An island in the middle of the estuary
Tambo is the name of the island situated in the middle of the Pontevedra estuary, halfway between Punta Chanceles (Poio) and the port of Marín. It was practically inaccessible to the public until recent years because it was state-owned property and came directly under the command of the Marín Military Naval School between 1942 and 2002. During this time, it was used to house a detachment that guarded an ammunition depot, as well as for training and exercise. It was eventually decommissioned from military use in 2002.
With a distinctive oval form and an almost pyramid shaped profile, it occupies barely 28 hectares. It has a maximum altitude of 80 metres above sea level at its peak, which goes by the name of San Fagundo. In the south, there is a small peninsula on which the Tenlo Chico lighthouse is situated. Its tower is 18 metres high, and it is built on a base 17 metres above sea level.
How to arrive
A history of its own
Despite its small size, Tambo has a long history and there is evidence of human activity on it dating back to prehistoric times. This includes the Area da Illa Bronze Age sites and an Iron Age fortified settlement, located on the highest point of the island.
The period of greatest interest, however, is the Middle Ages. In the 7th century, St Fructuosus founded a small monastery on Tambo which later became a priory dependent on the Benedictines of San Xoán de Poio after it was ceded to this monastery by queen Urraca in 1116. This situation persisted until 1835, the year of its disentailment.
In 1589, the pirate Drake entered the Pontevedra estuary and destroyed the monastery, throwing the image of its patron saint Santa María de Graza into the water. According to legend, it was later rescued by Combarro fishermen and taken to a place called Renda, where a shrine was built and where the saint continues to be venerated.
There is evidence of numerous chapels that have been built over its history. In the 18th century, the current shrine of San Miguel, a place of great devotion among sailors, was built on the remains of the former monastery. In the following century, the expansion of the port of Marín and particularly the growth in transatlantic transport, led to the construction of a lazaretto, in use from 1866 to 1879, where the crew and passengers who may have carried contagious diseases were quarantined. A short time later most of the island was purchased by Montero Ríos, a politician from Santiago, and remained under the ownership of his heirs until 1940 when they transferred it to the state.
A rich heritage
Today, intriguing remnants of Tambo’s past can be found on the island, such as the ruins of the lazaretto and the Church of San Miguel with its fountain. There are also numerous abandoned buildings from the time when Tambo served as a military base, including the barracks, the official’s house, the old ammunitions depot and several piers.
However, the island’s advantageous position in the estuary makes it an important wildlife reserve, especially for observing marine birds such as cormorants, grey herons, kingfishers, razorbills, mallards and seagulls.