Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Emerald Espana; Wild and Green Galicia Has Holiday Homes for Romantics, Finds Giles Healy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Emerald Espana; Wild and Green Galicia Has Holiday Homes for Romantics, Finds Giles Healy

Article excerpt

Byline: GILES HEALY

FOR centuries, Galicia, in the north-west corner of Spain, was effectively cut off from the rest of the country by its wild, wooded, mountainous terrain. And those of its people who did not leave in search of work and prosperity remained in a virtual time warp, tiling their fields and tending their vines. They are Celtic people, in a landscape as green as Ireland, and you are more likely to hear the sound of bagpipes than of flamenco.

In recent years, EU money and a major road-building programme have helped open the region up. The once arduous journey from Madrid is now a mere four hours smooth motorway drive, and recently, Ryanair began a daily two-hour service from Stansted to Santiago de Compostela ([pounds sterling]57.50 return), from where you can explore an unspoilt interior in which wolves and bears still roam.

While much of Spain remains parched by drought, Galicia has a warm seasonal climate within a varied landscape: snow capped mountains yield to ancient forest, which gives way to small fields, divided by dry stone walls. The rocky Atlantic coastline and tranquil estuaries shelter fine sandy beaches and stone villages.

Galicia's virtues, much appreciated by domestic Spanish holidaymakers, is not catching the imagination of the international market. John Van der Weide, of agent Galiciavista, says: "Last month, I sold two houses to British couples for less than [pounds sterling]60,000 - a stone house with seven acres and a fisherman's cottage on the coast. The Spanish buy the big homes, the English the stone houses to renovate. More come every month."

One district of interest is the wine-producing region of Ribeira Sacra. Ian and Irene Holiday fell in love with this area when they noticed Roman mosaics gracing a shop floor in Lugo. They bought a small hotel for [pounds sterling]164,000 in 2003 - Casa Santo Estevo, formerly part of a medieval monastery. …

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