A stroll around Gibraltar No. 22 : Douglas Path (Upper Rock Nature Reserve)

On Monday morning, before we were hit with the bad weather we’d been warned about, I took one last chance to go for a walk in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. It’s been a month since I have been able to do the Med Steps, so thought I would break myself in gently with a walk up the western side of the Rock using the roads to reach the summit. After reaching the top of the Med Steps (above) I decided that rather than to rush back down, as I usually do, I would go for a wander.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of investment in the Upper Rock and certain parts have been cleared and new paths and attractions created for tourists and locals alike (one notable addition in recent times has been the Windsor Suspension Bridge). As you come down from the summit of the Med Steps, there is a ramp up to the right, which for months has been barricaded off with screens as work was being carried out. On Monday, I noticed that these screens had gone and went for an explore.

The path led upwards and in a northerly direction back towards the top of the Rock. As the gaps between the trees and bushes grew larger, I was given a great view down to the town area and harbour ahead.

As I turned a slight bend in the path, there in front of me (admittedly shrouded in cloud) was the northern summit of the Rock.

The path lead down some steps amongst a number of old disused military buildings (you can see inside the one above later on). How tempting does it look to go down down these steps and find out what lies beyond?

The first building I came to afforded great views across the Western side of the Rock, along with some rather intriguing looking hooks cemented into the ceiling! I’m assuming that they were for holding cabling or equipment at some point in the past…

Opposite this small building lay a network of other rooms and corridors, which were sunk into the ground and set into the Rock itself.

This room below is in the building you first see as you arrive at this place, there are two seagulls sitting on the roof of it in the photos earlier on.

It was such an atmospheric place to be. It almost felt forbidden to be there, or like I was the first person to go into these buildings for years and years (that’s clearly not the case but it felt like it!). I believe that these rooms were used for charts and telephone communication. The ones with lookout positions were clearly used to keep an eye on what was going on outside. If these walls could talk….

It was only when I entered the room above that I realised I had passed under the top of the Rock and was peering through these openings to the other side – towards the Mediterranean Sea! This place is one of the few positions in the Upper Rock which affords spectacular views out to both the east and the west.

It reminded me a lot of when I visited the Devil’s Gap Battery on a similarly accidental basis a while ago. We go about our daily business in the streets and buildings below and forget about the rich military heritage Gibraltar has up above our heads.

I was unable to continue any further north along this path, as it was gated off, but it gave a great vantage point to look northwards.

What an interesting place. I shall have to do a bit of investigating to find out more about it. I have been in Gibraltar now for about eight and half years, and it never ceases to amaze me when I stumble across something new.

As I headed back down the Douglas Path (below) to pick up the road back down to my home, I passed a tourist notice board with some information about this area: the path runs along the top ridge of the Rock and connects a series of military installations. To the south are O’Hara’s, Lord Airey’s and Breakneck Batteries (what a name!), as well as Douglas Cave.

I couldn’t do a post about the Upper Rock without featuring one of furry neighbours could I? Cue obligatory ape shot:

I’ve saved the most interesting fact until last (well it’s interesting if you like James Bond films). Douglas Path featured in the opening sequence of the 1987 James Bond film ‘The Living Daylights’. In his first role as 007, Timothy Dalton parachuted onto the Rock before zooming down the nature reserve’s rather vertiginous roads on the roof of a hijacked Land Rover and crashing through a wall towards the sea – Douglas Path was one of those roads!

That little nugget of information may help you in a pub quiz one day – you never know!! You’re very welcome. 😉

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 18 : Moorish Castle

After a long school holiday at home with the Little Postcards, I escaped for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon and headed out for a walk. Main Street was busy with bargain hunters hitting the sales so I decided to climb up out of the bustling town centre of Gibraltar and visit Moorish Castle.

The Tower of Homage, which can clearly be seen by visitors to Gibraltar as they approach from the airport is one of the last remaining buildings left by the Moors from when they controlled Gibraltar back in the 11th Century.

It’s a much visited destination on the usual Gibraltar tourist trail but, believe it or not, despite living here for so long, I haven’t been inside since our first ever visit to the Rock when we came for a look round and to find somewhere to live almost 8 years ago.

I climbed up higher and higher into the Upper Town leaving the shops and crowds enjoying the post Christmas sales on Main Street and found parts of Upper Town I’d never visited before. The street names refer to the Rock’s military past.

Wandering around the Moorish Castle Estate, I discovered great examples of community painting  projects from National Days gone-by.

I have to admit that I got lost a couple of times taking alleyways and paths assuming they would lead up to the castle and discovering dead ends! I have a feeling I will be visiting again soon as there are so many lovely examples of architecture which are crying out to be photographed… there are even headless men and children crossing the roads (see the sign below).

Never before have I seen such a festive washing line. I hope whoever the clean laundry belongs to doesn’t mind me sharing this, but wow what a lovely collection of Christmas table cloths, tea towels and aprons! Obviously being laundered to put away until next year!

As you walk up these roads and paths, you don’t realise how high you are climbing until you turn to look back at where you came from!

Nestled in amongst the post war government housing estate is an ancient structure which has a sign detailing it’s past. This building with battlements is probably the oldest building in Gibraltar. It was the original gatehouse for Moorish Castle and was occupied successively by Moorish, Spanish and British troops for over eight hundred years.

Just a little further up hill and there was the Castle.

You can completely understand why it was built in this position, what a great vantage point to observe our neighbours to the north. And just check out that cannon with it’s sight firmly set.

It was time to go inside..

The sign above the door reads:

When the Moors recaptured Gibraltar from the Spaniards in 1333 they rebuilt an earlier tower, ruined in the fighting, into this solid Tower of Homage, which has since withstood ten sieges.

After making your way through a steel gate, you reach the inner stairwell. Modern stairs lead the way up and down the tower now, but it’s clear to see what’s left of the original Moorish stairwell with arched sections left on some of the walls. The tower you see today was built at the same time as the Alhambra in Granada.

The first part you come to is an original Moorish bath house. The interlinking rooms are cleaned back to the stone and the subtle lighting means you can see the lovely brick work and arches which feature so heavily in the design.

A much larger example of a Moorish bath house can be found in the basement of the Gibraltar Museum. That is a truly atmospheric place and well worth a visit if you are over here.

Back into the stair well and this tiny window gave a great view of the town below. I wonder how many soldiers have stood with their weapons pointed out of there over the centuries?

These walls have stood the test of time and many attacks, in addition to the many sieges, in 1540, hundreds of people headed to the castle to shelter safely while Turkish pirates attacked the Rock.

Don’t look down!

I headed on up the stair well and up out of a little door at the top…

…to the roof and the most amazing panoramic view.

The Union Jack flapped in the breeze as gusts blew the clouds across the moody sky. In 1704 Admiral Rooke hoisted the British flag at this spot when he captured Gibraltar, one has flown here ever since.

Here’s Gibraltar’s famous runway which is bisected by the only road off the Rock, the Spanish town of La Linea lies on the other side of the border. Despite the fact many people mistakenly think Gibraltar is an island, you can clearly see we are well and truly attached to the rest of mainland Europe!

Down below the castle you get a good view of Casemates Square (bottom centre of the photo). In it’s heyday the Moorish Castle complex stretched all the way down to where Casemates is today.

Immediately below the tower is the remains of the former Gibraltar Prison. The Prison was still in use here when we arrived to live on the Rock, but it has now relocated to a purpose-built facility above Europa Point.

It wasn’t just me and a handful of tourists who were taking a moment to appreciate the view up there.

Can you can see the old building with scaffolding around in the centre of the picture? That is the orginal gatehouse which I mentioned before – it’s hard to imagine now, but the castle must have covered a really large area.

In addition to the town below, you get a brilliant view of the sea and the coast further north. It was looking a bit blustery on the Mediterranean coast up towards Santa Margarita.

In the Bay of Gibraltar, it was more sheltered, but this small group of yachts was making the most of the breeze off the western end of the runway.

I enjoyed my visit to Moorish Castle, I’m so glad I decided to forgo the joys of Saturday afternoon sales shopping in town in favour of this.

Goodbye for now Moorish Castle, I promise I won’t leave it so long before visiting you again!

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 13 : Windsor Suspension Bridge 

Hello there, the school summer holidays are well underway here in Gibraltar, so today I took the little Postcards for a trip to the Rock’s newest visitor attraction; the Windsor suspension bridge. Construction of the bridge took many months and those of us who live on the Rock were able to see this bridge appear up high above the town and we were guessing exactly what it was for.

At one stage, once the main frame of the bridge was in place but the section you actually walk on wasn’t complete, we wondered whether it would have a glass bottom so you could walk ‘in mid-air’! I have to say, if that had been the case, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to attempt it. I’m not great up a ladder at the best of times…

Last month the completed bridge was officially opened by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo and since then many local residents and tourists alike have benefitted from being able to walk across it and take in the view of the town below from a new angle. Having seen many of my friends’ Facebook photos of them and their loved ones taking a trip up there, I figured it was high time I had a go myself. As it’s school holiday time, that meant taking my three boys with me too.

We began our walk from the Pillars of Hercules statue and spotted a large Royal Caribbean cruise ship approaching Gibraltar. The little Postcards thought it would be fun to try and race it. Would it dock at the cruise terminal before we reached the bridge? It was moving quite fast…

We soon picked up our path when we saw this new sign post marking the way where a road had previously been closed. (Can you see the cruise ship closing in on us in the background?). After quite a steep climb for little legs, the downward stretch was very welcome.

It was at this point I noticed something I don’t think I’ve seen before in Gibraltar. You may remember from my post On a walk over Christmas, Gibraltar gave to me… I make mention of the rings which were used by the military to haul the cannons up to the top of the Rock. You see them embedded into walls and the Rock itself all over the Upper Rock. We found one right in the middle of the road!

Our first port of call on this walk was Rooke Battery. It’s named after Sir George Rooke who commanded the British Fleet when Gibraltar came under British rule. It was the site of a large gun and was later used as the base for one of the huge search lights used during World War II.

The view from Rooke Battery this morning was just beautiful looking across to Morocco over the Strait.

The path led us on downwards past a small picnic area. I’m afraid picnic areas in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve bemuse me slightly bearing in mind the local hairy residents aka Barbary Macaques can hear a picnic bag unzipping from miles away and descend to steal your lunch! Anyway, as I was saying, the path led us to the southern side of the magnificent new Windsor Suspension Bridge.

As you can see above, the bridge stretches over a 50m gorge and is suspended between two batteries. It’s 75 metres long and most exciting of all, it moves with the wind and movement of people on it. This was a particular highlight for the two smallest Postcards, who despite warnings not to, took great pleasure in trying to make it vibrate as they stomped across.

The view you get from the bridge is just stunning (I guess the glorious weather this morning probably helped a bit). Regular readers of this blog will know I am a frequent visitor to the Upper Rock and I always enjoy spying down on the town below from a great height. This ‘new’ section of old path which has only just reopened gives you a completely different perspective on the town below and I really enjoyed seeing it from a new angle.

Despite the fact the sun had just popped up over the top of the Rock when we were on the bridge, being on the western side at this time in the morning with the cool sea breezes blowing, it was a really cool place to be (in more ways than one). The little Postcards enjoyed seeing three navy ships in the Naval Dockyard below. After a game of Battleship earlier this week, they were thrilled to be able to see the ‘real thing’.

To put the 75metre length of the bridge into context a helpful sign nearby points out that this is equivalent to 7 1/2 double decker London buses parked end to end.

I’m no bridge expert, but it’s a beauty in my book!

Along side the new bridge and improved pathways are some disused military buildings nearby. I find these kinds of things fascinating. Having never known Gibraltar when there was a large military presence here, my mind plays overtime wondering what it was like back in the military’s heyday here. What were these rooms and pipes hidden within a deep gorge used for?

The bridge was such a hit with the smaller members of the family, we crossed it not once but three times before climbing up the steps on the other side and onto the pathway.

There was yet another picnic area, the perfect spot to risk opening the rucksack for a drink – which we managed without any of our ape friends joining us. The dappled shade from the olive trees above was very welcome.

The lush green vegetation of the Upper Rock which was evident back in spring when I was doing my Med Steps 5 training is now all crispy and brown. Such a shame that the lushness has been parched by the hot sun. The threat of fires in the area were very close to home yesterday as a large wildfire burned on the mountains above our neighbours in La Linea across the border and threatened homes and lives in the San Roque, Santa Margarita and Alcaidesa areas. Homes had to be evacuated and planes and helicopters were used to fight the fire. It must have been a very frightening experience for all those involved.

So did we make it to the bridge before the cruise shipped docked a the cruise terminal? The answer is yes (just)! Did you spot it in the background of this photo?

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this trip up the Rock with us today 🙂

A stroll around Gibraltar No.10: Devil’s Gap Battery

Hello there, it’s been a while since I’ve taken you out for a stroll with me, so I thought I’d better put that right! This morning I found myself in town, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and I had a little bit of free time, so I made the most of it and took a walk up a footpath I have never visited before, to Devil’s Gap Battery in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. 

It starts on the Union Jack steps you may remember from my A stroll around Gibraltar: No. 2 Steps, steps, steps…, this photo above was taken from the top of the steps on the very edge of the nature reserve looking north and down towards Upper Town. The church you can see is Sacred Heart Church which is beautiful inside with the most amazing painted ceiling (more on that another time I’m sure!).

At the top of the steps, it’s as if you cross from one side of Gibraltar into another, the concrete comes to an end and the wilder side of the Rock is waiting to take you on another adventure. The wild nasturtiums were looking glorious as they lined the stone path.

You are soon faced with a climb upwards and the path gets quite uneven. I thought, as I wasn’t straying far from town, that I wouldn’t need trainers – big mistake, my shoes had little grip on the soles and I almost came a cropper a couple of times.

One of the joys of climbing up the Rock is that once the vegetation clears you soon get stunning views of the town and the Bay of Gibraltar. This photo shows the Governor’s back garden and beyond it, Queensway Quay marina.

Onwards, and upwards…. I was really impressed with the quality of the pathways and the fact that every so often along them there are information boards to tell visitors about the history of the area and explain the views in front of them. A lot of money has been spent smartening up the Upper Rock in the last few years and that can only be a good thing. This part of Gibraltar is so important from a biodiversity angle as well as to preserve the military heritage of the Rock.

As you stand in the town centre and look up at the Rock, between all the greenery, you can’t fail to notice that there are several brick built ‘towers’ dotted around the place. It has always puzzled me as to what they are for. They are too slim to be look-out towers and don’t appear to serve any obvious purpose. Well, I can now share a piece of newly acquired knowledge with you, they are ventilation shafts to the many tunnels quarried into the rock below. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to answer that question that’s been on my mind for several years!

At this point in the walk, you get the first clear view looking south towards Morocco, in the centre of this picture, you can see a large green expanse. That is the Alameda Botanical Gardens which featured in A stroll around Gibraltar No 7: The Alameda Gardens Part 1

You can also get a great view of the Royal Naval Dockyard and the visiting ships.

I wasn’t alone on my walk, the gulls were constant companions.

The stone footpath came to an end at a flight of stairs which led to a road and this rather imposing gateway…. should I go through do you think?

Oh, go on then! I had arrived at my destination, Devil’s Gap Battery.

It had had a recent lick of paint, but it was a rather eery sort of place, which had clearly been very important once upon a time, but is abandoned to nature and the occasional visitor now.

The courtyard was surrounded with a series of locked rooms, only one featured anything of interest:

Can you see that contraption and sign saying shell lift? I can only assume it was meant to carry the shells up to the guns above.

If these walls could talk…

Mother Nature was trying to reclaim what once belonged to her.

I wonder who Private Roman was and what he’s up to these days…

A stair led upwards to above the gateway and a sentry post.

Around the back of this courtyard lay the path to the guns.


One of them was used to sink a German submarine off the coast of Algeciras opposite during the First World War, the only action Gibraltar was involved in during that war.


I’m not a huge fan of guns it has to be said, but it’s a beautiful spot.

The views are marvellous.

This is the second of the guns at the battery.

There are prickly pear cacti a plenty up here, and I was lucky enough to spy one in flower. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a wild cactus flowering.

It’s a really clear day today and Morocco was really clear in the distance. Sadly the photo doesn’t do it justice but you can still make it out with it’s cloudy hat on.

I do hope you enjoyed this little stroll with me, there are several more to be explored in the nature reserve and I hope to be able to have another walk up there before too long. If you’re in Gibraltar or planning a visit and would like to find out more about Devil’s Gap Battery and the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, there’s an app available which details the Gibraltar Nature Reserve paths.


Thanks for stopping by 🙂