The English Cemetery (Camariñas, Spain)

The English Cemetery (Camariñas, Spain)
The English Cemetery is located in the municipality of Camariñas in the northwest Spanish province of A Coruña.

About the cemetery

Camariñas’ coastline is in the heart of the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) on the Atlantic coast of Galicia.

This area is notorious for the numerous shipwrecks that have taken place in its waters. One of the most noteworthy events in its dark history was the wreck of the British ship "HMS The Serpent", on November 10th, 1890. Considered the biggest catastrophe that occurred in the Costa da Morte, only 3 of the 175 passengers survived, who were mostly young students from the British Navy.

The priest and the residents of Xaviña, a nearby village, came to rescue the castaways, but all they could do was host the survivors and bury the corpses they recovered there. Later, two British warships were sent there, and they closed the place where their countrymen were buried with a single stone wall. Since then the site has been known as “The English Cemetery”. There is an inscription in Spanish on the stone cross of the cemetery grounds that says:

“In memory of the captain, officers and crew of the HMS Serpent.
172 were cast away here. November 10, 1890”

The English admiralty, in order to show gratitude to the residents, presented the town of Camariñas with a barometer, the priest of Xaviña with a rifle, and the mayor with a watch. Relatives of the deceased came to visit the cemetery for years and the British warships fired a salute whenever they sailed in front of this coast. 28 crewmembers of “The Iris Hull" are also buried in the cemetery. This was another British ship shipwrecked on November 3rd, 1883, seven years and seven days before the wreck of the Serpent.

The cemetery was rebuilt in the year 1990, on the centenary of this sad event. Since then, a tribute to those who died in the waters of the Costa da Morte has been celebrated there every year.

Environment of the English Cemetery

Camariñas is a sailor municipality famous for its bobbin lace. Besides the numerous shops, the results of this handicraft can be seen in the Bobbin Lace Museum. A bobbin lace fair is celebrated in Easter. This international commercial show is chaired by Queen Sofia.

The Costa da Morte has been included in the Natura 2000 network since 2001. The coastline of Camariñas is one of the most extensive, unspoiled areas of interest on the Galician coast. It is one of the most outstanding natural spaces in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula due to its vegetation, which reaches a high level of development, is varied, and has conservation status. A Pedrosa, Reira and Trece are among its most stunning beaches.

This environment is also of particular interest for its birds, in particular the populations of marine birds. Moreover, it is the preferred nesting place for species in danger of extinction, such as the Kittiwake. It houses the unique colonies that are breeding the common Guillemot in Spain. This coastal stretch is an area of transit and a stop for hundreds of thousands of specimens of migratory and hibernating seabird species (Cory’s Shearwaters, Gannets, Cormorants, Guillemots, seagulls, Manx Shearwaters...). Therefore, Cape Vilán’s environment was declared a Natural Site of National Interest in 1933 and it is also a Zone of Special Protection for Birds.

Vilán Lighthouse

One of the highlights of the surrounding area of the English Cemetery is the Vilán Lighthouse. This impressive lighthouse is located in one of the Atlantic’s most dangerous crossings. Since the 15th century, there have been more than 800 shipwrecks and several thousands of deaths in these waters.

The wreck of British ship “The Serpent” accelerated the construction of the new Vilán lighthouse, finished off in 1896 with a budget of 840 Euros. The lighthouse tower is 25 meters high with a granite octagonal floor, which stands on a 105-metre-high crag. It was the largest in Spain when it was built and the first that worked with electric light. The lack of space around the tower meant that the house and the engine room had to be built lower down and a tunnel was dug into the granite to connect them.

The Lighthouse is home to the Analysis Centre of Wrecks and Lighthouses, a coffee shop, a showroom and a tourist information office. The lighthouse can be visited for free.

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Phone: + 34 981 737 004

Opening hours

Open all year round. No closing time.

Tourist Information Office

Paseo Maritimo – 15123 Camariñas
Phone: + 34 981 73 72 04

Open from June to September

Centre of Interpretation of Wrecks and Lighthouses

Vilán Lighthouse 15123 Camariñas
Phone: + 34 647 608 158 and +34 981 736 327

Bobbin Lace Museum

Praza de Insuela s/n – 15123 Camariñas
Phone: + 34 981 736 340