Day 5 – Death Coast: a sea of ​​stories (23.4 km)

ROUTE AROU – CAMARIÑAS

WEDNESDAY, MAY 26

At this stage we will pass through the heart of Camiño dos Faros and the Costa da Morte, a stretch of coastline where a greater number of shipwrecks are concentrated worldwide. We will walk along this route of nature, landscapes and life, but without forgetting all the history of death that enclose this ocean and that has its most significant point in the Cemetery of the English after passing the amazing Praia de Trece. As a witness of everything, the imposing Vilan Lighthouse rises over the rocks to give light to all this road that takes us to Camariñas.


Dificultad ALTA
Difficulty MIDDLE
Dificultad ALTA
23.4 kilometers
Dificultad ALTA
8 hours
Dificultad ALTA
+-600 m slope

Its name was born here ...
a beautiful section of coastline ...
with an exuberant nature ...
and a dark past ...
Death Coast:
a sea of histories
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We are in the heart of the Costa da Morte (Death Coast), a stretch of coastline where a greater number of shipwrecks are concentrated worldwide. O Camiño dos Faros is a route of nature, landscapes and life … but also of history and death. In this stage it is when we are going to cross the coast that was the origin of this macabre name. The high volume of maritime traffic, the large number of rock ledges and the imposing winter storms have caused many tragedies on this coast between Camelle and Vilán.

According to Professor Pepe Baña: «This northwest part of the peninsula is a landing point, a mandatory place of arrival and change of tack of all ships that come or go from the north, so, a small error in the calculation, a reckless maneuver, carelessness or an unforeseen mechanical failure (engine, propeller, rudder …) that coincides with frequent storms and fog closures, produce the wreck. »

The story is the following. At the end of the 19th century, several shipwrecks of the English navy took place in a short period of time in the area between Arou and Vilán, with a large number of victims: the Wolfstrong (1870, Black, 28 dead), the Iris Hull (1883, Punta Boi, 37 dead), the Serpent (1890, Punta Boi, 172 dead), the Trinacria (1893, Baixos de Lucín, 31 Muertos) and the City of Agra (1897, Baixo Canesudo, 29 dead). Faced with so much horror, local journalists and English sailors begin to use the name “coast of death,” popularized in 1908 by writer Annette Meakin, friend of Queen Victoria. From then on, under the influence of the English and Madrid press, it was called Costa da Morte. These facts also coincide with a pressure from the British authorities for an improvement in signaling, which causes the inauguration of the Vilán Lighthouse in 1896.

What is clear is that, once the ship was shipwrecked, the pillage was general. A very normal thing taking into account the needs in those times of these people of the end of the earth. But what is not fair is that unfounded legend of rakers who put lights on the horns of cows to simulate lights and wreck the ships that sailed these coasts. It is unfounded because there is no reliable data to corroborate it and it is not fair because it tarnishes the other story, that of the brave people who, after seeing an unknown ship shipwrecked, gave everything to save as many lives as possible.

As we already told you, Arou seems to us to be a magical and very strange place, there encased among large boulders and always surrounded by an enraged sea. We like to leave the beach of Arou very early by the small wooden walk towards Lobeiras Beach. Shortly after passing the nucleus of houses of Arou, O Camiño dos Faros turns to the right to continue along a coastal path through the Enseada de Xan Ferreiro.

There, on the underwater rocks of Xan Ferreiro, due to the thick fog and a breakdown at the helm, French Nil steamed on October 10, 1927, commanded by Captain Mr. Huarsch. The damages produced in the hull were irreparable and the sea took care to tear it up little by little. All 19 crew members were safe and the rich merchants who formed their ticket were served in Camelle. It would be another ship with a long history if it wasn’t because the Nil carried a very valuable cargo: cars, machinery, fabrics, damask silks, pharmaceuticals, animals, French champagne … a floating supermarket in those years of hardship.

The section through this Xan Ferreiro Inlet ends at the viewpoint, from which we have a privileged view of all Arou from Punta Percebeira. Lobeiras Beach is located in a wild environment both by land and by sea. A small beach, several boats and some sheds that serve as shelter for the suffered fishermen. On the right, we see Insua and in front, offshore, A Negra. Rocks and entrees that have witnessed many shipwrecks on this coast of Arou.

Like when on a November morning in 1870, Arou’s neighbors rose in shock: there was a shattered ship on Lobeiras Beach. When they got there, what they saw was terrible: the bodies lay in the sand and there were no signs of life anywhere. 28 crew members killed in the Wolfstrong and there is very little information about this shipwreck that did nothing but increase the mystery of this Death Coast.

Years later, in 1897, the City of Agra, which had left Liverpool for Calcutta, was wrecked very close to Lobeiras. It was a modern ship, captained by William Frame, with 71 crew on board (English and Indian) and two passengers, one of them Mr. Albert Jamrach, an important contractor of wild animals that went to India in search of some specimens to be brought to London. 35 miles from A Coruña they lost their way and, in the middle of the storm, at midnight on February 3, 1897, they went to shipwreck in the Baixos Canesudos near Lobeiras.

The crash was terrible and the ship broke in two. Panic seized the crew, making rescue difficult. Some grabbed one of the sticks that collapsed over the rest. The two passengers, a waitress and several officers embarked on one of the boats but it was impossible, big waves destroyed the boat and each one had to be saved as he could. With the help of the people of Camelle and Arou, who did not hesitate to risk their lives, 32 people were saved, who were full of attention and, later, taken to Coruña. But the tragedy had already been consummated: 29 lives that had found their end on this coast that doesn’t forgive mistakes. In gratitude for the courage shown, the English Crown awarded various awards and medals ‘for gallantry and humanity’ to those who participated in the rescue. The ship’s bell was given to the Church of the Holy Spirit of Camelle.

From Lobeiras we will start estepath to the Porto de Santa Mariña in another unique section of this Camiño dos Faros. Large rock formations that enter the sea, thousands of stones that are grouped together forming unique corners and spectacular small coves. A sea of rocks that we find at each step, each with its name: O Pelouro, Os Boliños, Os Portiños, Pedra do Sal … There are two kilometers, somewhat complicated by rocks and gorges, but worth enjoying with careful and in no hurry to finish it. Stand up and enjoy it …

O Camiño dos Faros arrives at Porto de Santa Mariña, where we make a grouping stop while thinking about how hard this work is at sea and, above all, in this sea. Despite this hardness, the economy of families must be based on something and in this area of the Costa da Morte, completely isolated for centuries from the rest of the world, fishing has in many cases been the only possible way of life. As a complement, it was customary after great storms, to cross the coast collecting what the sea had deposited.

The Dune of Monte Branco, with its 150 meters high, is one of the highest rampant dunes in Europe. The strong wind was raising the sand across the mountain until it even surpassed it, creating a unique environment. We are at the most environmentally sensitive point of all O Camiño dos Faros and we cross the side of the dune through Punta de Veo, a path that Santa Mariña fishermen have always used to go to Trece Beach.

Anyway, we have to be very careful. It is obligatory to go in line one by one, without going out of that path of sand and without stepping on the vegetal tapestries that have taken years to form. Along the way we find several bushes of caramiñas (corema album), which gives its name to Camariñas. In ancient times present throughout the Galician coast. Today is in danger of extinction. It is a plant that adapts perfectly to these extreme conditions giving, at the end of the summer, a white fruit that looks like a pearl.

Upon arriving at Punta de Veo we are in the equator of Camiño dos Faros. The panoramic view of Trece Beach and Punta Boi with the Cemetery of the English, will be forever recorded in the retina. A completely pristine landscape, far from the worldly noise and with the sound of the sea banging incessantly in this Sea of Trece. As the wind will work in these places to climb the sand of the beach and, helped by the fixation offered by these rocks, create a dune of such large dimensions.

Arriving at Trece Beach one winter day, with sun and sea working hard, is one of the best experiences that this Costa da Morte can offer you. Of great beauty, the continuous scourge of the Atlantic gives it a desert appearance, with a large dune cord and protected flora species. You have to be attentive to the signs and do not get out of the way. We cross the entire beach that is formed of small coves divided by rock resting places that enter the sea. A combination of sea, wind, sand and rocks that creates beautiful corners everywhere to stand and photograph. The Trece Beach, a space of wild coastline that must be enjoyed and preserved.

Here, to the left of Praia do Trece, in Cabo Tosto, in the restinga known as Punta Boi, three shipwrecks took place at the end of the 19th century that marked forever the history and name of the Costa da Morte: the Iris Hull ( 1883), the Serpent (1890) and the Trinacria (1893).

The Iris Hull was a 1433-ton English steamship that had left Cardiff for India via Gibraltar, manned by 38 men. At four o’clock in the morning on November 5, 1883, in the middle of a strong northwest storm, he collides with the so-called Baixos de Antón, in Punta Boi, destroying the ship. The struggle between life and death had only just begun, prolonging throughout an agonizing day. Critics of the press of the time did not stop at the situation of isolation suffered by the region. The bodies were buried in the vicinity of Punta Boi, a murderous point where seven years later there would be a wreck that had more impact at the time.

The Serpent ship was a ship of the Rotal Navy, with a length of 75 meters and an endowment of 175 men, had sailed from the port of Plymouth on November 8, 1890 with a strong storm of the SW, captained by the experienced Harry L. Ross. He was accompanied by the Lapwing gunboat and headed to Sierra Leone via Madeira. At 11 p.m. on November 10, the Serpent leaves against the rocks of Punta Boi. Embedded between the rocks, he manages to stay on the surface for a little over an hour, throwing several ropes that broke against the rocks. They try to lower the boats but the waves crash them against the rocks. All attempts to leave the ship are unsuccessful and the panic scenes reoccur in the middle of the night.

The hard sea took forever the crew of the Serpent. Only three could miraculously save their lives, being spit by the sea towards the Trece Beach. Two of them wandered up the hill until, the next morning, they were found by a farmer in Pescadoira. In the following days, the sea deposited the lifeless bodies of the other 172 Serpent crew members, most of them very young. The residents of Xaviña and Camariñas helped to bury them by consecrating the place where those of the Irish Hull were already buried with a small cemetery, today called English Cemetery.

It was the morning of February 6 to 7, 1893 and the storm was getting worse on the coast of Vilán. The English ship Trinacria had left Glasgow for Gibraltar, Genoa and Livorno, with a cargo of iron, brick, coal and wax. There were 33 crew members and 4 passengers, including a 15-year-old girl. When they were about to change course in Vilán, their captain Mr. Muny should not have realized that they were dangerously approaching land. At six in the morning on the 7th, it crashed against the underwater rocks of Lucín. The panic scenes happen again in this Costa da Morte and another ship is a victim of this Punta Boi that does not forgive. To seven of its crew, it is not known how, the Sea of Trece miraculously returned to the beach, watching impassive at dawn as nothing remained of the Trinacria.

Gradually, the sea was spitting corpses, which were buried nearby. After a few days, a huge mass of woods, ropes, wax, clothes and corpses appeared among the rocks. Despite the efforts to try to identify them, it was impossible and there was no choice but to spray everything with gasoline and burn it. Since that day, this place very close to Punta Boi is known as “A furna dos difuntos queimados”

This accident was already the last straw. Three years had passed since the Serpent and several catastrophes had occurred in a short period of time at the same point. The English sailors already called this maritime zone The Death Coast and the English authorities pressured the Spanish. Faro Vilán was inaugurated in 1896, being the first electric lighthouse that guided sailors in this very complicated Costa da Morte.

Beaches of Reira is the area between Punta Boi and Monte A Pedrosa, which consists of four beaches: Reira, Longa Area, Balea and Pedrosa. They are beaches of fine sand, windy and strong waves, with the special charm of a practically virgin environment.

As soon as we went down we found the Lover’s Stone. It is difficult to escape the temptation to photograph it with Cabo Vilán in the background. We cross the Praia de Reira to reach Punta Forcados, where the Bear Stone is located. We continue along the Longa Area Beach that we can walk along the path or, depending on how the day and the tide are, we take off our shoes to feel the sea and the cold waters. The combination of waves and wind is also used by knowledgeable people in the area for windsurfing or kitesurfing. Although here the sea is always dangerous and we must never forget it.

Finally we are facing the majestic figure of Vilan Lighthouse, which enters the sea on a rocky promontory of 100 meters high in which, without doubt, is a key point of this Camiño dos Faros. The setting is awesome. In front of him, the rock of Vilán de Fora, separated from the earth by the O Bufardo pass, where the sea fills it all with white foam. The wind, present almost every day, sculpts the surrounding rocks forming figures of the most varied forms. It is the perfect habitat of seabirds, some in serious danger of extinction such as the tridactyl seagull or the common arao, which has the last pairs in these boulders. In addition to them, cormorants, mascatos, shearwaters, charrans or acids find their home in Vilan Lighthouse.

In Cabo Vilán there was a steam lighthouse operating since 1854, the Old Lighthouse, located in an octagonal tower on a small elevation, from which its remains can be seen today. This lighthouse, being not located in the highest part, was not able to save the cape’s rock and left areas blind. We tried to solve some areas flying with dynamite but it was impossible. In 1885 the construction of a lighthouse of the first order was approved and, the disasters of the Serpent in 1890 and the Tinacria in 1893 forced to accelerate its operation. On January 15, 1896, six years after the Serpent tragedy, the first electric lighthouse in Spain is inaugurated, assuming a notable improvement for navigation.

The building that served as housing for the lighthouse keepers and their families is separated from the tower by a closed tunnel of stairs. Today we can visit the museum, where we will see old optics and other elements of the history of the lighthouse, a shipwreck interpretation center, the exhibition hall and the cafeteria.

We leave for Camariñas visiting the old lighthouse and then down a path of gorse and border the perimeter of the fish farm on the sea side. There, at sea level of Punta Esperillo, we can contemplate from another perspective the true dimensions of the Vilán Lighthouse. From the fish farm begins a coastal path of 7 kilometers that will take us to the port of Camariñas in 2 hours. During the comfortable journey we can enjoy privileged views of the entire estuary.

The Hermitage of Virxe do Monte was built in the 18th century on the top of Monte Farelo, on the ruins of a previous one. Simple and with only one ship, it stands out for the buttresses it has on the north side. From this lonely and beautiful place of Monte Farelo we are not only facing another spectacular view of the Costa da Morte, but also that we see the next stages of this Camiño dos Faros. To the left we can contemplate the entire estuary of Camariñas to Punta da Barca, which from here we see perfectly its silhouette of the bride of the wind. Behind, the mountains Cachelmo and Punta Buitra, which we will also cross.

We continue along the coast that takes us along the Lago Beach and Portocelo on the way to Camariñas. Already in medieval times, Norman pirates were usually visitors to our estuaries. During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries this area of the Costa da Morte was subject to continuous naval incursions of pirates and privateers, so the authorities devised a plan, fortifying the entire coast with castles. The Soberano Castle is built in 1740, during the reign of Carlos III, forming a curved battery that defended the entire entrance of the estuary. All this defended by a walled enclosure with a bulwark, two bastions and a moat in the middle. Inside, a warehouse that also served as housing and powder store. This battery was complemented by the one built in Muxía in 1801, making any incursion into the estuary very difficult.

In the end, from the viewpoint, we already contemplate the entire Port of Camariñas, one of the most important on the Costa da Morte and the main axis on which the whole life of the town revolves.

In all this municipality is “palilla”. If there is a typical print of Camariñas they are the group of “palilleiras” that, with much patience, are weaving those beautiful lace of bobbins that are exported to all the places of the world. The main feature of the Camariñas bobbin lace is that it is done by hand interlacing threads on a pillow following a previously made drawing on cardboard.

At Curbeiro Square we finish this stage of Camiño dos Faros that left Arou and has been a cluster of sensations.

Route Planning

Km StagePointHeight (m)Km Total
0,0Arou Beach859,6
0,5Arou water source1360,1
0,9Xan Ferreiro Inlet960,5
1,6Lobeiras Viepoint2961,2
1,8Lobeiras Beach661,4
3,8Port of Santa Mariña763,4
5,3Veo Point3064,9
5,8Trece Beach765,4
8,0English Cementery1067,6
8,2Boi Point967,8
8,5Lucin Inlet1068,1
10,8Reira Beach670,4
11,0Bear Stone1170,6
11,2Area Longa Beach1470,8
11,5Balea Beach1071,1
11,8Pedrosa Beach2171,4
12,5Mount of Pedrosa7172,1
14,9Vilan Lighthouse6874,5
15,6Esperillo Point1275,2
16,4Bieita water source676,0
17,5A Coenda1477,1
19,0Mount Farelo6178,6
19,0Hermitage of Mount Virgin6178,6
19,8Lago Beach679,4
20,9Castle of Soberano2280,5
22,0Port of Camariñas481,6
22,7Curbeiro Square482,3