The sea stacks known as As Catedrais Beach (Beach of the Cathedrals) or Cathedral Beach off the coast of Galicia, northern Spain stand resolutely, defiantly against the full might of the Atlantic Ocean. The softer rock around them has been worn away by the raw power of the sea, the incessant erosive action of countless waves over dozens of eons. The process started way back, by an ancient Cantabrian Sea, that will continue beyond the names we bestow on land or sea.
Geology is ongoing, and one of nature’s most dynamic if usually unseen processes, imperceptible but occasionally dramatic. The sea has chiselled away, tunnelling into solid rock, wearing behind it, sculpting rock pillars which will eventually collapse into the oceans which forged them.
They can be viewed from above at high tide, but the best time to visit is low tide, when it’s possible to walk beneath thirty metre cliffs. Exploring the natural caverns, chambers and arches which characterise this stretch of coastline it’s easy to understand where the inspiration that provided the name came from. It takes little imagination to see gothic style architecture in nature’s grand designs among limestone formations given evocative names like “Porch of Glory“.
Removing any shoes, feeling the sand between your toes and the warm waves lapping around your ankles makes low tide even more appealing. It’s an attractive beach, lovely, pristine, soft sand and although it’s a relatively small bay, swimming is apparently recommended.
Also known as Praia de Augas Santas (Beach of the Holy Waters) the rock islands unsurprisingly bear comparison to the Twelve Apostles which defy the Southern Ocean off Victoria, Australia on the famous Great Ocean Road.
Read about an Australian road trip here: The Great Ocean Roadtrip – A superlative adventure
At least the alternative names for Beach of the Cathedrals are more prosaic than ‘Sow and Piglets‘ that the apostles were once called. Eventually they succumb to the power of the ocean, occasionally collapsing. However, we should consider ourselves fortunate they continue to defy nature, enabling us to admire the artistry of geology, nature’s dynamic architect.
Galicia is a lovely region of northern Spain, with plenty to see and do, including Santiago de Compostela, finishing point of St James Way. However, a visit to this dramatic and beautiful beach shouldn’t be missed, and these natural monuments make a fitting detour for any pilgrim.
Check the tide tables, bring a swimming costume, pack a picnic and enjoy a little sun worshipping among the geological cathedrals and holy waters of the Atlantic coast.
I am grateful to Galicia Tourism for sharing this natural wonder of their region.