The island of Tenerife, in the Spanish Canaries, shares a flag with Scotland. Some claim it’s accidental, and point out that the blue behind the white saltaire (the criss-cross shape) is a slightly different shade on the two flags. Others explain that the flags are the same because the two places share a patron saint: St Andrew (or San Andres, in family-friendly Tenerife).
Scottish folk celebrate their saint’s day by taking the day off work, and partying in the evening with a ceilidh, or traditional dance. In Tenerife, local children drag tin cans through the streets, to symbolize the pots and pans tied to a drunken San Andres, while he slept off the booze. Or so legend has it.
Scotland’s a favourite destination of ours, and we visit at least a couple of times a year, so I was interested to find out more about its flag-cousin, Tenerife. Two million Brits travelled there in 2016. Just exactly what is the draw behind family-friendly Tenerife?
Tenerife’s weather is pleasant all year round, with highs of 29° in August, and 26° in October. Unsurprising for an island less than 70 miles off the coast of Africa, its lowest average high, in January, is 19°. Pretty balmy, when you consider that this just happens to be the top temperature in Edinburgh, in an average July and August.
The people of Tenerife share a penchant for sweet treats with their flag-cousins in Scotland. Instead of shortbread, they eat galletas gomeras, a rich, crumbly biscuit made from butter, flour, eggs, sugar, aniseed and cinnamon. Scotland’s cranachan, a mixture of oatmeal, cream, honey, whisky and raspberries, is replaced by gofio, a mousse made with a toasted grain flour, honey and almonds.
Tenerife wouldn’t be Spanish if it didn’t have some of the best churros con chocolate to be found on the planet. Again, the islander’s love of chocolate is a shared one: we tasted some incredible cocoa products at the Cocoabean Company, which has branched in Dumfriesshire and Glasgow. In special workshops, under-18s have the chance to mould the molten chocolate themselves before gobbling it all up. I couldn’t find an alternative for Scotland’s battered Mars Bar among Tenerifian cuisine, although their frangollo sounds pretty delicious. It’s made from milk, corn flour, lemon, eggs, sugar, butter, raisins, almonds and cinnamon, and is a light dessert, which isn’t too sweet.
Teide National Park
Tenerife has a ton of natural beauty. Half of the island is protected for its biodiversity, with six different vegetation zones and many ravines and valleys. In the middle, UNESCO World Heritage site Teide National Park holds Spain’s highest mountain, the Pico del Teide volcano, where families can join a specially designed cablecar excursion. There’s also an observatory. The Canary Islands are recognised across the world for their near-perfect star-spotting conditions. The skies are even protected by law.
This is another thing Tenerife shares with Scotland. The Galloway Forest Park, in Dumfries and Galloway, is a Dark Skies park, where on a clear night over 3,000 stars twinkle overhead. But there isn’t a volcano in Scotland – not unless you count the one whose lava flow created Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, 66 million years ago. With sea water lapping at its pillars, the cave wouldn’t look out of place in Game of Thrones. A local firm runs family-friendly trips around the cave, so you can get up close to the natural spectacle.
Siam Water Park
Family-friendly Tenerife boasts the largest water park in Europe, with one of the highest water slides in the world. At the end of the 28-metre high Tower of Power, you even shoot through a giant shark-filled aquarium. Gretta from Mums Do Travel described the Thai-themed park as “brilliant fun”. It caters for all ages, with a huge Lost City play area designed specifically for very young children.
And Scotland? Well, there are a couple of heated outdoor swimming pools. The most notable are at Gourock, with views over the Clyde Estuary, and the art deco Stonehaven, which is the most northerly lido in the UK. Outdoor swimming’s less common in the north of the UK – but they do a mean line in warming cups of hot tea.
So: although it’s different in many ways, family-friendly Tenerife has many qualities in common with its flag-cousin, Scotland. We’ll be heading to the island soon, to test out the theory (and to try out some of that delicious frangallo…..)
Which do you prefer as a family holiday destination: Tenerife, or Scotland?
This is a collaborative post. All views are my own. All images in the post are from Pixabay.
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