It was once described by British writer Laurie Lee as a “piece of Portsmouth sliced off and towed 500 miles south,” but with its fish and chips, red pillar boxes and Lord Nelson statues Gibraltar seems to be more British than modern day Britain.
With just a border separating it from Spain and a 35 minute ferry ride over to Africa, Gibraltar can be found at the most southern tip of Europe. Known for being a rather large chunk of limestone at 426m high, Gibraltar has become better known in recent years due to Channel 5’s program, Britain under the Sun as a hot spot for cruise stops.
Flights to Gibraltar are available in the UK from Manchester Airport, London Heathrow, Luton, Gatwick and Bristol. Prices can be cheap if booked in advance but a return journey can vary greatly and could go up to £200. Landing in Gibraltar may be an anxious flyer’s worst nightmare as The History Channel’s programme Most Extreme Airports ranked its airport as the fifth most extreme landing in the world. If you ask a local Gibraltarian about it you’ll be met with a proud answer about how it is the only runway in the world to intersect a road; and consequently has to close every time a plane lands or departs. Despite an intense but perfectly safe landing a flight into Gibraltar boasts breathtaking views of the rock, its surrounding Mediterranean Ocean and on a clear day, views of Africa.
With a population of 30,000 people it’s only a small place but it’s all about quality not quantity. Its people have a big voice which they express every year on the 10th of September during their National Day celebrations, a day dedicated to celebrating Gibraltar’s British heritage. It commemorates Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum back in 1967 when Gibraltarians were given the choice to pass under Spanish sovereignty or remain under British sovereignty. The locals dress up in their native flag colours of red and white as various events take place throughout the rock all day, including speeches from the Chief Minister, and an evening fireworks display in honour of their choice to remain British.
Strolling around the rock in the sunshine you can’t help but be struck by Gibraltar’s peculiar infrastructure. Its reclaimed land surrounding the rock features a strange blend of pastel washed Mediterranean houses, modern flats and British high street shops such as BHS, Oasis and Marks and Spencer. In contrast its upper rock is home to Gibraltar’s nature reserve, St Michael’s Cave’s, the Great Siege Tunnels and the Moorish Castle. As well as the Apes’ Den where 160 Barbary macaques entertain tourists. Legend has it when the apes disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British. Pubs are British themed but will also offer Spanish tapas, bakeries offer an array of Moroccan cakes and the locals often speak their own unique language called Llanito, which consists of Andalusian Spanish and British English. The mixture of Gibraltar’s Moorish, Spanish and British history is apparent everywhere you go and somehow, it works.
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