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Review: a British Airways day trip to Gibraltar

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This is our review of a British Airways day trip to Gibraltar.

There are very few places at the moment that have no entry restrictions on arrival (such as quarantine or a requirement to show a PCR test) or upon returning to the UK.

Gibraltar is one of them, and reader Matthias recently decided to go for a same-day break. Coupled with the unique Gibraltar airport experience we thought it would make an interesting piece.

Worlds best departure lounge Gibraltar

Over to Matthias:

“Desperate for a trip out of the UK but short on time, I’d been watching the UK ‘travel corridor’ list during lockdown, hoping for a lucky break.

None came (unfortunately my budget does not extend to private jets to Bhutan or Botswana!). The only destination left without the need for quarantine or test in either direction was the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.

I’d visited Gibraltar once, 20 years ago, and my memories weren’t the best – aggressive monkeys and run-down pubs seemingly the only thing I could remember.

Airport from Moorish Castle Gibraltar

I figured at the very minimum it would be a fun flying experience. Gibraltar Airport usually ranks high in a list of ‘exciting airports’ due to its unique characteristics:

  • The short runway has water at both ends
  • The main road into town actually crosses the runway so must be closed every time a plane lands or departs
  • You get great view of the Rock on either departure or landing, depending on prevailing wind conditions and a judicious choice of seat

Conveniently, British Airways runs double daily Heathrow – Gibraltar flights on certain days, allowing a long day trip with around 6.5 hours on the ground. I got a great deal at under £80 return booked a month out, although I did notice the prices were nearer to £500 just before departure.

(Wizz Air has also just launched flights from Luton if you want another option. They depart at 13.40 every Monday and Friday.)

Sadly the flight time is just too short for an 160 tier point Club Europe run. This meant I stayed in Euro Traveller despite BA’s best efforts to sell me an upgrade.

The morning flight is quite early at 7.10am but has the benefit of getting you to a pleasantly warm Gibraltar by 11.00.

The flight was packed but immigration was efficient as long as you showed the barcode proving your completion of the online health form.

Because Gibraltar is less than 7 square km or 3 square miles, the airport is literally next to town. You can walk to Casemates Square in around 15 minutes including, of course, the crossing of the runway!

Alternatively, there are taxis and buses, although these can be slow as traffic seemed to be generally quite terrible.

Top Of The Rock Gibraltar
The original Top of the Rock

Things to do & see in Gibraltar

Gibraltar is, of course, mainly known for the Rock. This is where all the main sights are, which I’d decided to visit first before ending back in town for a walk and pitstop.

You need to buy a Nature Reserve ticket to access the Rock, but as this included entry to all the sights it was a real bargain at £13 considering the variety and quality of the attractions. Even if you’re not interested in military history, reading about the Moors, Spaniards, Brits and others fighting for the Rock is thoroughly engrossing.

Suspension bridge with Gibraltar town in the background
The Windsor Suspension Bridge

I started off at the Moorish Castle (really only a tower, but a very old one and with a nice bonus view of the airport). I progressed to the Great Siege Tunnels (fascinating and superbly refurbished), the new Windsor Suspension Bridge (mildly scary) and the Mediterranean Steps up the steepest part of the Rock, but with great views along the way.

66 years ago in St Michaels Cave Gibraltar
Preceded by royalty at St Michael’s Cave

After my first encounter with the famous Barbary macaque monkeys – who truly have no fear and can be mildly intimidating – I made my way past O’Haras Battery to St Michael’s Cave, bigger than expected and beautifully showcased in son-et-lumiere.

After a fleeting visit to the new but unimpressive Skywalk, I finished at the top station of the rickety old Cable Car, which whisked me back into town in a couple of minutes.

Cable Car Gibraltar

Rather unhelpfully, seeing all the sights involves a fair bit of backtracking and ups and downs, so I ended up covering around 10km and 1,000m climb. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are keen on some serious exercise. I did it running, with a backpack. Everyone’s crazy in their own way.

For a more comfortable experience, you could either leave out the odd landmark, start with a taxi to the far end, rent e-bikes or hire a tour guide who will gladly ferry you around in a car or minibus.

The alternative is to split your visit over a couple of days – any more and you’ll be bored, unless you’re once again allowed to cross the nearby border into Spain without triggering quarantine.

From the bottom of the cable car station, it’s a short stroll into Gibraltar town, which after an ‘extensive beautification programme’ now boasts the wonderfully pedestrianised Main Street. You can amble this back to Casemates Square for an alfresco pint and some tapas.

Casemates Square Gibraltar

Soon enough it was time to walk back to the airport, making sure I crossed the runway before the inbound flight.

After gliding through security in the beautiful but rather over-specced airport building, I was pleased to hear that the business lounge had reopened. I was less pleased to hear that British Airways had stopped paying for access so that my Silver card was useless.

Instead of paying the (surprisingly reasonable) £13 access fee, I grabbed a beer from the main bar and sat on the balcony, watching my plane come in with the Rock as backdrop.

Worlds best departure lounge Gibraltar

As night fell, there was one last highlight to come. Due to the westerly winds, the plane would take off into the Bay of Algeciras and do a full circle around the Rock before heading back home.

The view from the left-hand side really was something else and almost made up for the absence of a G&T!

I’ll be honest that the flight back dragged on a bit, but when I arrived back home roughly 16 hours after I’d left, I concluded that it had definitely been worth it.”


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Comments (109)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • David says:

    As Tony says, it is called the Bay of Gibraltar, not the bay of Algeciras. If you check any decent maritime source.

    • lgflyer says:

      It seems the Spanish call it Bay of Algeciras but the Gibraltarians call it Bay of Gibraltar. Perhaps something similar to the English Channel being called the “Manche” channel by the French

      • David says:

        lgflyer – the point is that it has been called the Bay of Gibraltar in all languages, including in Spanish (Bahia de Gibraltar) by people in Spain for a thousand years. The whole “Bay of Algeciras” bit is a new thing that only began under the end of the Franco regime in Spain. At about the same time they started to argue Gibraltar had no territorial waters (an argument that many retired Spanish diplomats have admitted in their memoirs is an embarassing argument, legally flawed and actually undermines some other Spanish positions elsewhere.)
        What is funny is to parallel the name used in Spain for the bay, with the name that gets used for an oil refinery (located on the Spanish side of the bay owend by CEPSA). When the refinery has good news (more jobs, etc) it gets referred to as being in Algeciras, when it has bad news (accidental pollution discharge, etc)- it gets referred to in Spanish media as being the ‘Gibraltar refinery’ (with a picture of the rock behind it – but it has nothing to do with Gibraltar). Same happens for any news about things in the bay. But make no mistake, look at the older official Spanish maps in their own national archives – it is the Bay of Gibraltar, and has been for many (many) hundreds of years. Hence calling it the bay of Algeciras is seen as an offensive political point – tied to their claim Gibraltar has no territorial waters (despite Spain signing UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which admits Gibraltar does have territorial waters – when Spain signed UNCLOS she added a note that it didn’t apply to Gibraltar, problem for Spain is UNCLOS says no signatory can add such a note)

        • David says:

          To avoid any such sensitivities, things would usually be phrased to just say “the bay”.

        • Mike says:

          Uhm, I guess this is a textbook case of [Citation Needed].

          • David says:

            For which bit in particular? I can give you them for any/all if required. But the blog comment software is not the easiest to do this in.

      • Mike says:

        I’d posit, in the case of the Channel, that only in the UK is it known as the “English Channel.” In other words, it’s not just France that calls it “Manche.”

  • Anna says:

    I forgot – for history buff the Trafalgar cemetary is fascinating (and quite a pleasant spot, all things considered!) and contains headstones of some of the casualties of the battle (who were brought to Gib for medical treatment) which make for interesting reading. This is where Nelson’s body was brought, pickled in a rum barrel, apparently, before being returned to the UK for burial!

    • RussellH says:

      I would imagine that they were all people who survived the battle, except for Nelson himself.
      From what I have read, those killed outright in battle at that time were just thrown overboard, in order to get the bodies out of the way.
      Fewer trip hazards…

  • David says:

    Thanks Matthias; you evoked the ambiance of Gibraltar very well and reminded me of pre-Covid day-trips as side-trips (taken during business trips) I found worth every minute – even if my family thought I was crazy:

    1) Rio-Manaus-Brasilia-Rio
    2) Lima-Cuzco-Arequipa-Lima
    3) Santiago-Punta Arenas-Santiago
    4) Nice-Ajaccio-Nice
    5) Vienna-Sarajevo-Vienna

  • Windom Earle says:

    I’m aware I’m very much in the minority here…but I think this is a very irresponsible article.
    And I’m not even coming from the environmental angle either.
    promoting a day trip to Gibraltar this year of all years is irresponsible, and is the epitome unessential travel.

    • Sideshow Bob says:

      However, it’s not against the rules.

      • Chrisasaurus says:


        Does seem some of us are more in this together than others still, doesn’t it….

    • Jack says:

      Boring. is right there for you to virtue signal with other likeminded people.

      I traveled all summer – best decision I have made in 2020 given the lockdowns we have towards the end of the year. I’d be going nuts if I’d stayed at home since March.

      • LB says:

        Cos it’s all about you isn’t it!

        • babyg says:

          @LB – Yawn again… this is a travel blog site, people are going to talk about …. travel!

      • Johnny Tabasco says:

        Wow what a crazy comment. Me me me.
        Along with our clueless governments handling of this pandemic it’s attitudes like this above which mean we aren’t getting anywhere.
        Me me me. I’ll do what I want. Nobody else matters.
        And then wearing it like a badge of honour.

    • Nick_C says:

      What do you expect from a site that encourages people to break quarantine rules when returning from abroad?

    • Rhys says:

      Nobody is forcing you to go right now!

      • Nick_C says:

        Of course not. But encouraging people to take trips like this is irresponsible.

    • Matthias (author) says:

      For the avoidance of doubt, I followed all the travel rules in operation at the time that I travelled, when London was in Tier 2.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Top tip: try and visit Lower St Michael’s Cave.
    You used to have to book through the tourist info office. It was only discovered during WW2 and has very limited access, so the colours of the rocks are vivid, not faded as in Upper St Michael’s. There’s also an amazing underground lake with a tiny ledge that you can walk round.
    Would love to revisit.

  • BJ says:

    Thanks for this, a great report. Had never thought about a day trip tbh, but now I’ll add it as a side trip to a future London visit.

  • Nick says:

    Interesting article, but Gibraltar isn’t an island as you mention in one of the opening paragraphs!

    • ADS says:

      “the whole of the island is less than 7 square km”

      Peninsula / enclave / territory … but definitely not an island !

      Good article though.

  • Zain says:

    With London going into tier 4 , how does this affect international travel from/to Heathrow and Gatwick?

    • Johnny Tabasco says:

      tbh this is the last place I’d take ask for sensible travel advice… read some of the posts on this thread today. People do what they want and ignore any advisory about non essential travel and in some cases even boast about it.

      • Josh says:

        To be fair the timing of this article is a bit unfortunate.

      • Jake says:

        Ah but in their minds it’s ‘essential’ they travel, no matter how flimsy the reason. Still, come summer they’ll all be bitching that they can’t get refunds because everywhere is still closed, without a hint of irony.

        • DT says:

          Why do you even bother visiting this site if you’re so against travel? Nearly everything on this travel points blog is about travelling

      • Charlieface says:

        An advisory remains an advisory, it’s not anyone else’s business whether someone listens to advice. Legislation on the other hand… now that’s what elections are for

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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