21 May 13

In Gibraltar, the past is very much the present

If there’s any part of the world that wears its past with pride, it is Gibraltar. That’s right: not only does a Gibraltar holiday at this time of year bring you plenty of sun, sea and sand, but you’ll also have plenty of historical attractions to see when you come away from the beach and start exploring the rest of the territory. Here at Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), we can help you to get to grips with some of that history.

If there’s any part of the world that wears its past with pride, it is Gibraltar. That’s right: not only does a Gibraltar holiday at this time of year bring you plenty of sun, sea and sand, but you’ll also have plenty of historical attractions to see when you come away from the beach and start exploring the rest of the territory. Here at Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), we can help you to get to grips with some of that history.

Of course, Gibraltar is utterly dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar itself, which was formed, into pretty much the shape with which we are familiar today, some 200 million years ago by a massive upheaval of the earth. It was in prehistoric times that there was a collision between earth’s plates that formed Africa and Europe, resulting in the forcing up from the sea of a massive lump of Jurassic limestone that then flipped over. That’s why Gibraltar’s top ridge is made from millions of compressed seashells – it was once a long way below the sea.

Rainwater subsequently filtered through the cracks in the Rock, leading to the formation of one of the major focal points of Gibraltar tourism today: St Michael’s Cave. The Rock of Gibraltar may have more than 150 caves, but this is one of the most visited, with almost a million people showing up here every year. In the 19th century, it was used for the likes of picnics, concerts, weddings and even duels, while it has even been used for military purposes. Today, the largest chamber is used as an auditorium, with many guided Gibraltar tours focussing on Lower St Michael’s Cave.

Speaking of the territory’s former status as a fortress, those interested in Gibraltar breaks are also likely to be enchanted by the Great Siege Tunnels, also known as the Upper Galleries. These tunnels in the northern end of the Rock were dug out of the solid limestone by the British, during the late 18th century Great Siege of Gibraltar. Today, they can be accessed as part of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, where visitors can find probably the territory’s most famous residents: the Barbary macaque monkeys. Despite being so strongly associated with the longstanding period of British rule, these monkeys were actually here long before 1704, when Britons first captured the territory.

Nonetheless, you certainly won’t forget the UK’s continuing influence on your holidays in Gibraltar, with classic red phone boxes and post boxes being joined by double decker buses and the Queen’s head on the currency notes. There is also still a Royal Navy base, despite wholesale military withdrawals after the border was reopened in the 1980s. And of course, there is also the fact that English is widely spoken in Gibraltar. Here at Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), we reckon that makes a break in this part of the world especially welcoming for the widest range of international travellers!