Torres de oeste (the fortress)
Torres de Oeste is a fortress from the Middle Ages related both to the defence of the diocese of Santiago against the Norman Vikings and Saracens, and to the control function of the maritime trade into Galicia.
Nevertheless, its origins date back to more than a thousand years ago. Some excavations revealed the remains of a more that 2000-year-old castro (pre-Roman fort) which would become a Roman port after its conquer. This privileged location, on the Ulla river bank, provides it with a relevant strategical role from ancient times, as it constitutes an important way to Galicia. Thus, it would become a major commercial port and a point of control for maritime traffic.
The eighth century marks a turning point regarding the history of Torres de Oeste. Due to the Muslim conquer of the Iberian Peninsula and the beginning of the Viking attacks to the Galician coasts, both the Church and the Crowns were compelled to reinforce the enclave.
During the ninth century, Galicia was part of the Kingdom of Asturias and the territory were organised around the episcopal sees of Lugo and Iria Flavia. In that moment, the monarch Alfonso III, the Gread, ordered to build the two most important edifications of this period in Galicia. One of them was religious, the Basilica of the Apostle, in Compostela, and the other one was a civil construction: the rebuilding of the Castellum Honesti in Catoira. The ancient Roman enclave became one of the main castles in the asturian kingdom and the early medieval Europe.
The monarch orderd to reinforce the area with high walls and towers, two of them are yet preserved and the most remarkable part of the old castle. These two towers, next to the river bank, belong to this first pre-Roman period. The Crismon with the Victory Cross is also from this Asturian period, emblem of Alfonso III, which was found in the Oeste remains and preserved in the Museum of Pontevedra. Afterwards, the kinng Alfonso V of León, winner against the Normans of Olaf Haraldsson, continued the fortification of the Castellum Honesti during the eleventh century.
The Monarchy gifted the two towers to the Church of Compostela in 1204 and the bishops Cresconius and Diego Peláez continued the reinforcement from then ownwards, which was also a key issue for the see. Catoira and the Towers would, in all probability, witness the birth of the first archbishop of Santiago de Compostela: Diego Xelmírez. His father, the knight Xelmirio, was the warden of the castle during the middle of the ninth century. During his pontificate, the archbishop Xelmírez reinforced again the militar enclave from 1108 to 1122. the project was completed just in time for fighting against the Saracens (north african pirates) between 1122 and 1134. Xelmírez also empowered this against-piracy policy through the organizaion of the first war squadron of the peninsular Christian Kingdoms. The Torres de Oeste fortress prevented, for centuries, the Norman and Saracen troops from sailing up the Ulla River, as this was a defensive system which blocked all the upstream invasions.
During the years of his mandate, Muslim attacks continued to ravage the Galician territory. For this reason, during the first decades of the century, Xelmírez ordered to build two warships or galleys in order to defend the coasts. This fleet would not only be used as part of the defensive system, it would also be used for attacking on many occasions. These ships were also sent to Muslim coastal areas, achieving many victories. Thus, Xelmírez is considered to be the pioneer of the first militia in the Kingdom of Castile.
Cultural activation center Torres de Oeste (CACTO)
The CACTO was born as an interpretation center for Torres de Oeste. An approach to the history of this enclave: an island at the mouth of the river Ulla that constituted the access door and protection border from the ocean to the interior of Galicia and the lands of Compostela “Torres de Oeste, key and seal of Galicia ”.
With this look, a journey is made from the prehistory of the environment, the primitive commercial maritime traffic in the Castro culture and continued during the Roman Empire, when we already found the identification of “Turris Augusti” at the mouth of the Ulla river. In the high Middle Ages, the enclave took on a new role, with the reconstruction and reinforcement of the fortification, already named “Castellum Honesti”, to face the incursions of new threats from the sea: the “men from the north” in search of riches in Jakobusland – as Galicia was called -. Beyond the stage of Viking raids, the Galician coasts suffered the siege of Almorabid pirates approached by sea from the south of the peninsula. In this context, the figure of Diego Xelmírez emerges, who lived as a child in the Torres de Oeste castle itself, and who later, as archbishop of Santiago, encouraged the defenses of the Ría de Arousa, in the “Castelo de Oeste”, and promoted the construction, in the shipyards of the river Ulla, of the first fleet of galleys of the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, to defend and successfully combat the incursions on the coasts of the Galician estuaries.
At the same time, there is an approach to the Viking footprint and the Pilgrimage that is held every summer in Catoira, as a festival of international tourist interest, with a large-format video-production in the basement, which allows you to relive the Viking landing in the first place person.
The center has information panels, an exhibition of replicas that contextualize different stages in the history of the Towers, and various audiovisual units that allow an interactive and immersive insight into the contents of the exhibition. On the upper floor there is a space for cultural activity dedicated to presentations and workshops for school visits. Meanwhile, this space is used as an exhibition extension with a look at the cultural heritage of the City Council of Catoira.
🕦 Visiting hours (until September 30):
- Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- Tuesday to Saturday from 16:30 to 20:00
📞 Phone: 986 686 817
Catoira is the only municipality where the three types of typical mills are present. Apart from its high etnographic value, it is neccessary to hightlight its wonderful surroundings. A recovery plan in order to restore the majority of mills has been carried out and also establishmet of walking trails.
The tide mill, also known as Muíño do Cura or Muíño de Machón, is located at the mouth of the Catoira River. The point of access to this place is a pedestrian path which connects the Ulla riversidewalk, from the river beach to a new way which is also a connecion bewteen this are with the River Catoira route. After its expropriation, it is expected to carry out some actions in order to recover the tide mill. This is one of the few examples about the use of tidal energy in the surrounding areas.
The River Catoira is characterized by the beautiful landscapes along its route, the great amount of tide mills along its banks, the different recreation areas available on the shores and which can be accessed from the walk, and the tide mill which is at the mouth of the river, known as Muíño do Cura, one of the few examples of this type of mills.
These mills, of great etnographic interest, based on the grinding of cereals, are a precious heritage peace and also witnesses of the rational use of these resources. The Council of Catoira has been working on the recovery of this heritage for years. Eleven mills were selected along this route with the aim of being recoverd, according to the typology, accessibility, state of preservation, etc. The majority of them has been already recovered.
Several prehistoric rock art elements are preserved in Catoira, on granite stones from the Bronze Age. In the area of A Balastrera, parish of Oeste, 5 metres from the tennis court, a stone can be found with two groups of concentric circles, cup-shaped and simple circles. There, the burial site named as Monte das Mámoas, from the megalithic culture of the Peninsular Northwest, can also be found.The same patterns are present in the Taleiriña fields, at the location of Aragunde, parish of Catoira, on a stone which is built-in the wall of a house. The most unusual and varied group of petroglyphs in Catoira is located at the place of Cores, parish of Abalo. A steep stone with a plain surface, was found, fully embossed on engravings, known as Laxe das Tixolas. It can be found on a mountainside of Monte Vello, next to a community walk. Twenty circular combinations, a cross with a pedestal and an epigraph can be found there. Simila patterns were also discovered in the mountains of San Miguel, over an area of more than 20 square meters, in a site known as As Lagoas. The particularity of the collection lies in the design which appears to be interrelated, arising from different periods of time.
Routes and nature
Walking trails: Río Catoira, Rego de San Cibrán and riverside walk
The Council of Catoira has always been interested in rehabilitating everything related to the Ulla River and its tributaries, as these are one of the best resources in the municipality. The Catoira River is the main and most important waterway of the town, after the Ulla. Both the Catoira River and its tributary, Rego de San Cibrán, originate in the foothills of the Xiabre mountains, at the heart of the Salnés region, reaching more than 600 meters in altitude. The walking trail follows the path of these two streams, throughout a trace of 11 km long, from its highest section, at the chapel of San Cibrán, to the Ulla River, in front of As Telleiras islet, going through the parishes of Dimo and Catoira. After a short route, it empties its waters into a point in which it is difficult to state if these are River Ulla waters or the Arousa estuary. From this point, the Torres de Oeste fortress can be accessed, going through the riverside walk.
From a forest landscape in the upper parts of the trail, plenty of pine and eucalyptus trees, is possible to move to another area with prolific and generous meadows in Aragunde, Barral or Tarrío, with corn, potato and vine fields, always accompanied by the riverside woodland which grows along the Catoira River banks. This type of forest, plenty of willows, alders and oaks, together with clean streams of water, are the real protagonists of this path. The riverside woodlands are particular forestry forms in stream banks and wet areas, providin shade and a cool environment, a very important feature for the flora and fauna of the river.
This is a complex including boardwalk, municipal pool, municipal building of water sports, river beach and wooden walk which, meeting the existent environmental values, links the river beach to the monumental area of Torres de Oeste. There is also a pedestrian path of three kilometres approximately, through the reeds, which ends in the municipality of Valga, allowing the travel by foot of the Sea Route of Arousa and the Ulla River. This route which is parallel to the river, offers the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of one of the most impressive landscapes in Catoira, where there is also a greater biodiversity.
Flora and fauna
The flora and fauna of Catoira are determined by the characteristics of the environment, but also by human activity. Thus, typical species of the reed grooves, pasturelands and riparian forests can be observed. If the rivers and dodges of Catoira are bordered, it is possible to find some alders, oaks, ashes, ferns, gorses, brooms and heathers. Pine and eucalyptus forests must be also taken into account as a result of replanting. Concerning the fauna, a great diversity can be found, such as the following species: genet, otters, weasels, boars, squirrels, hedgehog, water and field mouses, cormorants, grey herons, common buzzards, owls, northern lapwings, plaices, eels, lampreys, fire salamanders, common snakes, etc.
Pedras Miúdas lake
In the location of Outeiro da Vila, parish of Catoira, an extraordinary wonderful landscape is hidden. From the natural viewpoint of the wind mills of Catoira, the environment known as Pedras Miúdas can be sighted. However, when it comes to visiting the location, next to the water, the enormity of the lake is impresive. This is amazing at first sight but the astonishment becomes admiration regarding the reflection of its origins. Pedras Miúdas lake was formed on an old quarry basin so that it became a great example of the regenerative capacity that nature provides. Both the Council and neighbours strived for stopping the activity of the quarry and nowadays for the environmental protection of the lake, which counts on high quality water, coming from mineral springs. Thus, in 2008, Pedras Miúdas was designated as a Natual Area of Local Interest.
The lake can be accessed through the road PO-548, through a diversion on the left side (way to Vilagarcía de Arousa, to PO-191), at the new bridge of the high-speed train.
In 2015, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport implemented a project of adaptation for this natural space, according to sustainability criteria, as compensation for the works of the high-speed train. Pedras Miúdas includes now three different areas: a parking area, a leisure area where environmental regeneration works were carried out –including the planting of native vegetal species and pedestrian paths-. The last one is a pedagogical area where a buiding for environmental training activities was constructed, in order to interprete nature and which also counts on an accessible and crossable wide terrace-viewpoint.
Fonte Gaiteira park
Oak groove located at the town centre, next to the Catoira River and close to the Council. Its environment and beauty, which makes it the most central park of the municipality. The Municipal Auditorium and the multipurpose building turn this place into the most important natural and service area of the Council, connected to the tide mill known as Muíño do Cura through the fluvial route.
San Cibrán oak groove
Wonderful oak groove situated in the mountains of San Pedro de Dimo parish. There, a chapel devoted to this saint, doctor for rheumatism, honoured with the celebration of a religious pilgrimage in June. This is another great element of the ethnographic heritage real state. The forest promenade and the views to the small parishes and places of Abalo, Catoira, Dimo and Oeste can confirm this rich and interesting legacy.
Monte Meda viewpoint
Natural viewpoint from which the territories of O Barbanza and the regions of Ulla and O Salnés can bee seen.
Ruta Xacobea viewpoint
In the Mirador da Ría avenue (PO-191), parish of Abalo, the mouth of the Ulla River on the Arousa estuary can bee seen, as well as the major part of the one and only existing Via Crucis, and Jacobean Route of the Arousa Sea and Ulla River, witnessing the transfer of Saint Jame’s body from Jaffa to Iria Flavia.