The Very British Side to Tenerife’s History

Whilst you won’t have to go far in Tenerife’s resorts to find a fellow Brit, modern-day Tenerife could have been even more English if it hadn’t been for a fateful event on the 25th July 1797, 215 years ago.


This was the day on which Admiral Nelson and his troops attacked the harbour of Santa Cruz, Tenerife’s capital, in an attempt to capture the island from Spanish authority. In the midst of the battle Nelson was hit with shrapnel in his right elbow, forcing him off the battlefield for an emergency amputation, and then to accept his first and only defeat.

However, the people of Tenerife were so kind in their treatment of the surrendered British troops that Admiral Nelson sent the victorious General Gűtiérrez a gift of English ale and cheese as a symbol of thanks. In return, the General sent Admiral Nelson a barrel of fine wine, and the convivial relationship between the two countries has thrived ever since.

Sunset in Tenerife / Atardecer en Tenerife

Two Sides to Tenerife

After all, you only have to visit Tenerife to witness the throngs of British visitors soaking up the hot Canary Island sun, enjoying a taste of home in one of the many English-themed bars or taking day trips to discover more of this beautiful island, whose landscape could have been much different had Admiral Nelson been successful on that momentous day.

Tenerife’s unique qualities have also tempted many Brits to move to Tenerife altogether – though the cheap property prices and low cost of living are also an important factor too.

Nevertheless although many Brits have made Tenerife their permanent home, the island is still Spanish through and through, with many regions and fishing villages outside the main resorts that are blissfully untouched by the large hoteliers and all-night party venues.

abstract building with concrete wave

Celebrate a Colourful Past

All of this is not to say that Tenerife’s locals don’t commemorate the day on which their country was spared by Admiral Nelson, as July 25th is now known as the day of the ‘Victory Over the English’. This July be sure to visit Santa Cruz to celebrate with the locals, and perhaps even visit the Regional Military Museum to find out more about this extraordinary battle.

It’s here that you discover the real story of what happened on the field that day, as well as see real artefacts from the battle including captured British flags, weapons and even a cannon known as El Tigre - which is reputed to have been the one that fired the ball, that cost Nelson his right arm.

There are also a number of paintings and documents concerning the day of victory that will keep history lovers intrigued for hours, plus an enormous full-scale model of Santa Cruz as it appeared in 1797 and depicting the attack on the city by Nelson’s men.