Our journey through the north of Galicia brings us to the city of Ferrol, to see its dockyard, or Arsenal, the only military port of the Enlightenment still left intact in Europe, and the biggest naval base of its time.

Although Ferrol was originally a town with a strong fishing tradition, during the 16th century its port started to become home to the ships of the Spanish Royal Navy. Subsequently, the monarchs Philip V, Ferdinand VI and Charles III were to be the driving force behind the construction of this magnificent complex, making the city the principal military base in Northwest Spain and the largest naval base of its day in Europe. On the inside, which can only be visited with prior permission, you will find the Sala de Armas (Armoury), until recently a training barracks and now residential quarters for Spanish Navy Marines deployed in Ferrol. You can also visit the Museo Naval (Shipbuilding Museum) and the Dique da Campá, one of the largest dry docks in the world. And you mustn’t forget Exponav, a permanent exhibition devoted to the world of shipbuilding.

Another place you shouldn’t miss in Ferrol is the popular district known as the Barrio da Magdalena, the perfect window for illustrating the history of a city in which fishing and industry live side by side. A walk around its streets, laid out in perfect rectangles and illuminated by the light reflected from its glass-fronted balconies, will bring you to the Xardíns de Herrera (Herrera Gardens), the perfect vantage point for a magnificent view of the Arsenal. The Teatro Jofre, the church of San Xiao or the Ateneo Ferrolán are other sights well worth a visit.

Moving away from the city centre, we can round off our tour with a visit to the fishermen’s district of A Graña, with its typical narrow houses and cobbled streets that lead us into the interior of San Felipe Castle, with the village nestling at its foot. This fortress is a faithful representation of the style proposed in the scholarly treatises of the period, the Age of Enlightenment. As you contemplate the magnificent views over the estuary and La Palma Castle, in the municipality of Mugardos, you’ll find it hard not to recall the historical and cultural importance of the combination of the forts defending the entrance to Ferrol and the Naval Dockyards, which together made the city impregnable from the sea, especially against English marauders.

For your information...
- Museo Naval (Shipbuilding Museum): Open Tuesday to Friday 09.30-13.30; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 10.30-13.30; closed on Mondays.
- Exponav: Open Tuesday to Friday 10:30-19:30; Monday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 10:30-14:30. To find out more, go to www.exponav.org

If you happen to be here at sunset, you’ll have the perfect end to your day: the last rays of the sun reflecting off the calm waters of the estuary, looking back towards Ferrol, the fishing, naval and shipbuilding city that gave you such a warm welcome throughout the day.

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