Gibraltar - a 7km2 British-owned triangle of land on the southern tip of Spain - is a relic of the times of massive naval battles, captured to protect the mouth of the Mediterranean. Nowadays, ‘the rock’ is an intriguing blend of English and Spanish culture, with balmy weather and towering views to Morocco.
Most visitors come to climb the peak, which is startlingly tall, jutting and angular. Rock apes clamber amongst tourists near the top; legend has it if Europe’s only primates ever leave, the British will follow. Explore the huge stalactites and stalagmites of the gently lit St Michael’s cave, or stand amongst the huge turrets overlooking the sea and soak up some sun. On the southernmost point, a red and white stripped lighthouse guards the rocks amongst lush green gardens, while nearby a fading mosque marks the remnants of centuries of ancient Muslim rule.
Back in town, palm fringed streets form an odd mix with old English pubs, hard-hat policeman and red telephone boxes. The narrow streets provide a challenge for all but the most experienced drivers, while you can explore the tiny, blue-tiled chapels and admire the leftovers of the antiquated conflicts. Canons litter the streets, while the Gibraltar Museum and the ‘City Under Siege’ Exhibition tell of a lengthy military history.
If you need a break from an already quiet town, head for the botanical gardens, or the appealing Catalan Bay area that sits under the steeper side of the rock. With a good-looking stretch of pebbly beach and a petite catholic chapel, Catalan Bay’s the ideal place for a quiet rest stop in amongst the local fishing community.
Windsurfing, fishing, whale watching and deep-sea diving offer other holiday attractions, while the beaches of southern Spain are only a short hop away.
As a route into North Africa, or an interesting cultural aside on your Andalucian journey, Gibraltar is an attractive destination, and many find the rock and surrounding town’s mellow vibe a worthwhile trip in their own right. History buffs, and those hunting for a little big of England in the sun will love it here.