Jane Wilson heads for ‘The Rock’ and a short break on the Sunborn Hotel.
The plane is on its descent. Out of the window I see the first sighting of my hotel accommodation – a yacht hotel, taking pride of place in the harbour, glinting in the sunshine enticing me over the runway for my onboard stay.
After disembarking, I’m on British territory – in Gibraltar and access to my hotel couldn’t have been easier, yet a little different. Never before have I walked across the runway to a hotel. It’s easy to find and literally just around the corner: turn left out of the airport, cross the tarmac runway, turn right and the gleaming white yacht hotel awaits.
The 5* Sunborn Hotel is moored in the Ocean Village Marina, the harbour district of Gibraltar and certainly has the novelty factor.
It is an attraction in itself and a defining introduction to this British destination. This seven-deck ocean cruiser comes complete with engines and a bridge, was the first of its kind and has permanent residency as a yacht hotel, providing a convenient place to explore the destination.
This is Western Europe’s southernmost tip offering enviable views over the sea to Spain and Morocco.
The entrance is like walking into Swarovski’s headquarters with a glittering backdrop to the reception desk populated with staff wearing welcoming smiles keen to show off the floating services.
The rooms and suites are tastefully designed, with quality furnishings, marble bathrooms and wired with technology that command a lesson to operate the drapes, lights and sound.
And although there are several room types, surprisingly, the most popular are those with views over the runway!
Breakfast, buffet style, is served on the top deck in the Barbary Restaurant which it shares with a small outdoor pool and the Aqua Bar all with views over the marina, the Med and the 1400-ft high Rock, the symbol and stature of Gibraltar. And if you enjoy a spot of gambling, there is a casino onboard or the Admiral Casino is a short stroll away.
The concept of a hotel on water was a solution to adding more accommodation to the territory which has little space for its growing popularity as a tourist destination. which measures under seven square kilometres and which borders the south of Spain.
The Rock, Gibraltar’s signature feature, is mostly formed from Jurassic limestone dating over 200 million years. Steep, narrow roads, originally built for donkeys and carts, twist to the upper rock allowing only registered taxis and mini-buses to transport visitors, although weather permitting, the cable car is another option. The journey, whatever form of transport used, is rewarded with enviable scenery.
This destination is often described as the Cradle of History and well worth a visit with statues and memorials to salute its past.
There are 30 miles of World War tunnels snaking within the rock, a spectacular cave underneath, dolphins circling, barbary apes prying, playing and monkeying around.
One day is not enough to get under the skin of this country.
Clad in hard hats, the series of guided tunnel tours are fascinating and factual and should be on the must-do list. They include The Great Siege Tunnels and can take up to 3 hours.
The Mediterranean Steps walk is not for the faint-hearted but avoid carrying food, the monkeys will find it but will throw in free entertainment along the way.
The Skywalk, opened by Mark Hamill from Star Wars fame in March 2018 is another look-out spot to take in stunning vistas.
There are various organised tours which include the fishing village of Catalin Bay, Europa Point, the Mosque, the Moorish Castle and St Michael’s cave with a secret underground lake. As for wildlife, Gibraltar’s position between Europe and Africa, the Atlantic and Mediterranean make it an important crossing point for migrating birds, whales and dolphins.
The old fortress walls surround the city with gate archways into Casemates Square which is dotted with restaurants and bars leading to Main Street the artery for shopping where familiar signs are giveaway clues to its Britishness: sterling currency with a bonus for VAT-free prices.
But if you don’t want to travel around the Rock, then you can get a better view watching the opening sequence of James Bond’s Living Daylights, part of which was filmed here. And if you are thinking of tying the knot, then you will be following Sean Connery and John Lennon down the aisle – both of whom married here. Today it is one of the best places if you are in a hurry!
With so much history and attractions, Gibraltar has so much to offer and stands as more than a piece of Jurassic Rock!
Jane Wilson is the editor of www.thewellnesstraveller.co.uk