A rich rock

news: A rich rock

IF YOU’RE longing for a taste of England, but don’t fancy braving the British summer weather, why not take a trip to Gibraltar?

Only three square miles in size, Gibraltar, or The Rock as it is often known, is a little bit of ‘Blighty’ on the edge of the Spanish coast, a unique destination that makes for a perfect short haul holiday.

Connected to the Spanish mainland by a sandy peninsula, Gibraltar soars out of the sea at the entrance of the Mediterranean. It has been a British Territory since 1704 – the official currency is pounds sterling, you can still order afternoon tea, and the policemen wear helmets and ride bicycles.

But, despite the overriding Britishness of the Rock and its people, the atmosphere avoids being that of a theme park. Visitors can explore the island’s diverse history, which also encompasses a rich Moorish past – Morocco is only a short ferry ride away and Gibraltar boasts the best preserved Moorish Bath House in Europe. There is also a surprising amount of accessible natural history – you can walk through tunnels cut through the rock face, feed the legendary Gibraltar Apes and sail alongside the famous dolphins, Pilot Whales of the Strait, Killer Whales and even larger species such as Sperm Whales.

Gibraltar also has its own unique bird, the Barbary Partridge, and keen ‘twitchers’ rave about the spectacular bird migrations, when you can see thousands of birds from different species in a single day, including birds of prey, storks, vultures, songbirds and seabirds.

For those who prefer a less active break, Gibraltar is also a well known sun trap and claims to enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine a year, so the beaches are very popular. There are four main public beaches. Eastern Beach is the largest and most popular sunshine spot. Off the beaten track, Catalan Bay is a small beach that’s reminiscent of a Spanish fishing village, and is famous for its seafood restaurants. Sandy Bay and Western Beach are popular with locals.

Short breaks

If you are in ‘Gib’ for a short break, it is well worth taking The Official Rock Tour by taxi or by coach – the best way to visit some of Gibraltar’s most interesting sites. The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to look around at each stop.

Some of the highlights include the peaceful Botanical Gardens, the Walls of Gibraltar, which enclose the entire inner city and were first built by the Moors. Successive battles and sieges resulted in the strengthening of the walls by the Spanish and then the British, and a stroll along the walls gives you a glimpse of the historic events that shaped the City of Gibraltar.

Since 1728, the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar has been a Franciscan Friars convent. It is said that the Grey Lady, a Franciscan Nun who was caught trying to elope with her sweetheart, haunts the convent. The adjacent King’s Chapel has been the garrison church since the British took Gibraltar, and inside, beneath the colours of several British regiments, lie the remains of two British Governors.

A Changing of the Guard is carried out by Gibraltar’s own Regiment several times daily on week-days outside the Convent, and special ceremonial events are held at regular intervals throughout the year.


Another great reason to visit Gibraltar is the shopping. Gibraltar is one of the few remaining VAT-free holiday destinations in Europe, so you can enjoy the wonders of tax free shopping. In addition, Gibraltar’s Main Street is home to many British and European chain stores, such as Benetton, M&S, BHS, Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and Body Shop. Plus, late night shopping was recently introduced on Thursdays, meaning extra time for some retail therapy!

Main Street, Gibraltar’s principal shopping thoroughfare, runs almost the length of town, and most shops have windows packed with goods of all kinds and, most importantly, at attractive prices. The range, originating from all over the world, is tremendous. Items to look out for include jewellery, fine glassware, leather goods, watches, eyewear and the latest in hi-fi technology and TVs.

Gibraltar is also perfectly positioned for access to the fashionable shopping centres of the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain, or you can take a short ferry trip to Tangier to experience the magic of the Kasbah – spices, silks, leather goods and carpets await the professional haggler.


The Rock boasts numerous pubs and restaurants, packed in close together for easy staggering – many are more English feeling than your own local! For a more upmarket night out, try the glamorous Stakis Casino, and enjoy a gin and tonic as you admire the spectacular views of the sunset over the Bay of Gibraltar and Africa.

When to go

Gibraltar usually has excellent summers with high temperatures and refreshing seas. The cooler weather arrives with the rains, any time between October and Christmas.