Moutillón, a secret on the beach

Costa de O Vicedo, Moutillón, a secret on the beach

 

Every corner of the Iberian Peninsula features a good number of incredible stories and places worth visiting, as well as a fine gastronomic selection to fill your stomach and soothe your spirit; however, to tell the truth, there are some places that accumulate stories explaining the social formation of Europe and that have been forgotten. The region of A Mariña, in the north of Lugo province, houses unique natural beauty spots, historical narrations that have yet to be explained and places for resting. A Mariña is a dreamed-of singularity where we find places such as Moutillón, a secret on the beach.

Casa do Batán, located at the centre of the region, is the ideal place from which to discover some of the places marked by Europe’s ancient history. We are in a region featuring the last cliffs of the European coastline; in our trips we can therefore visit sleepy beaches and a profound sea like an immense, dark treasure chest housing the remains of shipwrecks and the history of humanity in this western corner.

Our first enclave for visiting is the beach of San Román do Vale, twenty minutes by car from Casa do Batán. Apart from a sandy area with icy waters and striking tranquillity, there are the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle (which began to be studied recently), a typical defensive buildings of the Middle Ages that was imported by the Scandinavians. These motte-and-baily castles were fortifications with the opposite system of the typical “castros” that abound in Galicia. For the inhabitants of the “castros” the strong points were the walls and entrances; however, for the Vikings, the point to be defended lay within the walls, a high fortification (motte) overlooking a flat, less protected area (bailey). The warrior-engineers from the north built these structures in less than a week for logistical purposes, using them as a base camp before continuing with their campaign.

Contact with Vikings was frequent in this region and maritime traffic changed commercial ships for refugee boats at the end of the 5th century. Breton Christians fled westwards from the Norman invasions. The refugees followed the old shipping routes, and after landing in Armorica, they continued sailing to this region in the north of Lugo, where they received ecclesiastical privileges and left their mark on a place name: Bretoña, in the west of the region.

Due to the situation of alertness, the villages closest to the coast became defensive sites par excellence. Since they were located on top of steep cliffs, their function as watchtowers was exceptionally useful. Even so, the impulse of the Normans and their influence on the region was very important and today we find the remains of the presence of men and women in the north of the region. The motte-and-bailey castle of San Román, located at the top of Moutillós, overlooks the cliff leading to the beach, while the defensive area is no longer very visible. Archaeologists and scholars coincide that this castle was designed to control the sea rather than the land. The fortification faces the rocks on the beach, which form a good natural port.

Recently, the remains of Viking boats have been discovered on these beaches, which help to compose a historical tale that remains below the sands of time. The excerpts of the narration that remain speak of frequent contact, sometimes aggressive and sometimes commercial. Some sources explain that García, the last king of Galicia, had contact with Norman nobles, as well as the bishop of Santiago de Compostela, Diego Peláez. This friendship was used by their rivals in the kingdom of León to try to take away their political autonomy.