A Postcard from Cape Trafalgar



There’s a 34m tall lighthouse on a rocky headland just a few towns east of my rented apartment on Spain’s Costa de la Luz. At night I liked to sit on the balcony with a glass of wine and watch its spectral eye flash a warning through the inky darkness.

The cape has a long sandy beach that’s a favourite of hippies and windsurfers based in the nearby town of Los Caños de Meca. But this unassuming place has a much larger claim to fame than waves. It was once the site of the greatest naval battle in British history.

The bloody events played out on October 21st, 1805. The Battle of Trafalgar pitted the British fleet — led by Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson — against Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish armada.

By the time the smoke cleared and the bodies were drifting away, the Franco-Spanish fleet had lost 22 ships. The British lost none. But they did lose Nelson, who was hit by a musket ball and died several hours later from his wounds. His body was put into a barrel of brandy to preserve it for the journey back to England.

(Presumably) the brandy was never sold.

Photo © Tomoko Goto 2013.

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


  • So ,stumbled on your blog when searching on ‘Cabo Trafalgar’. Currently staying with my wife of a year and a bit and my six year old Hungarian Puli in a small motor home at Zahora alongside Trafalgar after a 3 month drive down through France, Spain and Portugal. Today I ‘tight rope walked’, bare foot, up the wooden handrail from the beach to the Cabo and down the other side — and only fell off once. I felt extra-ordinarily pleased with myself (not least because I didn’t break anything)! And other than me and Tushka (the aforementioned Puli), we shared the beaches as far as the eye could see with only three people. Tomorrow we’re moving into a local rented country house, probably at least through to my 65 birthday on 17 March – St Patrick’s Day 2014. So if you’re hanging around this exhilarating area for awhile and fancy sharing a drink/meal let me know . . . .

    • Hey Chris,

      Sounds like an outstanding trip 🙂 I love that area. We were there for a couple weeks in September, rented an apartment in Conil. I’d love to go back again next summer. We actually went to escape the overcrowded beaches of Malta, and even in September there was hardly anyone around. Thanks very much for the drink invite, but I’m actually in Berlin at the moment. Just landed a few hours ago. Be sure to raise a glass of Rioja for me! And check out the tuna sashimi at El Campero in Barbate. Sit at the bar area (rather than restaurant), it’s a different menu and much better prices. Best tuna sashimi I’ve eaten – and I lived in Tokyo!


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