Menorca - pocket-size holiday paradise

March 18, 2011 at 09:04

Matt Clark recently travelled to Menorca  with and Jet2holidays, he wrote about his trip in The York Press on 12 March 2011  

Cova d'en Xoroi chill out bar copyright Matt Clark

Menorca offers a haven of seclusion in the Med. Words and picture by MATT CLARK.

I'll give you three guesses; which Balearic island has more beaches than the rest put together? No doubt most of you will raise your eyebrows and sigh "Majorca of course". I would have done until recently, but it's Menorca that tops the sun-worshippers' league.

But sun, sand and Sangria aren't the only reasons to visit this pocket-sized retreat; it's more laid-back than its partying neighbours and more relaxing too. A perfect family destination in fact, if seeking out quiet secluded coves is your idea of heaven.

Menorca is worth exploring, though. Inland it's surprisingly lush, with olive groves and orchards; even herds of cattle. The British ruled here for more than 200 years, with hundreds of soldiers and sailors stationed on the island. Their legacy remains especially in Mahón, where sash and bow-windows adorn British houses painted with red anti-fouling paint.

Apparently the quartermasters had it in abundance, until the wealthy decided to use it to decorate their mansions. By the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, the Navy on Menorca had run out and that's why Nelson's fleet was in such poor shape.

Mahón has the second deepest natural harbour in the world, and these days warships have been replaced by huge ferries and cargo ships, not to mention the obligatory marinas crammed with luxury motor yachts. This is the place to be and Restaurant Club Marítimo of Mahón on the harbour side is the place to be seen.

Another British legacy is gin. You can't station umpteen officers on an island without letting them have their sundowner tipple, so the Mahón gin distillery was founded.

Mahón gin is quite different to the stuff we're used to; it's more aromatic and much smoother. Menorcans drink it as an aperitif with soda and a slice of lemon (Pellofa), or during festival time with lemonade, as Pomada.

Getting around the island is pretty straightforward; it's only 50km long and 20km wide. On the west coast, make sure you stop over at the picturesque old town of Ciutadella with its narrow cobbled streets, fine colonial architecture and quaint harbour. Here Restaurant Ses Voltes, on the stately town square, serves sublime seafood.

Food and drink are important in Menorca. Influences are wide and varied and all reflect the invading cultures from Muslim to Catalan to British.

Not surprisingly, seafood is plentiful and key dishes include caldereta (lobster soup), baked cuttlefish and squid stuffed with sweet potato. Other specialities include snails with aromatic herbs and asparagus bread and Oliaigua with tomatoes, stuffed courgettes or red peppers.

The relatively new resort of Fornells, on a pretty peninsula overlooking the bay of Cala Tirant, is where many of the capital's residents have holiday homes. The Bay of Fornells is almost bottle-shaped, which makes it ideal for windsurfing and sailing; but if you fancy something less energetic, the long golden sands are rarely crowded – even at the height of summer.

Es Plá on the quayside is the place to eat. It boasts superb views across the bay, serves great paella and is said to be a favourite of King Juan Carlos.
Half the fun of a Menorcan holiday is exploring the little resorts dotted around the island. The two coastlines could hardly be more different, from the rugged north with its golden beaches and iridescent blue seas to the white sands and sparkling turquoise waters of the south, where idyllic coves abound.

Menorca is also worth visiting for its amazing history. Perhaps the most remarkable is the 4,000-year-old tomb, Naveta dels Tudons, a funeral mound unique to Menorca. There are more than 1,000 Bronze Age monuments dotted around, best explored – as is the whole island – by walking or cycling along the Cami de Cavalls trail.

Top of the British historical sites are St Philip's Castle and Fort Marlborough, both above Mahón harbour. The latter is a maze of tunnels, where you can see what life must have been like during the many hard-fought sieges.

There are many other sites to explore, but I'll leave you to decide whether to find them because, at the end of the day, Menorca is a sunshine destination. And with more beaches than the rest of the Balearic Islands put together, you're bound to discover a quiet one for yourselves.

Maybe that's enough investigating for one week.

Fact file
Matt flew to Menorca with from Leeds Bradford Airport.
Flights are from £39.99 one way, including taxes, on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from May 20 to October 1.
Matt stayed at Hotel Rey Carlos III in Es Castell, which is available through Jet2holidays from £362 per person per week.
Jet2holidays also offers accommodation in 45 hotels in Menorca, including a seven-night stay at three-star self-catering hotels in Roc Lago Parc and Cala'n Bosch. Prices from £227 per person per week.