December 22, 2009

Rock of Gibraltar Tunnels and Pillar of Hercules

What stood out on this trip for me was the historical significance of The Rock. This is the first place I have visited with evidence of human habitation going as far back as Neanderthal man! The first inhabitants were the Phoenicians, around 950 BC and one of the Pillars of Hercules is considered the Rock of Gibraltar.

The Pillars of Hercules was the phrase that was applied to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar. When you walk up to it, be sure and look at both sides!

Staying on the Costa del Sol, most of the beach towns are within an easy driving distance to Gibraltar. You could definitely spend the day and enjoy yourself. The area reminded me a bit of Tijuana, Mexico in that there were loads of people who obviously made the daily trek back and forth across the border for work. When we walked across the border it was simple to negotiate directly with a cab driver to take you to see the sights rather than try and walk it alone.

Besides getting to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, you should be sure and go INSIDE the Rock. Truly you can see a side of this area just as significant, by going inside the many tunnels. These are self-guided tours but I suggest you check out the Great Siege Tunnels.

The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence. This was the largest action fought during the war in terms of numbers particularly the Grand Assault of the 18 September 1782. It was the longest siege endured by the British Armed Forces, as well as being one of the longest continuous sieges in history.

By the end of World War II, they had carved out over 30 miles of tunnels! I only climbed around a tenth of that but it is worth getting this unique perspective by checking them out during your visit.

And the other cool – literally – historical destination is St. Michael’s Cave. These limestone caves are in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Be careful because they are very dark inside and there are stairs that can be slippery. However if you go, be prepared to see stalactites that are out of this world!

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