What makes A Coruña so intriguing and fascinating are not just the fabulous vistas and stunning landscape, but the character and charm of a city steeped in history and tradition, and unlike anywhere else.
Although Castilian is spoken here and the city displays all of the customary Spanish features, there is no doubt that you are in Galicia, and in a town that is a beautiful example of the captivating spirit of this region. The people are proud of their multifaceted heritage and the design, architecture and cuisine of A Coruña all reflect the complex and intricate history of this interesting region.
One aspect, which is uniquely Galician is the presence of the gaiteiros, the traditional Galician bagpipers. These musicians resemble those found in Scotland or Ireland and both the sound of the pipes and the authentic costumes are indicators of the strong Celtic roots of this part of Spain.
These bagpipes, or gaita, were extremely popular in the Middle Ages, as early as the 9th century, but suffered a decline in popularity from the 16th century until a 19th-century revival. It saw another decline in the middle of the 20th century, when the Francoist dictatorship tried to use it for propagandistic purposes. Then, beginning in about the 1970s, a roots revival heralded another rebirth. The folk renaissance may have peaked in the late 1990s, with the release of acclaimed albums by the renowned and much-loved Galician artist, Carlos Núñez.
The instrument itself has a conical chanter and a bass drone with a second octave, much like the bagpipes still found in the Gaelic countries, and the deep and intense sounds the pipes booming out in the city, signal that Celtic culture is still alive and well in Galicia.
Today, bagpipes are neither fashionable nor trendy, but the gaiteiros continue to play. The pipers can be seen and heard at important events on the social calendar, as at official ceremonies and gatherings. But if you are lucky, you might stumble across some gaiteiros busking on the streets of A Coruña cloaked in full attire and great enthusiasm, while you will hear their proud song reverberating loud and clear through the thick ancient walls of this magnificent city.