The Rock of Gibraltar

When I booked my latest P&O cruise, the British colony of Gibraltar was one of the destinations I was really interested to see.

A little piece of Britain with a Mediterranean climate sounds very appealing – temperatures average 27 degrees in July and August. Our cruise ship, Ventura, pulled in through the Gibraltar Strait, a stretch of water that is just nine miles wide and divides the continents of Europe and Africa. Gibraltar is found at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Med.  It’s very compact at just 2.6 square miles, dominated by the rugged Jurassic limestone rock. Although small, the city area at the foot of the rock has a population of around 30,000 Gibraltans.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

As the ship arrives in port, it’s strange to look out of our cabin balcony to see a Morrisons, familiar street signs, red pillar boxes and very British pubs. As a cruise destination it’s easy to find your way around; ships can dock directly in the port so there is no need to waste time on a tender. Disembarking early, as we had to be back on-board around 2pm, our big priority was to walk to the cable car to take a lift up to the top of the rock before the queues got too long. It was a 35 minute fast-paced walk from the port but we were rewarded with just a short wait before taking the ride to the top. The cable car is located at the southern end of the Main Street shopping area and we paid £12 for an adult return journey, child tickets are £5.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

The famous Barbary apes live on the Upper Rock and legend says that if the apes ever leave, Gibraltar will cease to be British. Fortunately there were out in force to greet tourists with inquisitive stares and well timed swipes at passing handbags in the hope of food.  The apes are apparently monkeys rather than apes, they are a tail-less species called Barbary Macques that live wild in Algeria and Morocco, the ones which inhabit the rock are the only free living monkeys in all of Europe.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

It’s an offence to feed the monkeys and the penalties are heavy so it’s important to watch them from a distance. They are fed twice a day by Government appointed keepers.

The rock stands 426-metre-high (1,398 ft) and the views from the top are stunning. In Gibraltar you can admire a view that takes in three countries (Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco) and two continents (Europe and Africa) all surrounded by the sparkling Mediterranean sea.  If you just want to see the rock, admire the view and have a walk around to look at the monkeys, there is no need to do an organised tour, you can see all of this easily on your own.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

We were hassled by tour sales people outside the cable car station who claimed there was an hour’s wait for the cable and that we should book their taxi tour instead. We ignored this and found there to be almost no queue at all when we arrived around 9.30am so it’s worth popping in first to check on the genuine waiting time. The rock has around seven million tourist visits a year, many of which are on a cruise timetable with just a few hours to see the sights.

Throughout the rock there are a series of World War II tunnels that were excavated between 1939 and 1944, these add to the The Great Siege Tunnels excavated during The Great Siege of 1779-83; the network is around 32 miles long and was opened to the public for tours in 2005. We didn’t have time for a tunnel tour but heard that it’s fascinating so possibly one to do on a return trip.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

Coming down from the rock we took a walk through Main Street where you’ll find all the British chains such as Marks and Spencer, Bhs and Top Shop, sitting alongside souvenir and craft shops. Gibraltar is a VAT free jurisdiction and the currency, the Gibraltar Pound, is equivalent to Sterling so there are no conversions to worry about.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

There is a lovely square for coffee or lunch at Grand Casemates Square where you can sit and watch the world go by. After a quick rest it was time to get back to the ship for the sail away towards our next port of Monte Carlo. As the cruise ship left Gibraltar we had a great view of Europa Point, the southernmost point of Gibraltar where you can see the 1838 lighthouse and the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque.

Gibraltar - Sara Hardman Travels

 

 

  • Next stop: Monte Carlo – post coming soon.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “The Rock of Gibraltar

  1. They are too cute! I hear that they are actually vicious though? The view at the top is gorgeous, glad you’re having lovely weather too. I think a sunny England sounds amazing, I should try it!!

    1. Yes apparently they can be a bit aggressive if you get too close but luckily the ones we saw looked very placid. It’s a really nice place to visit, small enough that you can just walk around all the sights, I’d recommend it. Apologies for deleting your initial message, I tried to approve and marked as spam accidentally and then couldn’t get it back!

  2. Man they are huge! The motorbike guy is awesome 🙂
    I have been to the Rock many years ago but it looks even better than I remember. I was only a kid but remember being scared of those monkeys!

    1. We were really pleasantly surprised, a few people said there’s not enough to do. It is very small but you can easily fill a day or two. I would like to go back if the port comes up on another cruise, I think the tunnels would be really interesting. The motorbike man was pretty impressive, especially in that heat!

  3. A wonderful post, most enjoyable reading, Sara. Love the view from the top and the lighthouse. Where did you start your cruise? I’m constantly on the lookout for a 3 week cruise from England to the north, preferably Norway/Iceland/Greenland or something like that, it’s hard to find. Most vessels seem to circumnavigate the british isles or go further south, like you at the moment.
    Wishing you a lovely passage to Monte Carlo! Have fun.
    Xx

    1. Thank you, it’s our honeymoon cruise that we took from Southampton for 14 nights around the Med with P&O. I would love to do a trip to Iceland and the northern lights, we might look at this for next time. I think there are some nice ones going north Jan-April 2016 that we may consider as something to look forward to xx

      1. Sounds great Sara. We are looking for something with a final destination Disco Bay, Greenland, so we have to find someting during summertime. Please give us a shout if you bump into something. Best wishes, Dina

  4. Great post! Embarrassingly enough I had no idea this was British and that they used the pound! It’s also hard to imagine its just a couple of miles big. This is really interesting, I’m in Spain in September so I may see if I can get over there for a weekend. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you, I’m glad it’s useful. It’s really amazing to be between the two continents and to be able to see Morocco. Let me know if you do visit and what you think of it. Enjoy Spain.

  5. I would love to do a cruise, I really like the idea of stopping off at lots of places like this in one trip. The boat looks enormous, you must have all taken over Gibraltar, don’t cruise ships have thousands of people on them and theres only 30000 people in the whole place? Love the monkeys angry face 🙂

    1. It’s a lovely way to see lots of countries in one go. I think Ventura has capacity for just over 4000 with around 1000 of those being staff. It does feel like you’re taking over when you go to a smaller place as you see people you recognise from the ship wherever you go but I like that. He does look pretty affronted to see us all gawping, I hadn’t noticed that 🙂

  6. We visited years ago when we were staying in Andalucia and drove down for the day. Had such a great time we went back again on another day – we did a dolphin trip around the bay, that was lots of fun. I remember taking one of those tours up the rock – the drivers put the windows down and encouraged the monkeys to climb in and clamber over us. I was completely freaked out!! Sounds better (for monkeys and humans) that you are not allowed to feed them anymore!

    1. A dolphin trip sounds great, we saw quite a few when we were in the Bay of Biscay and it was so lovely to watch them jumping. I was amazed at how brave the monkeys were, they had no fear at all, it was tourists who were scared to pass them too closely.

  7. Great pics of somewhere I’m thinking of getting to. Flights are cheap from BHX at the moment – if I do make it there I’ll watch out for the cable car queue scammers – cheers!

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