian, Candán, etc. The name Cariño is thus linked to the crags of the A Capelada range and the cliffs on the coastline.
The complex lithology of Cape Ortegal provides a spectacular setting, crowned by the lighthouse 125 metres above the sea.
Viewed from the foot of the lighthouse the O Limo cliffs rise like great monuments to the west. To the east are the tiny islands known as Os Aguillóns, which appear to extend the cape out into the ocean, symbolically separating the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Cantabrian Sea. Estaca de Bares can also be seen to the east in the distance, the most northerly point of the Iberian Peninsula, the north of the north.
Mount Herbeira (615 metres) is the highest point in the A Capelada range and the municipality of Cedeira. The geological characteristics of this site have given it a unique appearance.
At over 600 metres high, the Herbeira cliffs run down to the sea with gradients of over 80%, making them some of the highest and steepest in Europe. This allows the coastline to be observed as if a geological slice has been cut out of it. The whole area is of great geo-morphological interest. The towering cliffs that rise from the sea consist of rocks that lay over 70 kilometres deep millions of years ago, rocks that were brought to the surface by the collision of two super-continents.
Towering over the grazing livestock, wind farms exploit the area's high winds, withstanding the frequent weather fronts that hit the mountains. The landscape is not just lovely to look at: the excellent views made it an ideal location for a maritime surveillance point, the Garita de Herbeira, originally constructed in the eighteenth century, although the modern building dates from 1805.
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