6th Jun 2023 @ 9:35 am

Before tourism arrived on Lanzarote, British and Irish visitors were few and far between. However, many left a lasting mark on the island.

One of those visitors was Olivia Stone, an Irish gentlewoman who arrived with her husband on Tenerife 140 years ago, with the intention of writing the first English-language travel guide to the Canaries.

The resulting book, Tenerife and its Six Satellites, would become one of the most important foreign accounts of 19th century life in the Canaries. Over three years, Stone visited all seven islands, and explored each one carefully. Arriving in Lanzarote in January 1885 she wrote “very few visitors come to Lanzarote, it and Fuerteventura being considered quite beyond the pale of civilization.”

During her stay on the island she travelled on a camel for the first time, and journeyed all over the island from top to bottom. Looking at La Graciosa and the other islands from the viewpoint where the Mirador del Río is now located, she wrote “Seldom have I seen anything more beautiful than these rugged, grey, red and brown rocks dressed in blue… set as if precious gems in a turquoise sea.”

Timanfaya impressed her in a different way, and showed that it wasn’t just César Manrique who associated the “burning mountains” with hell. “It is an awful as well as an impressive sight – infernally suggestive,” she wrote.

Stone could be blunt: “Teguise is disappointing”, she wrote, and her descriptions of islanders can be patronising. However, she describes Conejeros (Lanzarote islanders) as “civil and polite,” and “particularly smart and bright … by contrast with the Canarios (natives of Gran Canaria), who are unpardonably stupid.”

Nevertheless, her account of Lanzarote is full of curiosity and her fascinated descriptions of small details such as the head of the camel she is riding or a hoopoe that a guide shoots for her, are vivid and lively.

Although unconfirmed, this photo is widely believed to show Stone and her husband at the Charco de San Ginés in Arrecife, accompanied by local dignitaries. This was probably one of her first camel rides.

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