Playa de las Catedrales, the most famous beach in northern Spain

Playa de las Catedrales, the most famous beach

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La playa de las Catedrales is located in a very special part of Galicia, in the municipality of Ribadeo in the Marina Lucense, the Cantabrian coast of the Galician community. This part of the coast has been a strategic area since ancient times because of its location and the land of traders. The Marina Lucense and its region covers an area of approximately 1660 square kilometres and was, among other things, the former site of the bishopric of Britonia.

It was this bishopric, nowawadays this place still exists and it is known as Santa María de Bretoña in Pastoriza, one of the most important in Galicia founded in the early Middle Ages by British Celts fleeing from Roman Britannia during the invasions of the Angles, Jutes and Saxons in the final stage of the dominion of the Eternal City in those northern islands, decided to take refuge on the coasts of northern Galicia. One of their most famous bishops was Maeloc, who appears as a representative of the Galician Britons in written sources from numerous councils such as those of Lugo and Braga. Later, this bishopric would disappear and its territory and see would come under the dominion of the Bishopric of Mondoñedo.

In this environment with so much history is where we can find the beach known as Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedrals Beach).

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But was this famous beach always called what it is known as today? Well, not really, because originally, the beach was known as the Aguas Santas by local inhabitants. The name, in the Galician language, indicates part of the tradition that this place had before it was known to the general public.

For decades the inhabitants of the Ribadeo region used to come here to bathe. This was a very common custom in past centuries.

For example, during the 19th century it was common for wealthy people to go to the beaches of northern Spain to perform this custom, which was believed to have curative and health-improving properties.

This was the case of the playa de las catedrales , hence the reference to its former name of Aguas Santas.

For many years, therefore, it was a place known only to the residents of the Marina, who were the only ones who went into its curative waters.

But everything changes in the 1970s. It was in this decade when, taking advantage of the boom in foreign visitors and the consolidation of national tourism, the beach began to be known throughout Spain and also internationally.

This is the moment when its name was changed, when the traditional toponymy was abandoned in favour of the more descriptive name by which this place is known today.

The name obviously became popular over time and arose due to the great similarity of its stone arches to religious architecture, especially Gothic. Many visitors to the beach thought they were looking at cathedrals such as those of León, Burgos, Barcelona or Chartres.

This resemblance is in fact due to the passage of time, which has caused the stones pierced by the elements to create shapes of great aesthetic complexity.



It must be said that the beach itself belongs to a geomorphological feature whose name is Rasa Cantabrica and which actually extends from San Vicente de la Barquera in the region of Cantabria.

This great mass that mixes a myriad of minerals is the base on which the wind and rain have formed the famous arches of the Galician beach. There is no doubt that today la playa de las Catedrales is one of the most visited destinations in Galicia and in Spain and it has rightly earned the title of one of the most beautiful beaches recognised by several international media.

All together with the beautiful surrounding places such as the village of San Pedro de Rinloo or the magnificent Pancha Island right on the border of the Principality of Asturias, the neighbouring region.