The historical richness of the Island of San Simón
The Island or Illa of San Simón is part of the San Simón archipelago, which also includes the Island or Illa of San Antón. Generally, we refer to it as the ‘island’ and not as the ‘archipelago’ of San Simón because San Antón only occupies one of the five hectares that make up the archipelago.
Despite its small size, San Simón will surprise you with its rich history. On one of our school visits to San Simón, the children find out about the history of the archipelago through specialist guides. These professionals select and adapt their anecdotes and information to the age of the visitors.
Looking back through San Simón’s history from the time when the island was first inhabited in the 12th century, the schoolchildren revisit periods of time and episodes such as the Middle Ages, the discovery of America, the Spanish Civil War and the post-war era.
These are some of the historical curiosities on the San Simón archipelago:
- During the Middle Ages, San Simón was inhabited by various religious communities. On one of the school visits to the Island of San Simón, the boys and girls can see the ruins of two convents that were active there. Also during this time, San Simón inspired one of the most popular cantigas de amigo (literally, ‘friend song’) of Galician-Portuguese lyrics written by the troubadour Mendinho: Sedia-m’ eu na ermida de San Simón / e cercaron-mi-as ondas que grandes son (I was sitting at the shrine of San Simón / and the waves surrounded me, how high they were).
- In the Early Modern Period, San Simón was attacked by pirates and witnessed violent battles. In the 16th century and during a campaign against the Spanish Crown (King Phillip II), the English corsair Francis Drake attacked various points along the Galician coast, including San Simón. Later, in 1702, the archipelago was affected by the Battle of Rande, in which an Anglo-Dutch fleet attacked Spanish and French ships in the inlet of San Simón. The Anglo-Dutch naval forces were pursuing Spanish galleons which had recently returned from America and were loaded with treasure. To avoid capture, the Spanish sank the ships, thereby fuelling the legend that the bottom of the Vigo estuary was full of gold. The constant attacks and incursions forced the religious communities to abandon the island.
- In the 19th century, at the height of foreign trade with America, Africa and Asia, the maritime isolation hospital of San Simón was inaugurated to take in crews suffering from infectious diseases in order to avoid infecting the population. During this time, the ships had to stop at the island to carry out health inspections, which in turn resulted in an increase of activity at the Port of Vigo.
- The hospital closed in 1927, and during the Civil War San Simón became a penal colony for prisoners from the surrounding areas and from other parts of Spain. Later, during the 1950s, the Méndez Núñez Home was created there to provide shelter and training for the orphaned children of sailors.
Today, the island of San Simón is a public space that accommodates different cultural activities and from where you can take in some exceptional views of the Vigo estuary. At Mar de Ons, we believe that both because of its notable historic character and because of its great environmental value, a school visit to San Simón is certain to be a success.
Environmental education in San Simón
Apart from having been declared a Ben de Interesse Cultural (a Cultural Interest Asset) in 1999, San Simón is part of the Natura 2000 Network, a European plan for conservation and biodiversity. And this archipelago is also a fantastic setting for addressing different concepts of environmental education with the children.
At the San Simón inlet, fresh and saline waters converge at the mouths of the Verdugo and Maceira rivers. As a result, the archipelago is a unique ecosystem with areas of marshlands, colonies of waterfowl and shellfish. The best photographs of this rich landscape can be taken from the beach of Cesantes in the locality of Redondela, which is very close to San Simón.
The vegetation at this location is just as diverse. The arrival of foreign ships on the islands introduced exotic species from overseas and the periods of abandonment experienced by the archipelago favoured the growth of the invasive species. Today, palms from the Canary Islands, chestnuts from the Indies, oaks, acacias, eucalyptus, Atlas cedars and Japanese camellias all coexist on San Simón. One of the most beautiful points is the Paseo dos Buxos, a path that passes by the shelter of several millennial trees that create an arch.
Organise your school visit to San Simón with Mar de Ons
To enjoy the Paseo dos Buxos and other notable corners of the archipelago, contact us and organise a school visit to the Island of San Simón. The Sales Department at Mar de Ons can provide you with all the information you require about our educational trips to San Simón: dates available, departure ports, trip duration… If possible, we will finish the school visit to San Simón with a short stop at the Museo de Meirande, an interpretation centre where the boys and girls can discover more curiosities about the Battle of Rande.
Call us on (+34) 986 22 52 72 to obtain further information about our trips and to organise a school visit to San Simón in maximum safety and respecting groups or bubbles. We look forward to seeing you!