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The most impressive location for views across the Straits where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. You are standing at one of the Pillars of Hercules, known in antiquity as Mons Calpe. The other Pillar, Mons Abyla is 22.7km due south from the cache in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in Africa.
Park at the Pillars of Hercules/Jews Gate observation point (N36'07.252 W05'20.760) but don't waste photos on this view as a monstrous building has gone up spoiling it. Follow the Mediterranean Steps walk to the cache location for an incredible view of towards Africa.
If you want to carry on your walk PAST the cache, its a circular route which will take about 2 hours or more depending on speed and rests - NB it is quite tiring and you will want to stop often to admire views etc. It goes around the southern slope of The Rock and when on the western side its up up up to 36° 7'30.39"N 5°20'37.36"W (Google Earth coordinates not GPS) to reach the top of the ridge very near the highest point. From here follow the road downhill to St Michael's Cave and Cabin (36° 7'32.90"N 5°20'45.66"W –Google Earth). However before you get here, on the way up Med. Steps keep an eye out for some other caves.
The footpath comes to an abrupt false end and steps start off to the left which is the main path. At this point if you continue straight (over the barrier) on a short detour, the path continues to a cul-de-sac towards Fig Tree Cave and Martins Cave.
“Fig Tree Cave - 80m to the south and level with Martin’s Cave. It is located 3m above the path and has a narrow and low opening widening into a small chamber barely 1m high, and 2m by 3m with a narrow passage at a 40º angle ending in a muddy pit.
Martins Cave - (NB access ramp may be closed by a gate to protect the resident bats from disturbance) This cave was named after a gunner of the Royal Artillery in 1821. According to Palao (1969), the cave was first explored in 1840 by Captain Webber-Smith of the 48th Regiment. In 1867 Captain Frederic Brome also visited and excavated part of the cave. He unearthed two ancient swords of the 12th –13th century, together with a number of human remains including pottery, stone axes and flints. A number of bones were also retrieved, which included birds and reptiles. To commemorate his visit there is an inscription close to the entrance wall that reads, “This cave was explored by authority in June and July, by J. F. Brome Esq.”. In 1957 a further excavation was carried out by the Gibraltar Archaeological Society under the leadership of the archaeologist Mrs. Celia Topp. They excavated around a platform in front of a set of columns that had been disturbed due to the laying of cables by the Army during WWII. In this area they found two neolithic sherds, one with carvings of concentric arcs on the exterior and the other bearing some impressions on the surface and possessing a lug around the rim. Several worked flints and cherts were unearthed together with shells and beach pebbles. Cpl. J. Acock, who found bone points and blades of jasper, carried out the last known excavation in 1962-63. It is situated 170m above sea level at the end of the Mediterranean steps path, before the climb begins. The ledge below the entrance to the cave has been undercut by wave action, forming a wave cut platform at what was once at sea level. This feature corresponds to the Gunz glaciation (Palao 1969). Sandy deposits here and to the south of the cave, together with a shell breccia deposit 16m above the cave entrance are further evidence of this. Martin’s Cave has a large entrance facing the Mediterranean. Access to the cave is gained along a narrow ledge of sandstone and conglomerate. Inside is a large chamber with the floor sloping down westwards. There are several columns and some small stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of the chamber the floor levels off into a muddy pool formed by water percolating through fissures and dripping from the formations above. The roof is quite dry in places, without the classic build-up of calcite deposits. The rest of the cave shows evidence of a time when the climate was much wetter, producing the formations found along the walls of the slope and nearer the entrance, which have now dried up. Cpl. J. C. Marshall (in Palao 1969) said that ‘during and after rain one can hear torrents of water gushing in the roof of the cave’. Cpl. Marshall also stated that the cave was home to hordes of common bats, which ‘all of a sudden disappear and then return at a later date’. Populated by varying numbers of Schreiber’s bats there are also several interesting plants and ferns growing in the shade and cool environment that the cave entrance has to offer, including the maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris. In the summer fruit flies aestivate in the caves on Mediterranean steps. The walls of the cave turn black with millions of individuals covering the entire surface close to the entrance, an incredible spectacle worth seeing. It is possible that this formed part of the food resource for the bats that lived within, and is probably also of immense benefit to the many spiders living around the entrance. Hibernating moths also use the caves in the area during the winter.“
(above extracts from Upper Rock Nature Reserve: A Management and Action Plan - Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society)
On returning to the junction and continuing the path up the steps you will soon come to a pair of shallow hollows in the rock face...
“Goats Hair Twin Caves Located at 190m above sea level, these two caves lie side by side 30m above the path leading to Martin’s Cave. They have both been formed along vertical fractures, and water percolating along these has dissolved most of the rock. Both caves have a large, triangular entrance tapering off some 15m towards the end of the cave. This indicates the likelihood of marine erosion, as there is also a wave-cut platform and evidence of sand conglomerate outside the entrance that could indicate a past sea level. The southern cave was excavated by the Gibraltar Cave Research Group in 1969 with some of the finds on display at the Gibraltar Museum, but the northern cave is still intact, although it is full of litter.”
If you do make the whole walk to the top, descend on the less steep western slopes following the road and reward yourselves with a drink at the (expensive) St Michaels Cave Cabin bar. Go down to the parallel road below the cabin and walk south then when the road starts to go up (by the entrance gate to the cave) take a path on your right going down and south. Cross a road and carry on the path down on the other side. This will take you back to Pillars of Hercules and Jews Gate observation point from where you may have started and left your car. Alternatively you can do the path the other way by parking at eg. the cave, going up to the start/end of Med Steps path and coming down to Jews Gate. Less tiring but harder on the knees as you go down the high steps. If you have got to the "Top of The Rock Station" by cable car then this way may be best.
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