A piece of Britain in the Mediterranean
Gibraltar has more history, geography, geology and culture packed into its 6.8 square kilometres than any other place on earth. Officially Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean and shares its northern border with the Province of Cádiz in Andalucia, Spain. Unofficially it is an outpost of Britishness complete with red telephone boxes, red pillar boxes, British beer, fish and chips, Marks and Spencer’s and Morrison’s Supermarket. It is only 27 kilometres from Sotogrande.
Entering the area
There is only one road into Gibraltar, via the frontier, which involves Spanish Police, British Police and Customs. Make sure you have your passport or valid EU national identity card, and all your vehicle documentation with you.
With the frontier behind you will find yourself driving across the width of the airfield runway with the 426-metre high north face of the Rock ahead. The cliff is dotted with holes; gun embrasures quarried out of the rock from the inside over a period of some 200 years. Directly ahead, above the town, is the oldest building on the peninsula, The Homage Tower, dating back to the Moorish occupation (711 AD to 1462 AD). The scars in its walls are from missiles thrown at it during succeeding sieges, first stones thrown by siege catapults, then stones emitted from the earliest cannon and later metal cannonballs and mortars.
From fortress to leisure complex
As you penetrate deeper into the town, you realise that the whole place is a fortress with massive walls and bastions creating a defence in depth that has proved formidable and daunting to all invaders since the British took the place over in 1704. King’s Bastion has recently been converted into a leisure complex, a far cry from its role during the Great Siege (1779 – 1783).
Casemates Square is the focal point of the town. Bars and restaurants surround the large pedestrian plaza where extended lunches are used as excuses to people watch. When the cruise ships are in, huge crowds follow their leaders as they are treated to a brief history of Gibraltar. From Casemates, the two main shopping streets, Main Street and Irish Town lead off from the south-west corner.
North of Casemates, outside the defensive Line Wall, on land reclaimed over the last couple of hundred years, is Marina Bay. More restaurants and bars of all nationalities vie for custom alongside the luxurious floating hotel, the Sunborn and the more firmly anchored to land, Admiral Casino.
Even more eating establishments may be found at the newer Queensway Marina on the west facing side of the peninsula just a few hundred metres north of Rosia Bay where Nelson’s body was brought ashore after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1815. Today the bay is guarded by the 100-ton gun, the largest muzzle loading gun ever built – British of course.
Inland the Alameda Gardens provide a quiet, cool place to reflect, but even here you are reminded of the military with statues of Wellington and General Eliott overlooking the flower beds.
Alongside the Alameda is the cable car station. The cable car takes you to the top of the Rock. Apart from the magnificent views, you will also be able to tour the Great Siege Tunnels, St. Michael’s Cave, the Ape’s Den, the Great Siege Exhibition and the Homage Tower.
At the southern extreme of the Rock is Europa Point. A lighthouse stands sentinel over the narrow Strait across which Jebel Musa, a mountain on the Moroccan coast, is visible. It is easy to imagine how the ancient seafarers came up with the legend of the Pillars of Hercules. Beyond this Strait lie monsters and stormy waters.
Where to eat in Gibraltar
Things to do in Gibraltar
What's on in Gibraltar
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