Looking east along the south coast
Global gathering for a blazing sundown
The sun casts a golden hue over the cliffs of the west coast
The lighthouse at Cape Saint Vincent is one of the most powerful in Europe
The sinking of the sun

The sky was a flaming red, with slivers of yellow bursting out, like fiery sparks, from the sun. We became a silhouette of humans: living, breathing contortions caught in a variety of gestures and poses. Then the shimmering orange disc sunk down into the deep, and we united, in silent appreciation of nature's mysterious magic.

Cape Saint Vincent is a sacred Iberian promontory named after a Spanish deacon who was martyred in the early part of the fourth century, and whose remains are said to have been brought ashore, after which a shrine was created in his memory. It is the former site of a string of battles fought just off shore but, in modern times, belongs to the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, conserving its own unique varieties of plant species, and rare bird life, including eagles, falcons, storks and herons.

Even in times long past, this particular headland had already acquired a special significance, simply because the setting of the sun has the effect of seeming like it is much closer than normal. The ancients thought it marked the end of the known world and the Romans referred to it as the Holy Promontory (Promontorium Sacrum).

It wasn't until the Age of Discovery, from the fifteenth century onwards, that, ironically, most explorers saw Cape St Vincent, among other places situated along the Iberian Peninsula, as a great starting point from which to push the boundaries of the known world.

Precisely positioned at the extreme most southwestern edge of Europe, it is composed of sheer and exposed cliffs that stand tall, over seventy metres high, in stern reassurance to the busy passage of ships heading to and from the Mediterranean.

The lighthouse perched right at the end, today, serves one of the world's most important shipping routes. Built on the former site of a Franciscan convent dating back to the 16th century, it is considered one of the most formidable in Europe, fitted with two 1000 watt lamps that remain visible for a distance of up to 60km in every direction.

Just before sunset is an epic experience. Crowds of people arrive, as if from nowhere. Those with a little bit of common sense reap the best rewards. Wrapped up in coats, hats, scarves and woolly jumpers, they are protected from the shivering cold wind that usually signals the day's end.

It doesn't really matter though. If the skies are even remotely clear, everyone forgets about the petty struggles of existence and takes a moment instead to appreciate the unfathomable mysteries of life. Sunsets in these parts can easily be described as world class, one of a kind affairs. It would be a crime against the self not to experience it, at least once, if you were in the neighbourhood.

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It is advisable to arrive at the lighthouse in plenty of time, so as to get the best vantage point for the sunset. That way you can have a quick browse through the postcards of Cape St Vincent beforehand at the stalls in the car park. Some of the images are absolutely breathtaking, proof in themselves that this is one of the most beautiful places to witness the sun during its magnificent decline.

Enter the lighthouse gates and take your pick of places to stand. Prepare to settle in for a lengthy period gazing intently at the horizon, with mouth slightly ajar in awe, and that peaceful feeling of living entirely in the present moment creeping through every inch of your being. You won't be alone either.... Oh, and if you are going to forget to bring something, make sure it's not your camera, as there are some potentially AMAZING photo opportunities to be had here.

Cape St Vincent is no picnic in bad weather. In fact, the cliff edges can be a precarious place indeed to venture close to in a storm, when there are strong winds and high waters.

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