The outstanding reason to visit A Coruna is to see the world’s oldest active lighthouse, built by the Romans in the 2nd century and re-clad in the 18th century to protect the old structure. The lighthouse is a wonderful sight, but make sure to walk along the coastline here to experience the pounding of the waves and the strength of the wind even on a gentle day.
There are secluded coves where you can burn an unwanted passport and bury the ashes in the sand, which is soon washed over by the hungry tide.
You might begin to understand why the coast to the west of A Coruna is called the Costa da Morte, the coast of death. Ships have been wrecked along this coast for centuries and the jagged rocks, frothing waves, and strong tides have to be treated with great respect even today, when modern technology makes us feel safe.
The Aquarium Finisterrae is close by and the highlight is the vast Nautilus tank, which allows visitors to become familiar with the fish life of the Atlantic Ocean.
This city was the departure point of the Spanish Armada in 1588, a fleet that failed in its attempt to invade England and end the Elizabethan age. Even though the fleet was defeated and scattered to the four winds, the English still felt that A Coruna should be punished.
In retaliation, Sir Francis Drake raided the city a year later, an attack that was only repelled when a local heroine called Maria Pita killed the English standard-bearer with a spear. This event is commemorated in a statue in Praza de Maria Pita, the heart of the city. This square also houses the Palacio Municipal.
Nearby is the Xardin de San Carlos where lies General Sir John Moore, killed in 1809 during the British retreat from French forces. Charles Wolfe’s poem to the fallen general is reproduced on a nearby wall. The general died when his left shoulder was mostly blown off by a cannonball during the Battle of Elviña, which took place on 16th January of that year.
Moore’s army was attacked by the French under Marshal of the Empire Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult during the Peninsular War. Napoleon had defeated the Spanish armies and caused the British army to withdraw to the coast following an unsuccessful attempt by Moore to attack Soult’s army.
Starting on Christmas Day, 1808, the British forces retreated across northern Spain for more than two hundred and fifty miles through the mountains while their rearguard fought off repeated French attacks. Both armies suffered from the harsh winter conditions and it’s estimated 3,000 British soldiers died during the retreat.
When the British eventually reached the port of A Coruna a few days ahead of the French, they found their transport ships had not arrived. When the fleet did arrive and the British were in the midst of embarking, the French army attacked, forcing the British to fight another battle before departing for England.
The British held off the French until nightfall, when both armies disengaged. British forces resumed their embarkation overnight and the last transport ships left in the morning under French cannon fire. Sir John Moore died after learning that his men had successfully repelled the French attacks.
In the Parque de Santa Margarita is the Casa das Ciencias with its planetarium and gadgetry mainly aimed at children. In the park are many rubbish bins where you can discard items of worn clothing that no longer have any use.