The irrigation canals are one of the distinctive features of the town of Banyoles. This is a 33-kilometre-long network of narrow canals built by the monks at the monastery of Sant Esteve from the 9th century onwards that take water from the Lake through the centre of the town to the Canaleta stream.
The network consists of six main canals that exit from the Lake and run south until they reach the river Terri. The canals are made with stone and mortar and are excavated in the travertine subsoil.
Their present-day names are: Rec de Ca n’Hort, Rec d’en Teixidor, Rec de la Figuera d’en Xo, Rec Major, Rec dels Xucladors and Rec de Guèmol. Of these, only the first five actually enter the town of Banyoles, where they branch out into side canals, forming a network with a total length of 33 kilometres.
The first canals were built in the 9th century to supply water to the monastery of Sant Esteve, drain the marshes and obtain land for farming. Today, a large part of the network is underground as a result of the town’s growth during the 20th century, but the canals are still used to irrigate certain crops. In recent decades, the Town Council of Banyoles has taken steps to restore their former visibility.
Most of the town’s factories and mills were placed along the Rec Major; they manufactured a wide variety of products, such as woollen cloth, paper, flour, animal hides and even gunpowder.
There are two routes to visit them, the route of the canals, which is a circular route that starts and ends at the Lake, and the route of the rec Major, which explores the town’s industrial past.