Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Demolition (and reconstruction) of the Castillo del Castro.

When first we visited Vigo in the summer of 2007 it was a baking hot day, one of those blue sky and unrelenting sunshine days. We found the tourist office down by the port, the one with the huge wooden doors, run by I can’t remember which one of the two opposing tourist information organisations. Then we set off up the hill to the Castro, thinking it was called “El Castro”, unaware that the locals called it “O Castro”. We were vaguely aware that there was a local dialect called “gallego” but had no idea then how seriously they took it. 

Half way up the hill we had to stop and have a drink of water at a small café and buy a bottle to take on our way. That was possibly the hottest day of that holiday, one of the hottest we have known in Galicia. And we have known a few hot ones since then. We were based in Pontevedra for that holiday and visited Santiago de Compostela, La Coruña (oops, there I go again! I should call it A Coruña, gallego style!), Lugo and even Sanxenxo, places we’ve been back to many times since, with the exception of Lugo, which for some reason we have never revisited. 

We went back to Vigo a second time a few days later and on that occasion took a boat trip to the Islas Cíes. It was after that visit, I think, that Phil suggested spending a year in Vigo, which then became two and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Anyway, on that first occasion, we walked up to the Castro and since then we rarely visit the city without visiting it at least once. When we rented a flat near then the summer before last, I used to get up and jog round the park every morning. It’s one of our Vigo places, there’s no denying it. And part of it has always been an old abandoned restaurant, El Castillo. When first we saw it, we had no idea what it was, just a rather sad, dilapidated building, covered in graffiti, clearly in a prime place for a hotel or restaurant, if only anyone cared to develop it. And many a time we have said that it really should be developed or pulled down as it was clearly being steadily vandalised. 

Well, it seems that I missed the item in May’s Voz de Galicia which said that it had been agreed to demolish it before the end of this year. When next we go there, the restaurant will be gone. The Castro hill has been declared part of the city’s Cultural Heritage and they want to restore that side of the fortifications of Nuestra Señora del Castro, dating from the XVII century. I’ve been alerted to this by something in today’s Voz de Galicia telling me that the Englishman Thomas Rothschild, a fan of Galicia, is going to be involved in the demolition, taking it apart brick by brick and rebuilding it somewhere near Bath. 

Here’s a link to a video of the restaurant and the Castro park seen from the air. You can see why we keep on going back to the place again and again.

The restaurant was built in the 1940s but has been abandoned since 2006. So it closed not that long before we first saw it then. A year or two sooner and we might have eaten there. Thomas Rothschild is appealing for people who have photos of the interior of the place when it was open or possibly plans of the building and has set up an email address castillodelcastro@gmail.com for anyone who has information for him. He doesn’t just want to restore the building, apparently, but the atmosphere and the spirit of the place in its heyday. 

I wonder if he’ll serve Galician fish dishes with plenty of boiled potatoes; after all, as any gallego will tell you, Galician potatoes are best in the world. And he’ll have to serve “caldo gallego”, the typical warming Galician soup, not to mention “cocido”, the stew made from every imaginable part of the pig and incorporating “grelos”, greens or sprout tops. This last should be advertised in the proper Galician style as being available on one day of the week, along the lines of “El jueves, hay cocido”. 

Irony apart, I hope he does employ a Galician cook, perhaps serving some genuine Spanish tapas. I imagine he has the funds to have proper Galician shellfish flown in fresh on a regular basis. Mind you, if I were Mr Rothschild, I wouldn’t bother with the goose barnacles. 

I congratulate him on this enterprise. It’s a great thing that he’s giving the restaurant a new lease of life and I wish his every success. I bet he won’t find such a spectacular location as the one overlooking Vigo bay though. 


  1. Anthea,

    I don't see overly much architectural merit in the building, it's really about its location on the hill. However, back in the environs of Bath, where there are restrictive new development laws, the building's origins should garner recycling kudos with the planners & re-erecting pre- owned masonry is cost effective.

    The aerial shots will be taken from something like this hexacopter. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/like/230932299261?limghlpsr=true&lpid=102&device=c&adtype=pla&crdt=0&ff3=1&ff11=ICEP3.0.0&ff12=67&ff13=80&ff14=102



  2. I found a Thomas Osbourne Rothschild who is resident in Trowbridge. If this is really his blog, he's a man with a distinctive sense of humour.