Travel Report: The Mediterranean Steps, Gibraltar.
March 2017. The definitive highlight of my trip to Gibraltar came with a hike up The Rock’s breathtaking Mediterranean Steps nature trail. I’d already done plenty of exploring across Gibraltar Nature Reserve, but from what I’d heard this steep and at times arduous hike takes things to the next level! Billed as the Gibraltar walking route “for thrill seekers”, the route was originally created back in the 18th century by the British military as a communication system for soldiers between The Rock’s various defence posts.
March 2017. The Mediterranean Steps trail starts off innocuously enough at street level with this modest staircase next to The Ornithological and Natural History societies. I began my journey on a cool, cloudy mid-afternoon with hopes of catching the sunset from the top of The Rock.
March 2017. The first ten minutes or so of The Mediterranean Steps trail is pretty easygoing through light woodland, but it isn’t too long before the going gets tough. In fact, prior to 2007 the government had declared the trail unfit for tourists. Eventually it was reopened with restored sections of steps and the introduction of rope handrails.
March 2017. As you climb higher, the views over Gibraltar Strait rapidly open up to reveal a gorgeous panoramic. Even the seagulls can’t help but stop and admire it.
March 2017. Running predominantly along the eastern side of The Rock, The Mediterranean Steps throws up a few hairy bends along the way. Sometimes there’s nothing but a sheer drop down to oblivion just inches away from the main path, so it’s important to be aware of shifting winds.
March 2017. As I made my ascent it quite abruptly began to rain! So I zipped up my jacket and ducked into this convenient cave in the side of the rock. Staring out to sea with nothing but the faint outline of a boat in the distance, I suddenly felt like a real adventurer with my own private viewpoint at the edge of the world. There are numerous caves scattered along the Mediterranean Steps trail, some of which were excavated in the 1970s. During this time a number of ancient artefacts were discovered, showing that prehistoric man had once inhabited The Rock! The area has since been given UNESCO World Heritage status.
March 2017. Thankfully the rain was little more than a passing shower and soon I was able to continue my ascent, though this time the sky was even moodier, making for some great colours. One of my favourite things about The Mediterranean Steps was that for the most part I had it all to myself. In fact, I counted just five fellow hikers on my way up to the top. There were brief pleasantries with a holidaying Canadian couple, a curt nod to two Australians in the middle of a heated NBA discussion and a friendly Welshman called Mickey who was based with the army down by the airport.
March 2017. For me the best view that afternoon was the one over Gibraltar’s Sandy Bay, a man made beach constructed in 2014. It was made using imported rock from Morocco and eighty thousand tons of sand from The Western Sahara. Today there are some very swanky accommodation options on Sandy Bay, along with one of Gibraltar’s most popular beach restaurants, Kokonut.
March 2017. Near the very top of the trail I reached Breakneck Battery and its coastal defence gun. It was here that I met Loic, a friendly, flame-haired Frenchman who I stopped to chat with for a bit.
March 2017. Together Loic and I made our way up to O’Hara’s Battery, the highest point of The Mediterranean Steps trail at one hundred and eighty meters above sea level. It was late afternoon at this point and, with the light beginning to fade, the battery’s viewing platforms had already closed. So Loic and I pushed our way through the shrubbery and hauled ourselves up over a wall to gain access to the lookout canons. Quite mischievous yes, but having come all this way I wouldn’t have missed this amazing view for anything!
The Mediterranean Steps is a challenging but hugely rewarding hike that was probably my favourite Gibraltar experience. All in all it’s roughly an 1800-metre walk and there are no entrance fees to consider. Just make sure you’ve got good footwear and bring some water!
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