We have planned a romantic journey through the Galician countryside. In winter months, when flowers are scarce, the camellia, however, beautifies Galician gardens. We propose a romantic plan, a step by step journey, though the Rias Baixas where we will follow the wake of this subtle and delicate flower that arrived from the East. It reigns in Galicia during the months of January to April, where more than eight thousand varieties are cultivated.
In the valley of the river Ulla, the “Galician Versailles” is located: the Pazo de Oca (pazo is a countryside estate) is the quintessential example of the Galician countryside home. A fifteenth-century palace, belonging to the Ducal House of Medinacelli, was built on the remains of an old military building next to a splendid chapel, wall and unique gardens enhanced by water. Two beautiful ponds joined by a granite bridge with hydrangeas, magnolias, red sequoias, white maples, lime trees, and box hedges electrify the romantic walk. But, above all, the camellias steal the show. From the entrance of this noble estate, we follow a route through Pontevedra that crosses the Rias Baixas, from Vilagarcía de Arousa to Vigo.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the first camellias have been cultivated in the Pazo de Rubianes, located in Vilagarcía de Arous. This authentic vegetable paradise is where you can find close to a hundred different species of flowers that live together with the camellias. In addition to the gardens, you can stroll through the orchard, forests, vineyards and cork oak forests. We enjoyed the shop where you can buy the soaps that the Clarisas Sisters made with the oil extracted from the camellia seeds and some of the pieces of design the craftswoman Julia García created inspired by this flower.
The next stop on our route is in the Pazo de Ribadumia, in the middle of the Salnés Valley, a well known place where Spaniards shoot movies and TV series. This home is part of a small and well-kept wine estate, Quinteiro da Cruz, where a renowned Albariño wine is made. These seven hectares include the manor house, the wine cellar, two granaries, a pigeon house, a chapel, ornamental fountains and a garden of great botanical size full of camellias. In fact, more than 1,000 varieties of Camellias bloom here, along with other exotic species. This estate has been worthy many times of the Camelia de Oro or the Golden Camellia.
The Pazo of Lourizán, in Agrovello, dates back to the 15th century. It has now served as a meeting place for influential personalities of the 19th century since politician Montero Ríos acquired it as his summer residence. Circling the modernist building, the garden is the essence of romanticism, with a good collection of historical sources – that of the shell; the one of the lathes; the grotto of the mirrors, adorned with colored glass… and examples of Lebanon cedars, Japanese and Chinese chestnuts, Dutch elms, magnolias, palm trees. And not to forget, the camellias, which have lived in this country estate for more than a century.
The carefully maintained garden of the medieval castle of Soutomaior, also known as that of Pedro Madruga, was transformed in 1870 into a Neo-Gothic palace, the perfect place to relax. With chestnuts that are over 800 years old, up to 27 species of conifers and curious tree ferns line the vicinity of the pond. But it is the abundance of camellias that attracts the most attention in this garden, considered one of the most important botanical gardens in Galicia.
We conclude our route of the camellias in two areas of Vigo. One is the Pazo de O Castro, a municipal park located in the elevated part of the city from where you can take in a beautiful view of the port and the estuary. In addition to a botanical path, the garden displays an important collection of camellias, most of Portuguese origin. The other one is the Pazo-Museo Quiñones de León or Castrelos, an old fort that today functions as a regional art museum. Discovering these camellias while walking through this museum is the perfect cherry on top to the end of our romantic route.
If you want to follow the route of the camellias through the province of A Coruña visit the estates of Vista Alegre and Santa Cruz de Ribadulla in Vedra. The garden of the Pazo Mariñán, in A Coruña, offers surprises such as the Jardín de la Palabra where each tree retains the message of the illustrious personage who planted it: Jose Hierro’s cypress, Ian Gibson’s rhododendron, Benedetti’s Uruguayan cieba or Cela’s boxwood, and even the House-Museum of Rosalía de Castro. Everyone loves to visit these gardens, especially when the camellias revive in the winter months. The camellias are waiting for you. Happy romantic getaway!