I love sunshine islands but I’ve never been someone who can spend long hours by the beach or pool. A mix of gentle activity and serious chilling out is my kind of holiday, so Walking the Coastal Trails of Menorca run by Headwater Holidays sounded very Me.
This single-centre holiday includes a week’s half board at a quiet, quality hotel; hire car for the freedom of the island; and walking notes for six country and coastal walks, plus two town trails. My husband and I flew out in May but the itinerary also operates throughout June, September and October.
Coastal Trails of Menorca is a great choice for those who want to have a good but not overly strenuous half-day walk that leaves plenty of time for other visits or just relaxing by the water. Graded One Boot – easiest of Headwater’s graded itineraries – the daily walks average 6.5 miles on level to gently undulating terrain.
For all these reasons, it’s also ideal for couples made up of one keen walker (me) and one lukewarm one (my husband John). Following the route notes – well up to Headwater’s usual high standard – brings out the Boy Scout in all of us and appeals to even the most reluctant walker, especially when surrounded by such glorious scenery.
Menorca is the quietest of the Balearic Islands in every respect. No high rise. No All Day Breakfast (or not that we saw!). No traffic jams. Think birdsong, quiet lanes, and peaceful views of coast and countryside.
Driving is very straightforward with one main road, the Me-1, running across the island from Mahon in the east to Ciutadella in the west. Traffic is minimal and leisurely but there are some very uncompromising stone walls so I would recommend buying extra insurance that covers your excess charge in case of a claim. Rather than buy from the car hire company at the airport, we booked online before we travelled. A European policy from Insurance4CarHire costs just £39.99 for a year’s worth of journeys and guarantees peace of mind in the event of any bumps or scrapes.
Headwater guests spend the week at the Morvedra Nou Rural Hotel, around 5 km inland from Ciutadella and surrounded by farmland. Owned by the same family for three generations and efficiently run by the ever-smiling Victoria Bendito, the main building is a tastefully restored 17th century farmhouse, whilst the bedrooms – apart from three suites in the main house – are located in the former stable block.
These ground-floor rooms offer accommodation that’s half in, half out – a compact but perfectly adequate double bedroom with bathroom (bath with efficient shower over), television (ubiquitous BBC World) and efficient WiFi. Each garden room also has a private patio screened by thick hedges with a ‘roof’ of plant-covered trellis, comfortable Directors’ chairs on rockers (must get some!), and space for a discreet drying line.
The pool terrace behind the hotel looks down over glorious gardens, filled with flowering shrubs and birdsong from dawn till dusk. In mid-May, I found it plenty warm enough for a few leisurely lengths between poolside coffees and glasses of wine.
For a hotel of just 18 rooms, we were pleasantly surprised by the breakfast buffet at Morvedra Nou which offered different local pastries daily as well as fresh fruit, cereals and savouries like local cheese and cold meat. The dinner menu is left in the room each night so guests can choose for the following evening from two dishes at each of the three courses, all freshly prepared. This isn’t gastronomic fare, but it’s well presented, authentic and 100% fresh. And if you really don’t like the choices or have food intolerances, the charming staff are happy to find alternatives.
More sedentary folk than I would, I am sure, be able to spend entire days chilling out with a good book and a glass of something cold. But Headwater guests have the active gene and Menorca does not disappoint. As always, the company provides clients with an island map that is useful for driving and planning excursions, but the key to the island lies in their excellent walking notes – animated with information on flora, fauna and places of interest – that have rightfully earned the company their reputation for reliability.
It’s easy to think that one coastal walk will be very much like another but far from it. We followed all three of the south coast itineraries and each was different. Flat rocks and rocky headlands. Heathland trails and woodland paths. And more beautiful bays with clear aquamarine water than seems decent for one modestly sized island. Most of the walks follow the Cami de Cavalls – ancient trails used by mules and riders – which are well marked with wooden posts topped with a horseshoe symbol.
We also enjoyed two inland routes, kicking off with a walk along farm trails to visit one of the island’s many prehistoric sites. Another took us along the shore past bays of aquamarine water before climbing gently inland through a lush green gorge to the island’s largest cave. Stepping inside the vast entrance in the hillside, we stood inside the cool ‘cathedral’ and watched swallows circling in search of insect lunch.
The walks can be enjoyed in any order and if you have an afternoon flight back you can explore Mahon, the island’s capital, before you go. With a late-morning return however, we took a mid-week morning out to explore the town’s historic streets, dotted with Georgian buildings as a legacy of British rule, and to enjoy the harbour views. There was still time for our daily walk later.
We also enjoyed a post-walk visit to Ciutadella, island capital before the English arrived and chose the bigger harbour. The pretty squares and shady arcaded streets around the towering cathedral have a much more Spanish feel – a lovely spot for a drink or fresh fish lunch.
By the end of the week, we’d walked around 45 miles, but relaxed a lot, eaten well, and slept like the proverbial logs, all of which adds up to another successful Headwater holiday in my book.