A walk through Gibraltar’s forgotten Upper Town.
Main Street is boring, unless you want to play a real-life game of Frogger with Mein Schiff passengers. All it takes is a larger-than-normal influx of tourists on a Saturday morning to convert an otherwise pleasant stroll into something straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch depiction of hell. Maybe the average Gibraltarian of my age, and younger, aren’t aware of the alternative routes to Main Street. It’s just part of a simple trade-off: dodging tourists (and locals alike), versus feeling a little bit of a burn in your legs. So let me guide you through an off the beaten track walk around hidden Gibraltar, for those days when you have more time on your hands.
Road to the Lines
Start your walk at Casemates, quite possibly the best place to start off to convince yourself that taking an alternative north-south route is a good idea. Take Crutchett’s Ramp (past Valmar Pharmacy), and Demaya’s Ramp and up onto Road to the Lines. Yes, you’ll feel the burn and you’ll be out of breath, but at the end of Road to the Lines – a street lined with nice, but sadly derelict buildings – you’ll find a little square with some concrete benches. The square isn’t in its best shape, but you’ll see the potential straight away.
Calle Comedia Area (Castle Street, Castle Ramp & New Passage)
Carry on past the little square at the end of Road to the Lines and through a narrow passageway that will lead you to the top of our famous outdoor escalator that never works, but sometimes does, but probably won’t when you get there. You’re now on Castle Ramp, which has been vastly improved in the last few years, with residents fixing up their façades and putting out a whole lot of plants, giving it a very Spanish/Italian Mediterranean town feel. Now, you can either take some stairs up to Lower Castle Road or walk down Castle Ramp to Castle Street (Calle Comedia) and New Passage; both good options. The latter is best if you’ve realised walking up and down stairs and hills is not for you, in which case you can sit on the steps of Calle Comedia and order some food and drink from The Kasbar, and if walking has made you delirious even get a tattoo from the parlour next door.
If you decided to brave the stairs to Castle Road (not to be, but easily, confused with Castle Steet, Castle Ramp, Lower Castle Road, Upper Castle Road…) you’re in for a treat, because there are a few interesting places to get lost in around here: Paradise Ramp and the offshoots of Willis’s Road (if you want to go up even further), Chicardo’s Passage, the beautiful restoration of the old Police Barracks into what is now called The Arches and the best bit, right at the end of Castle Road, Sacred Heart Church.
Every Gibraltarian has been to the Cathedral, it’s easy to get to, but few Gibraltarians brave the walk to Sacred Heart Church, and what a shame that is! Gothic by design, this church from the late 1800s is arguably nicer, inside and out, than all the other churches in Gibraltar.
Just metres from Sacred Heart Church is Carter’s, one of the few shops in the Upper Town (if we consider the limits of this to be above Governor’s Street). At a crossroads, Carter’s is the best place to stop a second, admire the church from below and decide whether you’re going to call it quits or carry on.
If you decide to call it quits there are two options: You can get back down to Governor’s Street down one side of Prince Edward’s Road, where you’ll be able to see some of Gibraltar’s best hidden properties if you peek through the gate and doors on Library Steps; don’t be afraid. If you decide to take the other side of Prince Edward’s Road it will take you all the way down to the Trafalgar Cemetery, which is another great walk.
Feeling adventurous? Next to Sacred Heart Church are little nooks and crannies such as Lime Kiln Road, Lime Kiln Steps and the Union Jack painted Devil’s Gap Road, which curiously isn’t actually a road.
Between Flat Bastion Road and Prince Edward’s Road
Now here comes the fun! Walk past Devil’s Gap Road and you’re on Flat Bastion Road, which runs parallel to Prince Edward’s Road, only going uphill rather than downhill. Now, if you’ve done a fair bit of exploring, especially around the offshoots of the streets I’ve mentioned, this 400 by 50 metre area is the real prize.
Flat Bastion Road, apart from some nice views of the bay, isn’t all that nice or great, but it’s the little streets leading down from Flat Bastion Road to Prince Edward’s Road below that are the real hidden gems of Gibraltar. Stairs leading to places you would never imagine people lived in, buildings towering over each other in competition for a nice view of the bay, wild plants growing out of the most unexpected of places, complete silence broken by the sound of dishes or a television, and then you emerge by Hargreaves and the Trafalgar Cemetery. I can assure you that once you explore one of these little streets you will want to go back for more… get those legs moving!
BY STEFANO BLANCA SCIACALUGA