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6th June, 2015

Mahon, Menorca

We continued in smooth seas and clear skies, the Mediterranean is warming up. As the sun set, the twilight was quite magical and Venus is hugely bright in the west at present. Even Jupiter, not far away, is clear enough to see at least two of its moons with binoculars.

Our ETA pilot was 0600 hours, just fifteen minutes before sunrise, and he was ready and waiting in a little old, but immaculately kept, ex-British pilot cutter. The channel up towards Mahon is narrow in parts, but very scenic with the old 18th century fortifications of San Felipe and Marlborough on La Mola to starboard, and the attractive villas to port. Over two centuries ago there would have been hundreds of naval vessels at rest in this large sheltered anchorage.

Mahon, or Maó as it is locally known, sits on the top of a natural cliff probably a hundred feet above the harbour, and our berth was quite literally at the bottom of the elegant steps that lead up to the narrow streets surrounding the 17th century Town Hall, the ‘Ayuntamiento’. I don’t recall ever having been around the island so we took the opportunity to join the ‘Equestrian Menorca’ tour which took the north road that led to Fornells, through surprisingly green country side. Crossing over to the south side, we ended up at a viewpoint above Cala Galdan, an idyllic bay with aquamarine waters and golden sands.

From there the coach took us to the stud farm of Son Martorellet where black Menorcan stallions have been bred since 1997. There are now 2,500 registered and the twenty four at the farm are used for displays and for performing in local fiestas. Our group were given a demonstration of dressage in a covered manège and even I, not being a horse person, was rather impressed.

The tour concluded with a visit to an old country house at Binisues, built in the 18th century and now a museum. Wonderful views over the rural landscape, and a variety of old farming equipment in the out buildings, including an old Buick, up on jacks and covered in dust.

We sailed away in the late afternoon, with just about everyone on deck, as a kind of parting gesture they waved at the folks in a large hotel to which I had just given a broadside of three long blasts. That’s advertising, marvellous.

Captain Philip Rentell

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