A quick flick through Menorca’s history books and you will soon see that this island has a complex past and its fair share of invading armies. The Romans, Greeks, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, British and Spanish are a few that have all arrived and conquered, which is a key contributing factor to the island’s diverse and unique culture.
The reason for Menorca being the target of many invaders is its key strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea. The fascinating and turbulent military history can be uncovered at the fortresses of Marlborough and La Mola, which stand either side of the mouth of Port de Maó to the south-west. These fortresses played a vital role in protecting the greatest deep water anchorage of the western Mediterranean. No Menorca holiday is complete without a visit, as you are also treated to wonderful views of the ocean, coastline and capital city of Mahón.
Built by the British between 1720 and 1726, Fort Marlborough stands to the south of the entrance to Maó Harbour in the cove of Cala de Sant Esteve. The name comes from Sir John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, who was the most prominent British general at the time. The fort was partially destroyed by the Spanish in 1782 but still stands today, partly because it was so well-hidden deep within the cove.
Today, Fort Marlborough is a fantastic museum where visitors can learn about Menorca’s military history through thrilling re-enactments of being under siege. This includes soldiers in uniform and brilliant special effects for an immersive experience. You can also enjoy splendid views over the harbour from the upper level.
Adults can visit the museum for €3, concessions are €1.80 and there is no charge for children under 8 – a great experience and insight into the island’s intriguing military background.
Fortress of Isabel II, La Mola
To the north of the harbour is the La Mola peninsula. The British attempted to build a fort here which was to be named St Anne’s Fort, but they instead decided to abandon the project and focus their efforts on enlarging the castle of San Felipe on the south side of the harbour.
When Menorca was handed back to the Spanish in the mid-nineteenth century, they began work on fortifying La Mola amidst renewed threats of invasion from the British. The result was a giant yellow sandstone structure that was extremely ambitious and took 25 years to build, by which time advances in weapons technology meant that changes had to be made. The different materials that were used to improve the fortress can clearly be seen in the different types of gun emplacements.
Whilst the construction of the Fortress of Isabel II was certainly complicated, it is still an impressive space and a must-visit on any Menorca holiday. You can visit the fort throughout the year and get guided tours, with admission costing €8 for adults and discounts for seniors and kids.
Despite being a small island, you will find an incredibly complex and intriguing history in Menorca. Holidaymakers should take the time to uncover this, with these fortresses being a great place for a history lesson. Not just this, but they also showcase the beauty of the area with gorgeous views of the coast.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine – no secret of the island remains hidden to her. Personally selecting the finest properties for her clients, Brenda is the go-to person for anyone planning a relaxing Menorca holiday. Bartle Holidays makes no warranty as to the accuracy of information contained in this article and excludes any liability of any kind for the information.
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