Days 15-19: Vigo and Las Ilas Cies

We stayed outside of the city, to the south on Playa Samil, which had far more of a holiday resort feel to it than anywhere we’ve been so far. The campsite was just on the other side of road from the beach, which had a lovely long promenade and park running a couple of miles along the coast. The main road was full of bars, which fill up with revellers from the city at the weekend.

We spent our first day there on the beach, attempting (and failing) to relax and sunbathe. We did at least manage to get out early this time and came back to avoid the midday heat – learning slowly! Except the awning was taking the brunt of the sun, and the thermometer in there maxed out at 52c! Luckily it cools quickly once opened out.

A park runs parallel to the beach and promenade, with great children’s play pools scattered along it. We’d hoped Evelyn might fancy a dip, but despite the heat of the day, the water was freezing cold and she was having none of it. So instead the afternoon was spent in the shade of the trees practicing her rolling and press ups.

The town of Vigo was our favorite to date, and we managed our obligatory stomp up a big hill before it got too hot. The hill being the beautiful Parque Monte del Castro, with lots of shady tree lined paths and an old fort at the top, along with amazing views out over the harbour.

Our decent led us in to the old town, where TripAdvisor advised us there was a sculpture called “Dinoseto”, which some had billed as Vigo’s version of the Bilbao “Puppy” dog bush. We were someone underwhelmed to therefore find an 8ft trimmed privet in the vague shape of a T. rex, complete with googlie eyes.

Sunday was Father’s Day, and our trip to Las Ilas Cies, the reason for visiting Vigo. I’d read a travel article a couple of years ago pitching them as the Spanish Caribbean and really wanted to visit. The islands are only a 40 minute ferry ride from Vigo, but no vehicles are allowed on the islands, and the only accommodation is one campsite you must have a booking for to be able to stay on the island.

We’d booked our tickets through the campsite and turned up in plenty of time to avoid any stress. After hanging around for 1/2hr, a queue started to form at one of the piers so we naturally joined it. A ferry arrived and as the queue started moving, an old guy came along and asked if we had tickets. We showed him the slip we’d been given by the campsite, only for him to tell us that that was only a confirmation and we needed to exchange it for actual tickets at the office, on the far side of the harbour. A stressful sprint from Simon luckily saw us acquire the tickets in time, frustrating when the campsite made no mention of this, and we’d been hanging around the port for 45 minutes. 

We’d intentionally packed light as we wanted to explore the island, but others had obviously been before and had come prepared, lugging coolboxes, parasols and crates of beer for their day out. Only 2,200 people are allowed to visit the islands each day, and being on the first boat of the day meant it was full with people wanting to make the most of their trip.

The islands are stunning. The ferry docks alongside a long stretch of white sand, and beautiful blue tropical sea. Most visitors seemed content to set themselves up for the day on this beach, or the other beautiful coves nearby. We wanted to get our exploring in early (we’re learning!) and stomped off to find an information point. 

You can only access the main island from the ferry, but this still had plenty to offer. The interior rises sharply, and most of the rest of its coast is steep cliffs, home to hundreds of gulls. There are 3 or 4 well signposted routes, leading to lighthouses and vantage points. We conservatively aimed for a vantage point half way to one of the furthest lighthouses, but then obviously the temptation to continue struck and we ploughed on to the lighthouse anyway.

The Pedro de Campa vantage point took us to the edge of a sheer cliff, with a large rock with a hole in the middle that apparently perfectly framed the sunset (handy at 10.30am). The views from up there were stunning though, it felt like a completely different place from the beach we’d left behind. 

We decided to plough on to the Faro de Cies lighthouse, with the day getting quickly hotter. I was determined to make it though, until we rounded a bend and saw the lighthouse at the top of a steep switch back path, already at what must have been one of the highest points of the island. I admitted defeat and hid in the shade of some trees while Simon and E stomped on further. The path was getting much busier now as more boats arrived, and I watched with incredulity as people walked past me in just a bikini, flip flops and a clutch bag. Where’s your water?! Sunscreen?! Walking shoes?! Tougher beasts than I obviously. 

On the way back down, the map had shown a dotted line which cut down from the mountain path we were on, to a more coastal path leading to another lighthouse. We’d spied some of the bays from above and thought it made sense to do a loop rather than go back down the way we’d come. We found the path, and while it looked steep and a bit rocky, it was firm underfoot and we could just about make out the end of it so decided to go for it. 

It’s gull breeding season at the moment, and I’d already had one accidental run in with an angry seagull when it appeared my photo vantage point was a bit close to her nest. What we hadn’t appreciated (it certainly wasn’t marked on the map) was that apparently this short cut was also the seagull nursery.

We skirted past a couple of angry mums with nests at the side of the path, and had made it 80% of the way down the path when the swooping started. We’d apparently reached the hub of the nests, and the gulls were not keen on letting us get any further. The mama birds were making a right racket and the dads were divebombing us, ironically with us equally terrified for our own baby. We either had to take our chances and run the rest of the way, while not being sure what was in our path and being divebombed by ever more angry birds, or admit defeat, scramble all the way back up the steep path and hope the mama birds we’d past higher up hadn’t called for reinforcements. 

We’d made it almost to the top, using our rucksack as a shield against any potential gull assaults, when we were stopped by a mama bird bang in the middle of the path. We hadn’t realised til this point that we’d attracted quite a crowd on the top path, and were now relying on them to shout to us which side of the path her baby was on, so we could scramble through the undergrowth on the other side and avoid a fight.

E in her sling was oblivious to the whole thing, but we were shaking by the time we finally reached safety to the applause of the assembled crowd. We came down the long way, skipping the chance to explore some of the lesser visited coves in favour of a sit down at an easier to reach one.

We’d spotted the stunning Praia de Nosa Senora on the way up and hoped to spend the afternoon relaxing there, but there was no shade and we now had a hot and grumpy baby so opted for a picnic in the woods instead while E had a much needed flap about in her nappy. 

We cut down onto the campsite path, keen to see what it was like. We had considered staying a night, but with no vehicle access, we couldn’t bring the caravan, and the thought of lugging travel cots and assorted paraphernalia to stay in a tent put me off. I had visions of those tiny two man tents you can hire at festivals and thought that would be no fun for us, or for the rest of the site if E didn’t settle! 

The campsite was actually really well set out, and if we go back when E is a bit older, we’d definitely stay then. The tents are thick canvas “scout” tents with plenty of space and height, and set out under tall trees for plenty of shade. There was also a shop and a thriving restaurant cafe with a wide range of food which saved you having to lug your own over.

We finally settled in some shade on Praia de Figueiras, having a lazy afternoon after the hectic morning. The only excitement being accidentally finding the nudist cove when scrambling on the rocks around the shore. Approaching from the bottom of the coast certainly gave some interesting views! 

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