An inspiration down through the ages to poets and painters alike, the image of the lighthouse and of the men and women who tend the beacons remains as romantic as ever. But many of the buildings themselves, set atop vertiginous cliffs, on lonely crags and remote beaches, no longer serve to guide ships in the night to safe haven through the storms. Instead, they have been transformed into offbeat and unusual guest houses where you can spend your nights watching over the ever-changing sea.
On the Spanish Costa da Morte - the 'coast of death' - the country's most treacherous coast, for centuries, the lighthouses and their keepers have acted almost as spiritual intermediaries between the sailors and the sea. The Roman lighthouse, the Torre de Hercules - Tower of Hercules - is the oldest in the world and stands witness to the area's history, as do the lighthouses of Muxa, Laxe and Roncudo.
The tiny hotel O Semaforo, alongside the Finisterre lighthouse, offers guests the chance to spend a night on this untamed coast, with unmatched views out over the Atlantic, and a background sound of the great waves breaking. After watching the sun set here, on the edge of the world, you will probably understand the Spanish poet Luis Cernuda, who summed up the feeling in his poem The Lighthouse-keeper's Soliloquy, as "in the night, a diamond that turns, warning men".
Further north, you can stay at the Semaforo de Bares, (tel. +34 981 417 147) an old Spanish naval base set 210 metres above sea level. The view from this corner of the Estaca de Bares peninsula is a perfect vantage point.
Once you're in the area, and on the lighthouse trail, don't miss the Faro de Punta de Caballo restaurant (tel. +34 661 12 29 87), located in the old outbuildings of this lighthouse on the north of the Illa de Arousa. It not only offers a wide panorama of the estuary, with the island of Salvora in the background, but also specialises in local produce and the catch of local fishermen, who can often be seen returning from their labours.
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