Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Friday, 5 October 2012

What I Did On My Holidays: Kite Photography on the Galician Coast

During September I spent a week on break visiting my girlfriend's home town of A Coruña and a little of the surrounding coast of Galicia in northern Spain. Between experiencing the excellent local hospitality we got out and about, myself with kite in hand, for a glimpse of Galicia's history from above.

Figures walking across the sandy land-bridge to Castro de Baroña.

Our first port of call was the fantastic Iron-Age fortified settlement of Castro de Baroña, one of many hill-fort sites in the area but one which is particularly striking for it's location on a narrow rock peninsular. This semi-island setting is one which is familiar - the strategy of using water as a natural defense is found in many Scottish Crannogs and Brochs as well sites such as St Ninian's Chapel and Dunottar castle.

A vertical shot of the entrance way and first set of houses.
After passing through a narrow entrance way in the imposing defensive walls the visitor arrives at the remains of a series of roundhouses, a style of dwelling also typical in pre-Roman Britian. From above the similarities to a British hill-fort are startlingly apparent.

These ruins have been excavated and later consolidated using concrete, a process which is clearly ongoing as a large section of the outer wall (visible above) and several roundhouses had been recently worked on. Such extensive consolidation is an unfortunate necessity at a site with such high visitor numbers. Our taxi driver explained that although the site is very popular there is little public interpretation (none at all on site) and as such visitors show little respect for the remains without knowing their age and importance.

Recently consolidated roundhouses appear lighter than the others in this view.
Towards evening a haze descended on the coast softening the sunlight which illuminates the general view below, looking towards the opposing peninsular visible in the background. These two outcrops of land overlook the entrance to La Ría de Muros y Noya, a channel of water which is likely to have acted as a transportation link between the interior and the coast.

Both sides of the entrance are marked with ancient remains - Castro de Baroña on the south side and a petroglyph rock carving site, in direct line-of-sight, on the north. Later on we visited the carvings, another clear connection to rock art sites back home, but this will follow in another blog post!

Evening light on the Castro looking across the entrance of the Ría.
Back in A Coruña we visited the iconic Torre de Hércules, a Roman lighthouse restored in the 18th Century. It is the oldest Roman lighthouse to remain in use today and obtained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2009.

Torre de Hércules and surrounding coast.
This kite aerial photograph was taken on one of two trips out to the site, on the second attempt high winds hampered kite flying so we climbed the 242 steps to emerge on a very blustery balcony near the top. The remains of foundations from previous incarnations of the tower have been excavated and preserved for viewing under the modern covering built around the base. A fantastic, if tiring, visitor experience!

The star shaped outline of Castillo de San Antón.
Coruña's Castillo de San Antón is another example of sea bound defense which is visually interesting from above. The castle was at one point an island, later linked to the city via a short causeway.

Looking back along the coast from our return flight.
Our flight home offered this fantastic view of the city of Coruña which occupies the narrow peninsula visible just right of center. The strategic advantage of occupying coastal outcrops defending the routes inland seems to be demonstrated all along this coastal region. I found it intriguing to follow these patterns, with repeating themes going back into prehistory and spanning at least a thousand miles back to the Scottish monuments with which I'm familiar.

Although blessed with good weather during our stay we had not nearly enough time to explorer Galicia as much as I would have liked. I look forward to the next visit!

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