Why the rain in Spain really doesn't matter

Until recently, Galicia's wild, wet reputation kept the British away. But a budget airline is changing all that. Matthew Beard reports

It's a glorious evening in Galicia. The sun shimmers on the Atlantic as our three-year-old son runs in and out of the sea - it's 7pm, past his bedtime, but he's in his naked element. Sitting on the rocks drinking wine, it would be stretching a point to say we have hit upon an "undiscovered" part of Spain, but we are certainly experiencing a different kind of holiday from those usually associated with the Spanish costas.

It's a glorious evening in Galicia. The sun shimmers on the Atlantic as our three-year-old son runs in and out of the sea - it's 7pm, past his bedtime, but he's in his naked element. Sitting on the rocks drinking wine, it would be stretching a point to say we have hit upon an "undiscovered" part of Spain, but we are certainly experiencing a different kind of holiday from those usually associated with the Spanish costas.

Galicia sits snug in the north-west corner of the country, just above Portugal. It is green and, it has to be admitted, often wet. We arrived by plane in the capital, the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela with its awesome cathedral. But we are heading south to Pontevedra, at the foot of the Ria de Vigo. The estuaries, known as Rias Bajas, are fjord-like, creating a jagged coast reminiscent of Cornwall and western Ireland. As we pass through fishing villages we are treated to tantalising glimpses of golden beaches and intimate coves.

The waters are sheltered and calm, ideal for swimming and sailing, and seafood, for which Galicia is famed. There are mussel beds everywhere, and bountiful supplies of cockles, oysters, scallops and spider crab. And you certainly get a lot of seafood for your euro.

On this hazy afternoon, the beaches are busy with locals, but we discover that during the week they are often virtually empty. When the sun does shine and you're in a hill-top restaurant, overlooking a bay, eating some of the finest seafood you've ever tasted, you wonder if someone might be missing a trick. Ninety per cent of tourists in Galicia are from Spain. But the British are coming: Ryanair has just added Santiago de Compostela to its route map from Stansted, and this year it plans to fly in visitors from a handful of other airports.

Our villa is set back from the road on a small hill, surrounded by colourful, well-tended gardens. Spacious rooms with heavily shuttered windows provide a cool retreat. The dark-wood furniture, rich fabrics and religious artefacts give a traditional feel. But a lot of thought has also been given to practicalities - a carport to keep the sun off the motor in summer, and gadgets and conveniences from DVD to dishwasher. We have a swimming pool and a covered terrace for al fresco dining, with views of the estuary and the occasional passing trawler.

Steps lead to the beach, Playa d'Aguete. It's a typical example of those that dot the rias - a small, sandy bay, with rocks and trees on either side sheltering the sand. At the weekend, Spanish families flock here, some taking sailing lessons, others just driving up to admire the view and check out the skies - Galicians are as obsessed with the weather as the British.

Five minutes' drive from our villa lies Marin, a small town with a big naval college. We idle away Sunday morning drinking coffee in the square, as a band on a makeshift stage strikes up Eurovision-style Latino melodies. Families pass by, decked out in their morning-mass best: stiff check shirts and shorts with braces, the little girls immaculate in pink-icing dresses. Our son is quite a contrast in his surfer-boy T-shirt and baggy jeans.

We eat a relatively inexpensive yet delicious late lunch of langoustines, sea bass and Albarino wine, and introduce our little one to tortilla Espanola under the pseudonym "chip pie". It goes down a treat. Then Sanxenxo beckons. More like a Mediterranean resort, with longer stretches of sand, good amenities and some larger tourist hotels, it enjoys the best climate in the region. Yet it's still populated mainly by the Spanish. At Crucero de Hio, at the tip of the estuary, we discover a contrasting rugged coastline akin to north Cornwall's. It's windy and exposed, exhilarating yet almost deserted.

We wake one morning to a blur of rain which breaks our lazy routine of beaches, long boozy lunches, and more beaches. We head for Vigo, near the Portuguese border. Dominated by its huge harbour and naval history, the city is the economic centre of the region, known mainly for shipping and football. It's a working city not high on charm. The main square is dominated by high-rise buildings and you have to climb to enjoy good views.

Instead we head for the dockside and feast on paella cooked in squid ink, named "Prestige" - a black-humoured reference to the disaster of 2002 when a tanker of that name spilt an 8km long oil slick on to the shores, devastating the environment and the livelihoods of fishermen. It has taken years to clear up the damage, but the only evidence that we see is a few black streaks on some of the rocks. The mammoth liner Arcadia weighs anchor nearby and the passengers spill out on to the dock to stretch their legs. For the first time in a week, we are hearing English voices.

Give Me The Facts

How to get there

Iberia (0870 609 0500; www.iberia.com) flies from Heathrow to Santiago de Compostela from £140 return.

Where to stay

Matthew Beard travelled as a guest of Vintage Travel (0845 344 0420; www.vintagetravel.co.uk). It offers seven nights at La Torre in d'Aguete near Marin from £895 to £2,495. It can also arrange flights with Iberia and car hire, which costs from £160 per week.

Further information

Spanish National Tourist Office (020-7486 8077; www.tourspain.co.uk) and www.turgalicia.es.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...