19 May 2024

Enjoy the crystal clear waters of unspolit Menorca
Warm heart of mellow Menorca
Peter Hardy explores one of Spain's most unspoilt little islands
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t's not every day you see a man walking around a cathedral square with a smile on his face and a full-grown sheep on his shoulders. Sinister-looking black-clad horsemen dance stallions on their hind legs in the middle of a 20,000-strong crowd. The bravest dash forward to touch the horses for good luck.

The annual fiesta of Sant Joan in the ancient city of Ciutadella, on Menorca's west coast, features many bizarre rituals. Strangers fuelled by pomada, the local version of gin and bitter lemon, pelt you with hazelnuts (it's a sign of love). When it comes to celebrating the summer solstice, Menorca is the place to be. Sant Joan is the Catalan name of St John the Baptist and we're celebrating his June birthday.
Enjoy balmy summer sunsets in Menorca
and a few pods of white villas scattered around the coastline. Curiously, Menorca has Generalissimo Franco to thank. In retribution for the island's Republican stance during the Spanish Civil War, he denied Menorca access to public building funds. As a happy result it escaped any high-rise development. Menorca is half the size of the Isle of Wight. In the middle lies El Toro, a 1,000-ft hill with a church, a Franciscan convent and tremendous views. To the east lies Mahon with its deep harbour, Georgian buildings and narrow cobbled alleyways.

The variety of buildings in Mahon reflects the invaders, including Turkish pirates, who have occupied it. Our own Admiral John Byng was executed by firing squad for losing Menorca to the French in 1756. Most of the best beaches, such as Cala Macarella, Son Saura and Cala Pregonda, are tucked away in isolated coves along the 116-mile coastline. The Camí de Cavalls, an ancient bridleway, encircles the island and can be explored on foot, bicycle or horseback.

Fornells, on the north coast, is an attractive town with boutiques, craft market and restaurants. Inexpensive Sa Taula there has folk music and great tapas. For the finest fish at reasonable prices, I'd recommend a short trip along the coast to the bistro El Castillo at Addaia. For a romantic off-season break or a full-on family beach holiday, unspoilt Menorca is hard to beat.

Original article published in Apr 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
Mellow little Menorca is the least known of the Balearic islands and almost entirely unspoilt. Arriving by air in the capital Mahon, it comes as a welcome surprise to see that most of the island is made up of fields and woodland, with just two small cities
"The variety of buildings in Mahon reflects the invaders."
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