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Henry Blofeld

Blowers goes into bat for Menorca

Red Arrows RAF display team

Red Arrows return to Menorca

The world-famous Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is to return to Menorca to give one of its breathtaking displays over the island’s south coast. The Red Arrows will be Balearics-bound on September 18.

The squad last visited Menorca in 2014, when they thrilled crowds in and around the south-east of the island. It’s the Red Arrows 54th season of displaying flying and also the RAF’s centenary year.

Red Arrows CO Wing Commander Andrew Keith said: “Preparations continue for the Red Arrows’ 2018 season, when the team will play its part in marking the Royal Air Force’s centenary year and aims to inspire all those who see our displays.”

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, is one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams.

Representing the speed, agility and precision of the Royal Air Force, the team is the public face of the service. They assist in recruiting to the Armed Forces, act as ambassadors for the United Kingdom at home and overseas and promote the best of British.

Flying distinctive Hawk fast-jets, the team is made up of pilots, engineers and essential support staff with frontline, operational experience. Together, they demonstrate the excellence and capabilities of the Royal Air Force and the Service’s skilled, talented people.

With their trademark Diamond Nine shape and combination of close formations and precision flying, the Red Arrows have been displaying since 1965. Based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, the Red Arrows had flown almost 4900 displays in 57 countries, by the beginning of 2018.

The full list of Red Arrows 2018 displays

Fine dining in Menorca

One thing can certainly be said about Menorca: there is no shortage of fine dining establishments. Below are listed some of the restaurants we have sampled and enjoyed; it’s by no means a comprehensive selection, and we invite you to let us know if you’ve had a great meal somewhere on the island…

Es Castell
Calas Fonts (pictured above) is a magical setting for an evening meal, and there’s a dozen or more restaurants from which to choose, to match every budget and taste. Our favourite for a three-course meal is the wonderful Nou Siroco (Moll de Cales Fonts 39). If a stylish spot for a little informal tapas is what you seek, try the splendid Es Llenegall (Moll de Cales Fonts 10-11).

St Joan de Binissaida diningJust out of the town on the road to Sant Lluis are two hotels with great restaurant reputations: Biniarroca and St Joan de Binissaida (pictured).

Mahon
You’ll need to book well in advance, it’s that popular, but Sesforquilles in the heart of the city (Rovellada de Dalt 20) is well worth a wait; delicious food but pricey. Down on the Port, it’s hard to beat the relaxed atmosphere and good bar food on offer at Latitud 40 (Moll de Llevant 265).

Sant Lluis
Es Moli de Foc (Carrer Sant Llorenc 65) is long-established gourmet hang-out with a deserved reputation. In the nearby village of Torret are the divine Pan y Vino, where the French chef and his Menorquin wife make an unbeatable team and provide some memorable dining, and also the stylish and excellent Sa Pedrera d’en Pujol, which offers some really exciting and different dishes.

BinibecaSa Cova diing Binibeca
Down by the waterside at Cala Torret you’ll find the wonderful Bar Paupa, which has a great evening alfresco atmosphere and some excellent sea food. If you are looking for a pre-dinner cocktail, just up the hill, on the main road through Cala Torret, is Sa Cova Grill and Lounge (pictured), with a chill-out terrace and some great tapas too.

Binisafua
If you love Thai food, then La Boyera (Carrer Llevant 40) is the place for you; you can even get a Thai massage…

Ciutadella
For a great harbourside position from which to watch the world go by, and in which to devour some superb seafood, there’s nowhere better than S’Amarador (Pere Capllonch 42).

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Historical Menorca

Menorca is steeped in history – much of it very surprising and tied very closely to the colonial past of Britain and France.

It is believed that Menorca was first inhabited as early as 4000 BC: the island can claim the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites found anywhere in the world. The island is dotted with the remains of the Talaiotic period; these include navetas (burial chambers), as well as rock-monument talaiots and taulas. One of the most visited sites is Naveta des Tudons, a bronze age burial chamber.

The Museu de Menorca in Mahon hosts an important collection of coins, pottery and funerary objects from the period.

In 123 BC Quintus Caecilius Metellus conquered the island for Rome and the province of Balearis Minor was formed; the Romans renamed the island Minorica and embarked on a programme of road building and the establishment of Iammona (Ciutadella) and Mago (Mahon).

In 903AD the island was captured by the Moors, renamed Minurka, and entered the Caliphate of Córdoba under Islamic rule. Ciutadella (Medina Minurka) was established as the island’s capital. Little remains of this period although many place names still begin with bini, meaning ‘son of’ in Moorish. Alfons III of Aragón conquered the island in 1287 and restored Christianity and the Moors were thrown into slavery or ransomed. Catalan became the official language and the island began its years of Spanish domination.

In 1535 Turkish pirate Barbarossa attacked Maó, razing it to the ground and killing or enslaving half the population. A second raid by the Turks on Ciutadella in 1558 had a similar outcome: most of the city was destroyed, its archive of historical documents was lost and 3000 people were taken as slaves to Constantinople.

In 1706 Menorca was split by civil war during the Spanish War of Succession, with violence between supporters of Felipe de Borbón and Archduke Charles of Austria (pretender to the Spanish throne). In 1708, Anglo-Dutch forces landed and took the island without a shot fired, starting a period of British rule, officially cemented in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht.

The British domination of 1708-1756 has been described by many as golden age of Menorca. Richard Kane, the first governor, improved farming, built a road across the island – the Cami d’en Kane – built schools and abolished the Inquisition. He also moved the capital to Maó.

In 1756 the Duke of Richelieu was welcomed into Ciutadella when he landed with 20,000 French troops. There was a brief naval skirmish but the British withdrew. This failure to defend the island caused the public disgrace and execution of Admiral Byng on the deck of HMS Monarch. The French ruled for the next seven years, founding the village of Sant Lluis and inventing mayonnaise during their stay, until the Treaty of Paris returned Menorca to the British in 1763. In 1782, a Franco-Spanish force captured the island for Carlos III of Spain after a six-month siege.

In 1798 Britain retook the island for the final time. Four years later, Menorca was returned to the Spanish crown by the Treaty of Amiens.

Among the many historical attractions well worth a visit are Fort Marlborough, near Es Castell, a brilliantly preserved glimpse of the 18th century British soldier’s life, the Military Museum in the town square of Es Castell, and the Isla del Rey, the former ‘hospital island’ in Mahon harbour.

The Balearic tourist authority’s downloadable audio guides to the island are well worth a listen.

Tourist attractions in Menorca

There’s a host of things to do and to see in Menorca in addition to the traditional pastimes of lying on a beach towel or a poolside lounger. Here are 10 of the best…

1 Get out on the water
glass-bottom boat Menorca
Mahon harbour is a beautiful spot to cruise, and you can pick up a relatively inexpensive ticket for a ‘glass-bottomed’ boat tour on the portside at Mahon and from Calas Fonts in Es Castell. The trips last around an hour and visit the fascinating landmarks that have shaped Menorca’s past and also offer wonderful underwater views. La Mola Fortress, the Isla del Rey British Military Hospital, Lazaretto Quarantine Island, Fort Marlborough and the Sant Felip Castle are just some of the fascinating sights you can see. Commentaries usually given in several languages. It’s also possible to take boat trips from other resorts, including Cala Galdana and Cala en Bosc, to whisk you off to a remote beaches.

2 Sample the highlife
Menorca is not notably hilly, but there is one amazing vantage point not to be missed: Monte Toro, near Es Mercadal, which rises 358m above sea level and offers panoramic views across the island, and even as far as Mallorca on a clear day. The summit is approached by a steep winding road at the top of which there is a sanctuary dating back to the 17th century, parts of which are still in use today by a community of Franciscan nuns. There is a little chapel which houses a statue of the Black Madonna, known as the Verge del Toro, and a large statue of Jesus, dedicated to Menorcans who died in the Spanish Moroccan wars of the early 20th century.

Cova d'en Xoroi Menorca3 Sundowners in the cliff caves
Cova d’en Xoroi
at Cala en Porter (right) is a spectacular cliffside bar with outside terraces set within natural caves 25m above sea level. There’s no better place from which to view sunset while sipping a cool drink, accompanied by ambient music and breathtaking sea views. By night, the caves are transformed into a very popular night club.

4 A safe bet you’ll enjoy this
The Aero Club and Hippodrome, beside the main Mahon-Sant Lluis road, has a nice bar/restaurant with snooker, pool and so on, as well as a kart track and, once a week on a Saturday evening in the summer months, trotting races, where the jockey sits in a small cart behind the horse. There are also trotting races on Sundays at the Hippodrome near Cala en Blanes, Ciutadella. Betting is limited to small amounts.

5 Shop till you drop
The city centres of Mahon and Ciutadella (pictured top) offer great shopping opportunities and a myriad of enticing places at which to rest your feet and take some tapas. An evening stroll along Mahon port, or around the Calas Fonts harbour at Es Castell, is not complete without some window shopping for fashion, jewellery and souvenirs. Out of town, we recommend the fabulous Jaime Mascaro factory shop at Ferreries, where the Pretty Ballerinas are made. There are lively local markets in Mahon on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Es Castell Mondays/Wednesdays, Alayor Thursdays, Ferreries Tuesdays/Fridays, and Ciutadella Fridays and Saturdays.

6 Hitting the right note
The Casino bar/restaurant at Sant Climent holds brilliant jazz nights every Tuesday during the summer months. If your ear is tuned more to the classical, head to Mahon’s Santa Maria Church, where you can hear organ recitals daily at 11am.

7 Get in the spirit
The British occupation of Menorca during the 18th century brought more than better roads and farming techniques to the island: the locals were also taught how to make gin. And it has to be said that the Mahon-distilled Xoriguer gin is very, very good indeed. You can see how it’s made, and sample it of course, at the portside Xoriguer factory.

La Mola Menorca8 Charge of the history brigade
The 19th century La Mola fortress (right) at the entrance to Mahon harbour is a striking landmark and has been a popular visitor attraction for many years; now you can visit its more remote parts aboard an electric buggy, the better to get a feel for its architecture and natural environment. It’s also great fun for the kids.

9 Seaside safari
There are some magical places in Menorca that the tour buses can never reach. To really penetrate the island’s beauty, you need to go off-road with Jeep Safari Menorca. They’ll take you out for a whole day in the countryside, feed you at their exclusive seaside finca and convey you to an idyllic beach for good measure.

10 In vino veritas
They make wine in Menorca, and very good it is too. A visit to the Binifadet winery in Sant Lluis is a must, even if you don’t want a guided tour of the vineyard and wine-making process. To sit on the Binfadet terrace and sample the reasonably priced wine made on the premises is as close to paradise as you’ll find in Menorca. Great food is served, too, but you may need to book a table at busy times. You can order a case of wine to be shipped home, too.

Plenty more sightseeing/activity tips at our Sporting Menorca and Historical Menorca sections…

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