March 2017. There’s so much natural beauty in and around the town of Gibraltar! I was sifting through my photos on the way back to Malaga when I realised I’d need to write multiple Top reports to do the place any kind of justice. Obviously The Rock is the major highlight, but I was also blown away by the incredible fifteen-acre Botanic Gardens. Commissioned in 1816 by Gibraltar’s then British Governor George Don, the original park served as a recreational area for the town’s resident soldiers. A huge redevelopment program in 1991 resurrected the gardens after it had fallen into disrepair.
March 2017. The plant life is staggering, with a mix of native species as well as those brought in from abroad. There are dragon, palm, pine and wild olive trees, Chinese hibiscus shrubs and all manner of cacti. Here and there, you’ll see signs warning you to steer clear of the pine processionary caterpillars! Apparently just the lightest of touches will cause great irritation to the skin.
March 2017. The complex includes a cute little children’s garden maintained by a local primary school. Complete with scarecrows, Wellington boot plant pots and a handcrafted Bee Hotel, it adds a personal touch to the gardens and a real sense of community spirit. Elsewhere, there’s a sizeable Wildlife Conservation Park and statues of General August Elliott and, amusingly, Molly Bloom from the James Joyce novel Ulysses.
March 2017. There were very few people around the gardens that day. Predictably, I saw hordes of tourists in town lining up for the cable car ride up to the rock. But you can actually enter the reserve through the back end of the botanic gardens via a twenty-minute walk. And should you suddenly feel the need for an old school telephone call, fear not, the gardens have got you covered!
March 2017. The gardens also provide choice angles of The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar’s most famous and distinguished lodgings. You’d be looking at around 160 quid a night, but then the rooms do have sea views and you’ll have access to a swimming pool, gym, and the gorgeous empire style terrace where you can presumably sip cocktails alongside grizzled old mustachioed naval captains. Built in 1932 by the fantastically named John Crichton Stuart, the 4th Marquess of Bute, the hotel has welcomed a host of A-list guests over the years, including Winston Churchill, President Eisenhower, Sean Connery, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who exchanged their marriage vows in one of the suites.
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