The Rías Baixas conceal many hidden corners with camellia gardens that will attract your attention because of their fineness and beauty. Originating from the Far East, camellias have been part of the history and culture of Pontevedra since the 17th century and, since their arrival, they have perfectly adapted to the conditions on the Rías Baixas.
Today, you can find over 80 species and 30.000 varieties in different Galician locations and they can be distinguished by their colour, size and shape.
In the town squares, gardens, manor houses, castles, monasteries or the actual streets of the towns, these flowers are part of the Rías Baixas and are now one of the hallmarks of its identity, bringing cheer to the inhabitants every winter. In today’s article, we tell you about the main points on the Camellia route so that you can discover places that seem to emerge straight out of fairy tales.
The castle of Soutomaior
The castle of Soutomaior, is located 20 kilometres from Vigo and 15 from Pontevedra. It is a medieval castle dating back to the 12th century and, subsequently, a neo-Gothic palace that was the nerve centre of one of the most important family lineages in medieval Galicia, the Soutomaior family, who share their surname with the name of the castle.
This fortified jewel of the Rías Baixas is dominated by a single 25 hectare estate in which the camellia is sovereign and fills all the gardens with colours. In fact, the castle gardens were the first ones in Spain to be recognised as an International Garden of Excellence for the Camellia, an award given by the The International Camellia Society (ICS) and which aims to highlight and make known the main camellia gardens throughout the world.
In this botanical location, an interesting project is being carried out along with the Pontevedra Council. The camellia garden is not merely a point of floral interest and of admiration due to its beauty, but is also an initiative which pays homage to illustrious women in history, science, the arts and society.
Of the 400 or more camellias it holds, there are 18 notable specimens of Camellia japonica from the 19th century, which pay homage to Maria Vinyals, writer and pioneer of feminism in Spain, who was born in the Castle of Soutomaior. The other camellia varieties pay homage to other notable women such as Rosalía de Castro, Bella Otero, Ane Andresen, Juana de Vega, Sofía Novoa, Emilia Pardo Bazán and Jimena Fernández de la Vega.
The manor house of Rubianes
This stately manor house was rebuilt in the 18th century and is located in Vilagarcía de Arousa, in the region of O Salnés. Its beautiful French-style garden has been the holder of the international excellence award since 2014 due to its 4000-plus specimens from over 800 varieties.
The main botanical treasure of the estate is a group of camellias from the 19th century which were donated by the Duke of Caminha, Portugal, consisting of Camellia sasanqua, Camellia sinensis, Camellia reticulata and Camellia japonica, among others. These idyllic camellia gardens share their sovereignty with other flowers, such as magnolias, incense cedars, Japanese cedars, eucalyptus, camphor trees, ash, araucarias, oaks and cork oaks, making the botanical garden an ideal place in which to take a stroll.
The manor house of Rubianes also has another place that you must see: a winery with 25 hectares of vineyards dedicated to the cultivation of the Albariño grape. There is a popular saying that highlights the virtues of these lands: Os viñedos do Marqués dalle o sol ara de noite, (The Marquis’ vineyards get the sun, even at night).
And if you love the wine of this region, you can also visit other wineries in the region that offer guided tours and tastings of Rías Baixas wines.
The manor house of Quinteiro da Cruz
The manor house of Quinteiro da Cruz is an 18th century Galician, neo-Classic stately home situated right in the heart of the O Salnés region. This estate has a beautiful garden of seven hectares which was designed at the end of the 19th century by the French gardener and landscaper Dorgambide and, years later, restored by Victoriano Piñeiro Acosta, who included in the garden’s flower collection a large variety of camellias and other plants from different parts of the world.
The indisputable star of the gardens is the camellia, which earned the Salnés manor house the International Garden of Excellence for the Camellia award in 2018. And this is no surprise, as it has 5.000 specimens of over 1.500 varieties. Notable among these are, Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata and Camellia Higo with which they have, on various occasions, achieved the Camellia Gold Award in the International Camellia Competition. This botanical paradise with ornamental and landscape value has been growing through the years and is sure to delight you while you enjoy your stroll.
The manor house of Lourizán
This magnificent stately building in the modernist style of the late 19th century can be found in the Parish of Santo André de Lourizán, between the towns of Marín and Pontevedra. The property belongs to the politician Eugenio Montero Ríos, ex-Government President during the Restoration period, who decided to use the land to build an attractive manor house in which to spend his summer holidays with his family. Today, it is used for forest conservation and research.
The lands of this manor house are home to a handsome garden of great significance and quality. Within its 52 hectares there is a good number of unique botanical species, such as a singular Metasequoia, a majestic Pagoda tree, a Dutch elm and a 180 year old cedar of Lebanon.
During your walk through the gardens, which exude a sense of tranquillity, you will find a glasshouse with an iron structure, a series of raised granaries, a dovecot, various fountains and a pretty single-piece granite table.
This botanical Eden is organised into different avenues. The camellia avenue is notable for its 19th century specimens of Camelia japonica “Alba Plena”. If you visit the garden between November and February, you will find over 600 specimens of this camellia species.
The manor house of Quiñones de León
The manor house of Quiñones de León, also known as the manor house of Castrelos, was built in the early 20th century and is located in the Castrelos Park in Vigo. During its early days, it was the residence of various Galician aristocratic families, until 1924, when it was donated to the city of Vigo and converted into a museum and public park in 1937.
The manor house gardens were established at the end of the 19th century by order of the Marquis of Alcedo, and they consist of lush woodland, a sun terrace at the end, a pretty rose garden and two gardens: the French garden and the English garden (also known as the “tea meadow”).
The garden has a large variety of ornamental plants, both native and from other parts of the world, which have benefitted from the Vigo climate and its proximity to the sea. Different species can be found in the garden, such as the exotic tulip trees from Virginia and the ancient magnolias in the meadow, among which can be found the largest magnolia in Galicia.
However, the greatest jewel is the spectacular specimen of Camellia japonica, known as the “Methuselah” of the camellias because of its age, as it is around 200 years old. Among the impressive camellia specimens, other noteworthy varieties include Camellia japonica such as ‘Alba Plena’, ‘Bella Romana’, ‘Federici’, ‘Hagoromo’, ‘Herzilia II’, ‘Incarnata’, ‘Kellingtonia’ and ‘Pomponia Portuensis’. These carefully managed plants are enriched by sculptures, a gallery of coats of arms and a variety of monuments.
The manor house of Gandarón
The manor house of Gandarón is located in the parish of Salcedo and was built by Archbishop Malvar Pinto at the end of the 18th century, although its garden was created during the second half of the 19th century. The estate is currently the property of Pontevedra Council and, since 1928 it has been the headquarters of the Biological Mission of Galicia. The manor house and the gardens were excellently refurbished between 2005 and 2009, with significant elements being repaired, such as the railings, the arbour, fountains, ponds and above all, the raised granary and the chapel, which has been converted into a museum. They preserve the original style of the romantic period in which they were designed.
The most abundant plants in the garden are the coniferous ones, most notably the cedar of Lebanon and the blue cedar, the Araucaria bidwillii and the Magnolia soulangeana. Of additional note, are the impressive palms that adorn the space, because of their impressive appearance and their beauty.
Of all the flowers in the garden, the camellias are notable because of the impressive colours. The oldest of them were planted by Jerónimo Malvar in the 19th century. For years, different people continued to increase the camellia collection and have contributed to the creation of the beautiful garden that you can visit today.
The manor house of A Saleta
Another of the internationally excellent camellia gardens in the O Salnés region is located in the locality of Meis. This is the manor house of A Saleta. The botanical heritage it contains is one of the most important private collections in Spain, where roots of native species entwine with those of others that have arrived from all the continents. This English-inspired garden forms part of an exclusive selection of private houses known as Les Belles Maisons.
Its delicate gardens are adorned by over 300 specimens of camellias, where you will find flowering plants such as Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata and the Camellia x williamsii. Next to the chapel of A Saleta, the manor house, the dovecot, the oak wood, the pond, and the Australian jungle make this one of the most spectacular gardens in the province.
Moreover, the website for the manor house of A Saleta has a special blog section for the garden which shares readings, curiosities, the best photographs of its camellias and even poetry dedicated to the species. You won’t regret spending a few minutes reading it!
The manor house of Oca
The manor house of Oca is located in the Pontevedran municipality of A Estrada. It is the oldest manor house in Galicia and has been declared a Spanish Heritage Site of Cultural Interest. Currently, it is the property of the Dukes of Medinacelli, however, it is open to the public and can be visited throughout the year.
Inside the walled area is the stately home, the vegetable garden and the ornamental garden, and in the surrounding land is the church of San Antonio de Padua and various houses belonging to the estate workers.
This manor house is also known as the “Galician Versailles” or the “Generalife of the north” because of its impressive Baroque-style gardens. Of note within the composition of the landscape is its romantic style, the classical geometry and the maze. The different areas create the impression of being in a water park belonging to the old nobility, with boating ponds, fountains, waterfalls, windmills, wells and water channels.
Within the gardens you will find an exceptional specimen of the Camellia reticulata “Captain Rawes”. This has a vibrant red colour, is around 170 years old and 11 metres tall and makes this specimen the oldest and largest in Spain. Apart from this jewel, there are hundreds of other camellias which will impress those visitors who take a stroll through the geometric areas of the manor house’s botanical garden.
O Castro Park
The O Castro park is the highest point in the city of Vigo and is visited daily by the all the locals, as it is a great place for walkers, sportspeople and tourists.
The lungs of the city of Vigo consists of a garden which, apart from being an exceptional recreational area, also offers an impressive panorama of the estuary and the port, from which early risers can view the best daybreaks of the city. Its camellia collection is distributed throughout many points and the majority of them are of Portuguese origin, such as the varieties ‘Dona Jane Andresen’, ‘Angelina Vieira’ and ‘Pomponia Estriata Portuensis’.
This article has shown you that the Rías Baixas are a top destination for those who love camellias, old manor houses and unique botanical enclaves. The camellia route will not leave anyone indifferent who decides to take a stroll around it and enjoy this vibrant and captivating species. Don’t miss out on this original plan. It is perfect for the good weather that is just around the corner!
If you decide to visit the Vigo park, we recommend that you take the opportunity to discover the Islas Cíes or other islands such as the Isla de Ons or the Isla de San Simón, as various boats of the Mar de Ons ferry company leave from the city’s port for these destinations.
Additionally, if you visit the city of Vigo and its surroundings, don’t hesitate to use our Regular Vigo–Cangas line. Remember that you have free transfers with us if you present your Cies or Ons tickets at our ticket offices. On the day of your journey, you have 90 minutes before and after your boat to take your ticket between Cangas and Vigo free of charge. Here is the link to the timetables so that you can consult it on the day of your visit.
Don’t hesitate to ask us about the other Experiences that we have at Mar de Ons on the days of your visit to the city of Vigo: Lágrimas de San Lorenzo (Saint Lorenzo’s tears), Estuary Tours, Starlight Experience, dinners and celebration events on board, etc.
We look forward to seeing you on board!