Saturday, 8 September 2012

Nudity, rock climbing, pigs in windows, deer rutting: unusual things to do this month

CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR As we promised, we're delighted to offer you a choice of things to do in the Campo area. Many of these are off the beaten track, though not all. Many are available most of the year, some only this month. Some are suitable for children (when they've done their homework, of course), most are for all ages. Here's an example: Do you know where you can lie down as they did in the Middle Ages and watch a vast swathe of the Campo? Pity you won't have brought muskets ... And another one: Where can you dine on a railway platform that's still in use? See more ideas below, but please be aware that this may be the last time we will offer this kind of information at no cost. Subscription information will be available soon.>>>
One of history's most important port towns. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, they and others had a port here, and you can see their remains if you wander about. This is one of the places to make the jump over to Morocco (lots of ferries headed that way and back). The older part of town has smartened up, and the main square, Plaza Alta, is unusual in the area for its ceramic decorations. But here's a bit of the unusual:

Pérez Villalta Route
Guillermo Pérez Villalta is a painter, architect and sculptor born in Tarifa. Having moved to Madrid, he returned with a head full of ideas. His work is in several famous international collections; he has exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, at the Expo Sevilla in 1992. He has designed furniture and buildings, jewelry and parks. There are many of his works in Algeciras and around the Campo de Gibraltar. This tryptich will give you a good idea where to find them, and may be a way to see a few of his things as you travel around the Campo: (PDF LINK)

Bicycle Day - Sunday, September 23
This is the 27th annual celebration of the bike, which raises funds for the Christmas with Love kid's charity, as well as marking the World Without Car Day. It starts -at about 9am or later-  and ends at the Bahía de Algeciras shopping centre (MAP LINK).

Prisoners carved here
Walks - a large choice
Click here to get a PDF of the pamphlet that will tell you all about these great places to relax and enjoy the countryside. One of the most interesting is called The Prisoners' Road because the lanes and paths were made by prisoners of the Civil War during their forced labour sentences. You may be able to find more information in English at the Town Hall (MAP LINK).

Diving - an experience for the experienced and the less so
At the confluence of two great seas, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, this is a fascinating place to dive. Experienced and licensed or not, Felix at Caetaria Buceo, will be happy to help. He also offers sailing courses. Call him on 637 753 583. Another place offering diving experiences as well as courses is the Club Buceo C.I.E.S., which is part of  the C.I.E.S. organization. The acronym stands for Centro de Investigaciones y Exploraciones Submarinas (Centre for underwater investigation and exploration). Call them on 956 570 302. Among other experiences is the possibility of diving close to the many wrecks in the area, not to mention the lively sea life in these narrow Straits of Gibraltar.

New Castellar
Divided into two towns, the old, up at the castle, and the new (Nuevo Castellar). This happened in the 1960s when the Franco authorities decided it was too difficult for the people to be coming and going up a steep hill. A new town was built and everyone except two families moved into nice square houses built on a grid system - and on the flat. In time (the 1970s mostly), the castle itself and its surroundings became occupied by foreigners, mostly hippies escaping from their dwindling numbers in more northern climes. The top village overlooks a vast reservoir that was built at about the same time as the new village. At low water, in the summer, you might get a glimpse of a church steeple from small hamlet that was flooded to make the reservoir - and evacuated beforehand, we venture.

Roller Skating
Castellar is the figure skating centre of the Campo, with groups from La Línea and San Roque, as well as Castellar, taking part. Estrellas del Sur, as they're called, has won several awards. They're just beginning their new training season, taking turns at these towns weekly. If you think it might interest you or your kids, just call Carina López on 669 513 369. You can always ask when the next competition is, and head there for something different.

Old Castle village
This is a very interesting tourist trap. However, if you're a child (or not, Prospero's actually done this and he ain't no child!), as you enter this living castle (pretty unique in Spain), on the left -see photo- are the ramparts from where the whole of the Campo can be watched. Just lie down in three or four of them and see which section suits you best. Did you bring your musket? There's a lot more to this castle, as you will discover (MAP LINK), including a hotel, a restaurant, and numerous shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, as well as more interesting stuff.

(Photo: Andrew Forbes)
The Old Convent
That's what it was back in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was a religious charity of the Counts of Castellar. Now it's a pleasant place to stop by for a meal or a night or two (Reservations: 956 693 002). There's an interesting and unusual tower, about which they'll tell you at the reception desk.  Being on the edge of the Los Alcornocales Nature Park, there's hunting, fishing, and tranquility. It is at the bottom of the hill coming down from the castle, at the roundabout where the cork processing plant is. (MAP LINK)

This village is at the Northern reaches of the Campo de Gibraltar; just past it on the road to Ronda, you will find yourself in the province of Málaga. This makes people believe that it is a very long way, yet it's only about 20 or 30 minutes from Sotogrande or Gibraltar; ideal for a day or two's break. Or whole a holiday - lot's do! For a small village. There are many options for food & drink, as well as places to stay. Alas, the castle, also unique in the area, is under repair and closed off to visitors. But we're looking for the unusual, so here goes:

Posada La Casa Grande - Deer rutting, among other things!
This is the conversion of three or more village houses into a place to stay, an inn. But that's not all. They organize all kinds of course, with prices that include the stay, and sometimes meals as well. These are becoming very popular, so we advise to book early. For September, for instance, there's the annual deer watching season, called La Berrea. You go out at night or at dawn, with experts, to listen and watch as the deer scream out their mating calls. You may well see male deer fighting each other. It's an exciting thing to do. Another 'course' is a geological walk in the parkland. Contact them here for the courses:, or e-mail: Website: Posada La Casa Grande. Phones: 956 641 120 or 622 167 944. Also, watch CampoPulse for their monthly activities.

Casa Henrietta
This was the home of the village doctor many years ago. It underwent a transformation into a bijoux hotel, run by Melissa González-Morgan, an artist with great ideas. It is well worth a visit just to see an unusual establishment, and for more reasons, too! The bar downstairs is open (except Mondays) for a drink, and a chat. This is an ideal base from which to visit the rest of this inland working village. There are lots of lovely short or long walks, about which Melissa will be happy to tell you.  Reservations & info: · e-mail: · Phone: 956 648 130 Also, watch CampoPulse for their activities.

Eating at the station, or on it
Bar-Restaurante La Estación
Located in the next village up the hill from Jimena, this is where you can have an excellent meal on a functioning train station platform On occasions, a train stops there and passengers get off with their luggage. You can help them with that if you like. If not just say hola. If the train speeds by, wave at it! Nieves and her son Samuel will be happy to tell you that this has become one of the area's favourite places. It's also where they have even sent a film crew from Japan to talk about it, and sushi is not usually on the menu! Reservations: 956 642 244 · Website;

La Viña de Liñán
Now, this is an amazing place. It's not just the spectacular views, nor the peace and quiet even if only a few metres from the village, nor even the fact that Cilla might appear at your window to say hello. It's not even the warm welcome you'll get from owners Valerie and Pat, or the fact that you can book a massage or a reike. It's ... all of that and more. What makes it unusual, though, is its location on the side of a hill, above a lush green valley where you can often see the vultures below (!) you. It's ... don't know how to describe it; you'll just have to see it for yourself. Reservations: · phone: 956 640 936 · Website:

Okay, you tell me how to describe a place that oozes care and attention, even for Cilla, which explains why she might poke her head through the window at some point. She's lovely, is Cilla. No, really!

This town grew out of San Roque many years ago. It was in fact the line (la línea) between the British forces on Gibraltar and the Spanish during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in 1727. These days you're much more likely to know it as the place you can queue for hours to get into Gibraltar. Well, that's the reverse of the original línea idea. There doesn't appear to be a guided tour of the town these days, but there are several interesting places to visit, and unusual, as you will see:

The bunker tour
Actually, there isn't really a tour, as we said, but you could make it great fun to discover them. You will notice several of these World War 2 bunkers as you drive around by the sea. They were built by German engineers as defences against a possible invasion of Spain by British forces on Gibraltar and they are part of an extensive line of fortifications along the whole coastline of the Campo de Gibraltar (no changes since Roman times on this!). Some 500 were built at the time, but the invasion never happened. Interestingly, many of them were built on the bases provided by parts of the original 18th century lines. There are models of them, too, at the Isthmus Museum in the town. We don't advise anyone to enter them, even if they are open. Here's a short lecture on them, on YouTube.

The Saccone Gardens
A little, almost unknown, treasure are the Saccone Gardens, known locally as 'Paseíto Chacón' (Chacón, of course, being a bastardization of Saccone), bought by the Gibraltarian businessamn Jerome Sacconne in 1874. It was a large estate, mainly an orchard, on which the Saccone family built a magnificent villa. The estate was sold to the town in the 20th century and parts of it were developed. However, the town kept the main building, which is now the Town Hall.

And nearby hangs a tail...
(Sorry, couldn't help meself)
The Bullfighting Museum
Whether or not you like bullfighting, whether you approve or disapprove, it cannot be denied that it is part of Spanish history and culture. Therefore, a visit to this little-known  museum on this subject may not go too far against your principles. Here you will find one of the largest collections of corrida posters in Spain, plus photographs and suits of light. And there is usually someone there who would be happy to expound his (or her) knowledge of this very Spanish 'art form' that is destined to die out, at least in the northern parts of the country. It is close to the bullring, but you knew that, didn't you? (MAP)

Los Barrios sits between San Roque and Algeciras. Its more recent phase began as a place of refuge, like San Roque, from the British when the latter took over Gibraltar in 1704, though there are many indications that it had been populated long before that, in pre-history as well as by Romans and Moors. It became separate from the municipality of San Roque in 1870. The municipality incorporates the Campo's main shopping centres at Palmones and surroundings (Carrefour, Lidl, Leroy Merlin, Bricor, etc. etc.), as well as Guadacorte, Los Cortijillos and Puente Romano.

The little train
For some reason, this curious attraction is hard to find on internet as it is not much publicized. But it's there, you can't miss it, it's on the roadside one of the entrances to the town. This full size toy train has been in its place for a long time and will delight the kids (and bring fond memories to many adults). The engine is one that used to be used on the Algeciras to Ronda railway, but the wagons are definitely playful. (MAP LINK)
The wagons inside, are a child's dream playground. Here's a peek.

La Casa del Inglés
Translated to The Englishman's House,  (MAP LINK)  and officially named after Joseph William Hurley Cunningham, a popular local character who arrived here in the 1960s. A world traveller, he first settled here in a picturesque caravan, living off the proceeds of his fishing, for which he owned a small boat. He not only left the house to the Council but also a collection of fascinating collection of photographs taken on his travels. He concentrated on the faces of people, including the inhabitants of Egypt, Morocco, India, Malaysia, The Philippines, Hawaii and many other places he had visited during his colourful life.

Twitchers ahoy! - September 15
There is a birdwatching centre at Palmones, where cataloguing and counting the species and numbers is carried out year round. However, on this day, the public are invited in to help for anywhere between 4 to 6 hours. The Palmones area is a wetland very popular with most species crossing the straits. Ornithologists from all over the world come here in the Spring and Autumn, and this is the beginning of the migration season. (MAP LINK)

Oh, deer! Oh, deer! September 22 and 29
The whole of the Campo de Gibraltar borders on the Los Alcornocales Nature Park, one of Europe's largest protected areas. This is probably why the deer feel quite comfortable holding loudly forth during the annual mating season. The Vulpes organization is organizing two evening outings  (when the mating calls and fights among males, called la berrea, are at their most passionate) starting out from the bullring parking lot at 7pm on both these Saturdays. Book now, as this is a very popular thing to do.

Officially called "the city where that of Gibraltar resides", San Roque is the second richest borough in the province of Cádiz, after Jerez. Its present existence is owed largely to it being the place where Spaniards fleeing from the British takeover of Gibraltar found refuge, becoming the Rock's 'city in exile'. Within the municipality are the luxury resort of Sotogrande and the Roman ruins of Carteia, incongruously and carelessly nestled under and around a vast oil refinery.

Finca La Alcaidesa
This estate, which belongs to the Andalusian Regional Government, is one of the borough’s best kept secrets. The park borders at the north east of the Pinar del Rey pine woods, very close to Sotogrande, Los Alcornocales Nature Park and Gibraltar The 18th century country house offers accommodation and plenty of activities. But you camn also simply take a breather among the 1,500 hectares of land, home to wild goats, deer, boar and vegetation that is exclusive to this Mediterranean habitat. (MAP LINK) This was the original Alcaidesa, from which the mammoth coastal urbanization of the same name was extracted. Another junk was taken in the 1960s to become part of the Sotogrande resort.

Sierra del Arca
The Sierra del Arca (MAP LINK), north of the Alcaidesa residential area and the A-7 dual carriageway, is one of the Campo’s most attractive geological formations. The mountain range covers a 200 hectare surface area of Mediterranean shrubland, with cork oak and pine trees. It includes the old Andalusia Safari Park facilities, which closed in 1982. The old animal enclosures can still be seen, as well as the ponds and palm trees. If you're very lucky, you may come across the family of Gibraltar apes that escaped from the park and still reside here. The mountain range also hides important Palaeolithic cave paintings at the Horadada Cave and other nearby ones. There are also stunning panoramic views of Gibraltar, San Roque, the Bay of Algeciras, Sotogrande and Torreguadiaro. Climbing is allowed, but NEVER do it alone.

Guided tours - from food to history and lifestyle
The Tourist Office offers free guided theme tours (weekdays, mornings, afternoons and weekends). These include sightseeing tours of the Roman ruins at Carteia, the luxury resort of Sotogrande and many more, including some well beyond the borough. They can be arranged for groups of 8 or more people in Spanish, English or Italian. They need at least three days advance booking but if you can't get a group of friends or relatives together, contact the Tourist Office to join other groups in your language, if that can be arranged.

Here is the southernmost point on continental Europe, Punta de Tarifa. It was named after Tarif Ibm Malik, who headed the first Berber invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in AD 710. It is also credited with being the origin of the word 'tariff' as it was the first port ever to charge for its use (more likely, though still with Berber connections, is the Arabic word ta'rif). And still connecting with North Africa, the busy ferries at the port will whisk you across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier. But Tarifa is also the 'Capital of Windsurfing' (about which you can get a lot of info by googling the town's name).

Rock climbing - September 16 and 30
The municipal tourist office announced discounts for rock climbing at the Betis crags is one (click on image for video). Go to the crag for a lesson to start you out (MAP LINK). More information will be available at the Town Hall. (MAP LINK) Phone 956 680 993 · email: · website: under construction.

Whale watching
This is a great time of year to go out into the straits. As stated in the Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2006, up to seven species of cetaceans can be observed. September is a good time to catch the Killer Whales as these giants come through. You get very close to them, guided by experienced pilots. It's an experience not to be missed at any time of the year. Aside from the killer whales, you will almost certainly see the playful dolphins surrounding the boat - it's to be seen to be believed. A couple of organizations offering the experience: Turmares, and Whalewatchtarifa. There are more, just google it.

Nudist beach - okay, 'naturist'
Not everyone's cuppa, admittedly. But this is one of the places where it is perfectly okay to go about as you arrived. You are not obliged to take your kit off, but don't be surprised to see what might surprise you. In any case the beaches along this coast are some of the loveliest. Mainly unspoiled (though threatened with development, alas). One of the continent's largest sand dunes is drifting across roads and making things difficult for the locals, but that, fortunately, is not our problem for the time being. There are several coves at Bolonia beach that are designated as naturist beaches, all of them with warnings.



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