Well into 2022, we missed leaving Spain, since we hadn’t done so since the summer of 2020. For those of us who live in the south of Spain, the easiest thing is to move to Gibraltar, which, although many don’t like it, belongs to to the UK.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located in the extreme south of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain with La Línea de la Concepción, Province of Cádiz. It has an area of only 6.7 km². Its landscape stands out for the Rock. It is a rocky massif at whose feet is the urban area, with about 32,000 inhabitants.
In 1704, Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar from Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession. The territory was ceded to Great Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 which became an important base for the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars and World War II as it controlled the narrow entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Strait of Gibraltar, just 14.3 km wide, separates Europe from Africa. This bottleneck remains strategically important, as half of the world’s seaborne trade passes through it. Gibraltar’s economy is largely based on tourism, online gambling, financial services and fuel supply.
Gibraltar’s sovereignty is a point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations, as Spain claims the territory. Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and shared sovereignty in a 2002 referendum. However, Gibraltar maintains close economic and cultural links with Spain, with many Gibraltarians speaking Spanish, as well as a local dialect known as Llanito.
On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom and Gibraltar left the European Union. In December 2020, the UK and Spain agreed in principle on a basis on which the UK and the EU could negotiate terms for Gibraltar to participate in aspects of the Schengen Agreement.
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Gibraltar Travel diary.
It is not the first time that we have visited Gibraltar but, this time, we were going to visit it in depth, with more time and a well-prepared trip.
We leave Granada in our private vehicle after lunch. From our destination, La Línea de la Concepción, we are separated by 287 km.
We went straight to the hotel. We chose the Ohtels Campo de Gibraltar, a 4-star hotel that cost us €59 ($64) per night.
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We left our things at the hotel and headed to Gibraltar for some dinner.
At that time, the border posts were almost closed. To enter we only showed our DNI to a Spanish policeman who was at the vehicle barrier. In the British area the same but inside the building.
We dined at a place in Casemates Square called Roy’s Fish & Chips where we ate… yes, fish & chips. It was pretty good considering it’s fried food and it wasn’t too expensive, £21.70 (€27.13 – $29.33).
After dinner we took a short walk down Main Street but since the area was half dead, we went back to the hotel to rest.
We got up early to make the most of the day and we found ourselves in “Levante weather”, that is: rain and infernal wind… shitty weather. Even so, we did not lose heart and went to the border after breakfast in a cafeteria.
But first, as the weather was so bad, we decided not to climb to the top of the rock today, so we took a short detour visiting some of the bunkers in La Línea de la Concepción.
These bunkers were built at the beginning of World War II to fortify the surroundings of the Strait of Gibraltar, considering that Gibraltar would be the main objective of Germany to gain control of the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.
From here we went for a walk to the nearby ruins of Fort Santa Bárbara.
In 1730, the engineer Jorge Próspero de Verboom was commissioned by King Felipe V to design and build a military defensive fortification line around the English enclave of Gibraltar, in anticipation of future attacks from the rock. These fortifications are known as the Contravalación Line or Line of Gibraltar.
The Fort of Santa Bárbara had capacity for 24 pieces of artillery and a very high number of men, Grenadier Corps, Cavalry Corps with up to 40 men and Artillery Corps in addition to a group of men with the function of cleaning the earthen ditches . It also had 4 barracks for the troops.
The Contravalación Line was destroyed in 1810 by the British Corps of Sappers under the pretext of preventing it from falling into the hands of Napoleonic troops and with the authorization of the Spanish government, a circumstantial ally of the United Kingdom.
On the other side of the fort is a walkway-like wooden walkway for strolling along the shoreline. Too bad about the shitty weather.
Now yes, from here we took a windy ride to the border. Crossing it was something more serious than at night. In the Spanish part we had to go through some turnstiles that automatically checked your DNI or passport, although in the British part, the same checkpoint as the night before with a policeman basically greeting you.
One of the curiosities of Gibraltar is that, shortly after crossing the border, you will find the runway of the Gibraltarian airport, which you must cross. If a plane is expected to land or take off, the accesses are closed and traffic is stopped.
From the track we have a good view of the rock and the Moorish Castle, which we will talk about later.
From the border, you can make the journey to the center by bus. The price is £1.60 or €2.40 and the money must be exact, the driver does not give change.
If you want to walk it is approximately 20 minutes to Grand Casemates Square.
We entered Casemates Square through the Grand Casemates Gates.
Grand Casemates Square is the largest main square in all of Gibraltar and takes its name from the great Casemates built by the British, a casemate and bomb-proof barracks at the north end of the square which was completed in 1817. By the way, A casemate is a very resistant construction to install artillery pieces…
Until a few decades ago it was a car park but today it is a lively place where you can find numerous bars and restaurants where you can have a good time.
From here we go to Irish Town Street, a pedestrian street parallel to Main Street that runs from Cooperage Lane in the north to John Mackintosh Square in the south.
In its beginnings it was called Calle de Santa Ana in honor of a hermitage that bore this name on the corner of Market Lane. In 1581 the Mercedarian Fathers settled in Gibraltar and built their monastery around the small chapel, although the street kept its name.
In 1720 Lord Portmore handed it over to the Royal Navy who converted it into the Naval Warehouse with apartments for victualling clerks. The original building was destroyed during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783).
Irish Town’s name dates back to the early 19th century, when Gibraltar was divided into different wards, although 95% of the ward’s population was Welsh.
But…, it’s a very normal street with nothing remarkable. Judge for yourself.
Almost at the end of Irish Town we found a building that caught our attention, the Old Police Station, the former central police station now converted into offices. It is a Victorian building built in 1864 by order of the then Governor of Gibraltar, General Sir William John Codrington K.C.B.
A little further on we come to John Mackintosh Square, the second largest main square in Gibraltar and the center of city life since the 14th century. In her they are the building of the city council and the parliament (and the office of tourism).
The square was originally the Plaza Mayor, when Gibraltar was under Spanish rule. Later it was called Gran Plaza and then Alameda. In the square were the hospital and chapel of La Santa Misericordia. In 1704, after the city was captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet, the Holy Mercy hospital and chapel were converted by the British into a prison.
After the Great Siege (1779–1783), a colonnaded Georgian guardhouse was built on the south side of the square, the High Guard. After the brigade’s move to the new fire station at Victoria Battery in 1938, it became the Rates Office. Today the guardhouse houses the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
In 1817, local merchants raised money to build a building to house the Library and an auction room, becoming the gathering place for merchants. In 1951, the building was remodeled to house the Legislative Council, which in 1969 became the House of Assembly. Since 2006, the building has housed the Parliament of Gibraltar.
The town hall building was built by Aaron Cardozo in 1815 as a family residence. Between 1833 and 1839 it was leased to the Gibraltar Garrison Club, where they set up their headquarters. In 1839 it became the House Club Hotel until 1875, when Cardozo’s nephew sold the building to the Spanish businessman Pablo Larios (yes, from the Geneva family), who spent long periods in Gibraltar.
In 1920 the Gibraltar government bought it and handed it over to the newly constituted city council, making it the seat of the city council. Council meetings were held here until 1969, when it was merged with the Government.
Behind the town hall is the British War Memorial, the monument to the British soldiers who fell in the First World War, sculpted by José Piquet Catoli and inaugurated in 1923.
It is located next to the King’s Bastion built in 1773 on the site of an Arab gate and the Platform of San Lorenzo, built in 1575. At the end of the 19th century it ceased to function as a defensive building and was converted into Gibraltar’s first power station in 1896.
In 2005 the power plant and all the additions were demolished, leaving the original building visible. Since 2008 it has been a leisure center where there is basically a huge bowling alley and little else.
We returned to Main Street, the main street of Gibraltar. It was established in the 14th century and confirmed with the construction of the African Gate (now called Southport Gates) in 1575, during the Spanish period.
Almost every building on Main Street was damaged during the Great Siege which, due to its proximity to the harbor, was easy to bomb.
Main Street is the city’s main business district. It runs north-south through the old town, which is pedestrianized and lined with buildings displaying a mix of Genoese, Portuguese, Andalusian, Moorish and British Regency styles.
After Grand Casemates Square we find the Landport Gate, the first access gate to the walled city.
We returned to Main Street to visit the most notable buildings, starting with the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned. During the Muslim occupation a mosque was located in this place. After its expulsion by the Christians from Gibraltar in 1462 it was converted into a Catholic church.
Under the reign of the Spanish Catholic Monarchs, the building was demolished and a Gothic-style temple was built in its place. This was the only church that was not looted during the capture of the city by Anglo-Dutch troops in 1704, but it did suffer severe damage during the Great Siege (1779-1783).
Reconstruction was carried out in 1810 and the opportunity was also taken to widen Main Street. The clock tower was added in 1820 and in 1931 the restoration of the cathedral was carried out and the current west façade was erected to replace the poorer one built in 1810.
A little further on we find two noteworthy buildings, one opposite the other. The first is the Gibraltar Government building and offices of the Prime Minister.
The second is called The Convent. Its name comes from a Franciscan convent built in 1531 during the reign of Carlos I of Spain. After the capture of Gibraltar by the British, the Franciscans decided to stay, although for a short time.
In 1728 it became the official residence of the governor to this day. The present building is a reconstruction of the 18th and 19th centuries in the Georgian style with Victorian elements.
Here we turned around and went in search of somewhere to eat. I vaguely remembered a pretty seedy Indian food place I visited in 2009. We found it, it’s called Kanh’s and it’s great and cheap.
(Grandma’s crockery is the best).
With renewed energy we went for a walk towards the Pillars of Hercules. We had to take the bus because you don’t see everything you have to walk, 4 km practically uphill.
Anyway, we pass through some notable points, such as St Andrew’s Church or Church of Scotland, inaugurated in 1854. Although originally built to serve as a church for the garrison of Scottish soldiers based in Gibraltar, today it serves a larger Christian Reformed and Presbyterian community of all nationalities.
We return to Main Street and head south. At the end of the street we come across the Southport Gates, one of the gates or, rather, three of the gates of the city. They are located in the Muralla de Charles V, one of Gibraltar’s 16th century fortifications. The first and second Southport Gates were built on present-day Trafalgar Road in 1552 and 1883, respectively. The third gate, Referendum Gate, is the widest of the three and was built in 1967 on Main Street, immediately west of the first two gates.
Southport Gate was originally known as the Gate of Africa and was built by the Italian engineer Giovanni Battista Calvi in 1552, under the reign of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Across Southport Gates is Trafalgar Cemetery which was used for burials between 1798 and 1814, and subsequently fell into disuse. Its former name was Southport Ditch Cemetery and although its name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, only two of those buried there died of injuries sustained during the battle. The rest of the bodies were thrown into the sea.
From here we begin to climb… to climb a lot along Europa Road passing through some points with beautiful views of the city and the Bay of Gibraltar.
After a long climb, we finally reached the entrance to the Peñón Nature Reserve. Next to it we can visit the Jew’s Gate Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Gibraltar, which was in use between 1746 and 1848.
On the other side we find a viewpoint with magnificent views of Punta Europa, the southern tip of Gibraltar. And we also found the monument (cheap plastic) Pillars of Hercules.
According to the legend of mythological origin, the Pillars of Hercules referred in ancient times to the promontories that flank the Strait of Gibraltar, being the limit of the world known by the Greeks until, according to the Greek historian Herodotus, Coleus of Samos crossed it in around the seventh century before Christ.
The Pillars of Hercules were indeed a boundary between the exterior and interior of the Mediterranean basin and, until 1492, the existence of a continent further west of this sea was unknown, which is why the Columns have been related to the phrase Latin Non terrae plus ultra (“There is no land beyond”) and with Plus ultra (“Beyond”) in the 16th century, referring to Hispanic domains beyond this point.
Their oldest name that surely alludes to them comes from the Greeks, who called them Στῆλαι Ἡρακλήϊαι or Ἡρακλέων στηλέων “Stelae of Heracles” and that the Romans later called Columnas Herculis (Columns of Hercules).
It is said that the Rock of Gibraltar was the northern column and the southern column is in dispute between Mount Hacho in Ceuta (Spain) and Mount Musa in Morocco, both on continental Africa.
Here we rest for a while admiring the beautiful views before starting the descent. Sorry about the bad weather.
Since we are very stupid, we started walking. Once down in the city, we made a brief stop in Irish Town called The Clipper to have an English beer and we went straight to the hotel to rest.
That night, for dinner, we decided to look for a nearby place in La Línea de la Concepción. We did it in a very hipster place called El Barbas, which was really good. So good that we repeated the next night.
The next day due to the bad weather forecast, we decided to take a leap to visit the city of Cádiz, but we will leave that for another post.
Last day of the trip and we got up with good weather so we decided to climb to the top of the Rock. For this we went for a walk to the Cablecar to climb to the top. It cost us £28 (€33.80 – $36.57) and included the one way trip and entrance to the Nature Reserve.
As a note, I must say that a species of macaque endemic only from here lives in the Rock, of which it is not very clear how they arrived. Well, just after leaving the cabin of the Cablecar, one of them jumped on a guy to rob him. Since he didn’t get anything, he decided to jump on me to gain momentum and pounce on my partner trying to open the zippers of the backpack looking for food… thief macaque. He kept trying until an employee ran out with a stick scaring him.
From the station the views are already beginning to be spectacular. You can see the entire Bay of Gibraltar, La Línea, Gibraltar… all surrounded by thieving macaques.
We took a walk around the area around the Cablecar station and headed towards the Gibraltar Skywalk.
But just before it is the Barbary macaque feeding station, where they feed the robber macaques, where we can see beautiful views.
A little further on is the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed observation deck opened in 2018 by Luke Skywalker from Starwars. The bad thing is that that day it was closed for maintenance and we couldn’t access it.
From here we continue to the southern end of the Rock in search of O’Hara’s Battery. To get there you have to climb a piece of hill that leaves you breathless…
But it’s worth it. On clear days you can see the mountains of Morocco perfectly. It stands on the highest peak of the rock, at 421 meters and is named after the Governor of Gibraltar between 1795 and 1802, General Charles O’Hara.
After taking in the wonderful views, we begin our descent into Saint Michael’s Cave, a network of limestone caves. The cave has functioned as a theater since the 1960s thanks to its spectacular acoustics.
During the visit the lights vary, which does not allow you to enjoy the forms of the grotto in conditions and, in the theater they put on a light show called «The Awakening». Of course, it is very comfortable resting on the chairs.
After the caves, we continue down, leaving Windsor Suspension Bridge aside, a suspension bridge that I didn’t think to cross (or see closely) due to vertigo. And a little further down, Apes Den (Monkey Den), where a bunch more robber macaques live.
We continue down (a lot) until we reach Princess Caroline’s Battery, at the northern end of the Rock, where the Military Heritage Center is located. It is an artillery battery built in 1732 and is named after the third daughter of King George II. From here we can see beautiful views facing north of Gibraltar.
A little further up a steep hill is The Great Siege Tunnels. It is a series of tunnels within the northern end of the Rock of Gibraltar. They were carved out of the solid limestone by the British during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in the late 18th century.
We retrace our steps and continue down, passing in front of the Lime Kiln, one of the two remaining lime kilns on the Rock, dating from the early 20th century and recently restored.
Next to it we find City Under Siege, an exhibition of life during the years around the Great Siege.
A little further down we find the World War II Tunnels, built in case Spain, although officially neutral, sympathized with the German National Socialist and Italian Fascist regime, decided to give way to the German troops towards Gibraltar for total control of the Mediterranean Sea (and be able to claim the territory for Spain).
It is an immense network of tunnels that housed what was equivalent to an underground city in which they could be self-sufficient for 16 months, sheltering a garrison of 16,000 soldiers.
Near the exit is the Moorish Castle. It was built at the beginning of the 12th century after the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. After the conquest of the territory by the Spanish between 1309 and 1333. After the recovery of Gibraltar by the Arabs in 1333, Abu’l Hassan had the keep rebuilt.
Here, a Spanish governor resisted for five months the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who seized Gibraltar from his own sovereign, Queen Elizabeth of Spain. The lower castle originally extended to Casemates Square, the Grand Battery area, and the Old Mole. The courtyard of the Castillo de los Moros served as a prison until 2010.
Here we end the tourist visit. We went down to the city and, since it was very late, we decided to eat at the pub where we had had our beer the day before, The Clipper, which did not close the kitchen. We ate really well and relatively cheap: £24.70 (€29.50).
Yes now. We went to the hotel to pick up our things and to the house to rest.
Once again, it was worth visiting Gibraltar. It is a place that I love and that I will surely visit again.
Here you can see a map with the sites visited on the trip:
Encuentra las mejores actividades y tours en Gibraltar con Civitatis.
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