Red pillar boxes, fish-and-chip shops, bobbies on the beat, and creaky seaside hotels with 1970s furnishings; Gibraltar – as British writer Laurie Lee once opined – is a piece of Portsmouth sliced off and towed 500 miles south.
As with many colonial outposts, ‘The Rock’, as it’s invariably known, tends to overstate its underlying Britishness, a bonus for lovers of pub grub and afternoon tea, but a confusing double-take for modern Brits who thought that their country had moved on since the days of stuffy naval prints and Lord Nelson memorabilia.
Naturally, the main sight is the awesome Rock; a vast limestone ridge that rises to 426m, with sheer cliffs on its northern and eastern sides. For the ancient Greeks and Romans this was one of the two Pillars of Hercules, split from the other, Jebel Musa in Morocco, in the course of Hercules’ arduous Twelve Labours. The two great rocks marked the edge of the ancient world. Gibraltar’s location and highly defensible nature have attracted the covetous gaze of military strategists ever since.
Stuck strategically at the jaws of Europe and Africa, Gibraltar’s Palladian architecture and camera-hogging Barbary apes make an interesting break from the tapas bars and white towns of Cádiz province. Playing an admirable supporting role is its swashbuckling local history; lest we forget, the Rock has been British longer than the United States has been American.
Last updated: Sep 10, 2012
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