FIRST associations of the southern European coastline are all too often of crowded beaches, busy coastal roads and blocks of holiday apartments.
Few conjure up visions of the wilder beaches of the Costa de la Luz or the tail end of the Sierra Subbética, the mighty chain of mountains which rises up a few kilometres inland from the Costa del Sol, of the wilder beaches of the Costa de la Luz.
One of the best though is a walk – known as the Gibraltar Circuit – which offers walkers a fabulous three to four hour trip around the enclave.
I was bowled over when I discovered this mesmerising trail thanks to my friend Freddie Vasquez of local legal firm Triay & Triay.
The highlight of the walk – so long as you have a head for heights – is the footpath that leads up the sheer southern face of the Rock, popularly known as Mediterranean Steps.
This giddy path has recently been restored by the Bonito Trust and you’ll be marvelling at the derring-do of those who built it.
There are many more treats in store. After negotatiating the steps next comes Douglas’ Path which cuts along Gibraltar’s rugged spine with huge views both east and west.
The next challenge comes in the form of Charles V’s Wall which you descend via a series of steep flights of steps.
And to end an already magnificent circuit up pops Ingliss Way leading back towards the start point of the walk through a thick stand of Mediterranean scrub. It beggars belief to think that the cut-and-thrust of Main Street is just a few hundred metres away.
It is a wonderful stroll and well within the capabilities of anyone in good health who walks on a regular basis, provided, as I have said, that you have a good head for heights.
THE walk begins in front of Landport Gate just beyond the drawbridge. From here cut through two tunnels to reach Casemate Square. Head along the square’s left side then continue to the far end of Main Street passing John Macintosh Square then The Convent.
At the far end of the street pass beneath an arch then cut right across a pedestrian crossing.
Bear left, traverse a second crossing and head on past Queen’s Hotel.
Angling left you reach the hotel’s entrance.
Here cross the road, pass right of a restaurant to the lower station of the cable car then angle left across a car park to the gateway to the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. (20 mins)
Beyond the gate climb two flights of steps, pass a statue of Elliott (commander of the Rock during the Siege of 1779-83) then after 15m bear left up a narrow path.
Climb another flight of steps then continue up Olive Tree Climb which merges with a broader path which leads to a red post box.
Here cut left at a sign Exit Upper Rock and climb past The Rock Hotel’s swimming pool.
Passing through the gate to the gardens continue parallel to Europa Road to a footbridge, cross the road then head up Engineer Road.
The road climbs steeply to the gates of the Nature Reserve of The Upper Rock.
Continuing to climb the road leads to another set of gates and a ticket box (40 mins) (it’s worth 50 pence and a short detour to visit one of the hypothetical sites of the The Pillars of Hercules, Mons Calpe).
Angling left beyond the ticket box to a barrier you reach the beginning of Mediterranean Steps.
Passing a metal gate you follow the steps along the near sheer face of Gibraltar’s southern flank.
Passing a signboard detailing the fauna of the Upper Rock the path cuts left and climbs steeply: ropes help your upwardly mobile course.
Reaching a bricked up building (1 hr) angle right through a tunnel beyond which you pass two bunkers: the views from the platform just beyond the second one are breathtaking.
Angling left the path zigzags up to a signboard describing the Rock’s unique flora.
Passing a group of antennae you reach the highest point of the walk as vistas open out to the west.
Angling left and descending you reach the entrance gate to the World War II Tunnels.
Here cut right down a narrow road for 400m to a junction and sign 1789-1897. (1 hr 25 mins)
Here cut right past a barrier: you’re now on Douglas’ Path which angles up to the ridgetop through thick Mediterranean scrub where it reaches O’Hara’s Battery.
Continue along the spine of the Rock, now descending, to St Michael’s Road.
Angling right here you pass a signboard telling of a Spanish attack on the Rock in 1704.
Continue along the road then pass beneath an arch where Gib’s resident apes often gather to look at tourists.
Beyond the arch you reach the top of Charles V’s wall.
Continue up St Michael’s Road, angle right at the first fork then climb to the top station of the cable car where there’s a café and a viewing platform up to the right: close encounters of the ape kind are guaranteed as well as mesmerising views of Africa and the western end of the Costa del Sol. (1 hr 40 mins)
Retrace your footsteps to the top of Charles V’s Wall (WP19) then cut right and make your way down the first section of wall.
Cutting right then left, drop down its second section.
Cut right at a brick building then left through a gate and continue down the third section of wall to a picnic area.
Exit onto Queen’s Road where, just opposite, you’ll see a sign for Ingliss Way.
Follow the path up past an old bunker.
15m before reaching a tarmac road the path cuts left and threads its way through thick Mediterranean scrub.
Crossing a plastic pipe you reach a fence.
Cutting right the path climbs then arcs left, parallel to a low wall.
Angling left and descending across two metal pipes you come to a road. (2 hrs 15 mins)
Cut left for 50m then angle right along Queen’s Road.
Reaching a Give Way sign continue straight on towards the entrance to The Great Seige Tunnels, angle left down Willis road for 200m then loop hard right.
After 150m angling once more left past The Moorish Castle you reach twin Give Way signs.
Here angle right and drop down to a crenellated tower then follow the road as it angles left.
Just as it arcs once more right past two huge palms cut left along a One Way street.
Reaching a sign for Castle Steps turn right down a flight of steps which angle right then left to a junction.
Turning right along Engineer’s Lane you return to Main Street.
From here retrace your steps to the start point of the walk. (2 hrs 50 mins)
So much more on the coasts
WHEN Guy Hunter-Watts, author of Walking in Andalucía and the Andalucían Coast to Coast Walk, set out to research a new book of walks just back from the beach he was surprised at how beautiful they turned out to be.
“Not to walk out and discover these paths, gorges, high passes and peaks would be to miss out on one of the best experiences that this multifaceted region of Iberia has to offer,” he says.
The book describes walking trails in seven protected areas from Vejer on the Costa de la Luz to Almunecar on the Costa Tropical.
There are oceanside rambles close to Bolonia, trails through the Sierra de Ojen above Marbella and newly marked trails around Manilva, Mijas, Nerja and Frigiliana.
Most walks described are circular while linear walks come with advice on how best to return to your point of departure.
The format of the book sticks to that of Hunter-Watts’ other guides with highlighted maps, GPS references and detailed walking notes.
Over the next few issues the Olive Press will be serialising some of the best of the walks.
Coastal Walks in Andalucía (ISBN 9-788489-954939) by Guy Hunter-Watts is published by Santana Books (www.santanabooks.com).