Long regarded as little more than a military fortress, the Rock of Gibraltar is slowly re-inventing itself as a tourist destination and tax haven.
The tourist sector is currently largely geared towards day visitors, who arrive either by coach from the Spanish resorts or by cruse ship,
and get whisked round the Upper Rock taking in all the sights covered by a joint entry ticket.
Independent travellers who wants to stay on the Rock are less well catered for. The Hotels seem to be mostly targeted at either the officer classes
or the other ranks, with very little in the mid-range.
There are thousands of empty flats belonging to people who are registered on Gibraltar for tax purposes, but actually live in sumptuous villas
across the border in Spain. However, only a handful are available as self-catering lets.
English pubs abound, as does standard English pub food, but you have to look hard to find something a bit special.
I can personally recommend Biancas in Ocean Village, and the truly outstanding Mumbai Curry House
Indian Take-Away in Europort Avenue.
Although still officially an RAF station, Gibraltar Airport, like much else on the rock,
is undergoing massive regeneration.
The new terminal building was nearing completion at the time of my visit (March 2011), and work had commenced on the new tunnel that will
take the road from the Frontier under the eastern end of the runway.
The old road, which uniquely crosses over the runway, will be retained for emergency use and will still be open to pedestrians.
Formerly the site of a race course, the airport was constructed during World War II, initially only an emergency airfield for the Royal Navyʼs Fleet Air Arm.
The runway was extended to 5400 ft in 1941-43 by reclaiming land using both the spoil from the many miles of military
tunnels dug inside the Rock and rock blasted from its eastern face. The runway was extended to its current length of 6000
ft in 1955.
As you walk down the road from the cable carʼs top station towards
St Michaelʼs Cave just past the top of the Charles V Wall there is a set of steps leading up along the ridge of the Rock.
These lead up to the WWII Douglas Lookout. The track from there back down to OʼHaraʼs Road
is the Douglas Path.
It is an exhilarating, if precarious, way to get from Signal Hill to OʼHaraʼs Battery.
The section round the Douglas Lookout is particularly challenging as the path goes along the narrow sill of the western observation post.
Whilst not an official tourist attraction and completely un-restored, with extreme care it is possible to explore the 20th Century lookout.
The view from the eastern observation post is particularly impressive.
There is also a chance to compare it with its very much earlier Moorish equivalent.
Little is known about the little Moorish Lookout, although it may well date back to the time of the foundation of the Madinat al-Fath
(the City of Victory) by Caliph Abd al-Mumin in 1160.
Pillars of Hercules Monument
The plaque on the Pillars of Hercules Monument reads:
To the Ancient World, Gibraltar was known as Mons Calpe. One of the legendary pillars created by Hercules as
religious shrine and as an entrance to Hades. To many, it signified the non plus ultra, the end of the then known world.
It is next to the southern entrance to the upper rock at Jewʼs Gate, the site of an old Jewish Cemetery, and has fine views to the
south towards Europa Point.
Just up the road from the City Under Siege Exhibition is this little kiln. It dates back to the late 19th century
and is the last remaining kiln on the Rock.
For a rock made from limestone and so extensively tunnelled, it is surprising that there was no large scale production of lime, only enough for local domestic uses
such as whitewashing buildings and painting water cisterns to keep them free from bacteria.