The Peninsula of La Magdalena covers an approximate area of 25 hectares. It is one of the topographical projections of the Bay of Santander, the largest estuary in Cantabria. Access to the Peninsula, if it is not by the sea or by the beaches overlooking the Bay, is usually gained via Reina Victoria Avenue and Juan de Borbón Street, which give direct access to entrance of the public park, located to the West of the Peninsula, at its narrowest part. Admission to the enclosure is free from 8 to 22 hours, and cars are not allowed unless they have express authorization. Several footpaths go through the place, which is very accessible, although we must be careful with cliff areas. From the Peninsula we can gain access to the beaches of La Magdalena and Bikini. Its busiest road is the one that surrounds the Peninsula, offering magnificent coastal views.
One of the biggest attractions of thePeninsulais its natural surroundings, with a spectacular sea landscape and a notable tree richness, of which the reader will find more details below.
The southern slope of the Peninsula offers a magnificent panorama of the Bay of Santander, with the terrain of the inner region as a beautiful backdrop. On this side we find two beaches of Santander: La Magdalena Beach, westwards, and Bikini Beach, so-named at the end of the 1950s for being the first place where this garment was seen on the bodies of foreign girls coming to the city as students or tourists. In front of this beach stands the island of La Torre (wrongly called “island of Los Ratones” by some locals), in which is located the Sailing School. When Queen Isabel II visited Santander in 1861, a shop was set up here. It was because of its shape that the place was named for a time “island of La Corona” (The Crown). Very near this rock is the island of La Horadada, an important enclave for the local imaginary given that legend has it that the heads of Holy Martyrs Emeterio and Celedonio went through it on board a stone boat. A few years ago a strong storm brought down the natural rock bridge naming this little island, which houses a small buoy.
Following its uneven perimeter, the Peninsula features several “points” or projections: La Punta del Puerto and La Punta del Higar, eastwards, and La Punta del Caballo and La Palomera, northwards. Almost from the beginning of the isthmus, it gains height until it reaches the peak at the site of the Palace, which is almost completely surrounded by spectacular cliffs.
To the Northeast we can contemplate one of the most important islands in the Cantabrian coast, the island of Mouro. Located a few metres from the beginning of the Bay, housing Cabo Menor Lighthouse, it is a key location for sailors and fishermen. It is also notable for the richness of its natural reserve. The northern part of the Peninsula offers a magnificent view of the cove of El Sardinero up to Cabo Mayor Lighthouse.
The Royal Stables
The Royal Stables, together with the Palace, constitute the most important buildings in the Peninsula due to their history and their close relationship with both the regal summers and the International University. Moreover, they are situated in an area of special landscape richness; what increases their charm, especially since the end of the essential rehabilitation, directed by Luis de la Fuente, in June 1994.
The Stables were built in 1918 in an unmistakable “English” style inspired by the pavilions of Osborne House, residence of Queen Victoria Eugenia in the Isle of Wight. Bringas and Riancho finished the design in 1914, but it was expanded by the latter three years later.
It was used as “Residence of the Beach” by the International University during the summers of 1933, 1934 and 1935. The company La Barraca, directed by Federico García Lorca, performed in the courtyard. A ceramic plaque, donated by sculptor Isabel Garaye and placed on the lower part of the tower, recalls this remarkable event.
Currently, the Stables are fitted out as a UIMP student residence. The building has 54 double rooms, two of them designed to be used by disabled people. The plan features two courtyards linked by a tower. It also has two entrances, one to the West giving access to a landscaped courtyard flanked by two constructive bodies serving as rooms, and another entrance to the South, through a courtyard with three rooms, two of them holding about 50 people and other one for 70, approximately. Rooms bear the names of poet Pedro Salinas, secretary of the University in 1933-1936, and the vice-chancellor of the UIMP in 1989-1995, Ernest Lluch Martín, murdered in 2000.
Next to the Stables is the Auditorium, a space that has never changed the use for which it was designed: the holding of various academic and cultural events. It was built in the 1930s by González de Riancho in a rationalist style that contrasted with the picturesqueness of the Stables.
It was restored in the 1990s by Luis de la Fuente, who modified some elements of the building, integrating it into the site of the Stables. He also endowed it with modern elements that were essential to its use. The assembly hall consists of an auditorium with a capacity of 350 people and all the technical resources for the organization of congresses.
THE ROYAL PALACE OF LA MAGDALENA
The building was built with hewn stone on the walls, stone ashlars arranged in stretcher and header bonds on the corners and the jambs of the windows, and impost lines along the façade. It gives a feeling of several independent bodies, although quite high, with an asymmetrical façade. On this façade we can see the alternation of recessing and projecting bodies and two octagonal towers facing South, of different elevation, which intensify the external irregularity. It has cornices cut by triangular gable ends. Two attic levels (the upper was added by Riancho in the 1930s) break the monotony of the slate gables of the roof, which feature a steep pitch.
The two main entrances to the Palace coincide with two of the most outstanding elements of the exterior. Access, enhanced thanks to the restoration in 1995, is usually gained through the northern façade, in the old portico for carriages. The other main entrance faces South and it connects directly, via a double-flight central staircase, with the Royal Hall on the main floor.