The Rock Hotel is an historic hotel built in 1932 in art deco style located in a commanding position on the Rock of Gibraltar. It quickly became a magnet for the rich and famous and is considered to be one of Europe’s iconic hotels so we were looking forward to following in their footsteps.
Getting to the hotel from the airport is very easy as it’s just a 15 minute taxi ride (£12 approx.). Alternatively, bus services 5 & 10 operate frequent services into the town centre with day tickets at only £3. There’s even a bus stop directly outside the hotel. Guests with only hand luggage may also consider walking to the hotel taking around 30 minutes but be warned the hotel’s drive is quite steep.
Arrival and Check-in:
Check-in is from 2.00 p.m. with guests arriving on early flights able to leave their luggage until later in the day. The receptionists were very welcoming and after quickly checking us in, we were soon heading to the lift to take us up to our room on the third floor.
There’s no boredom waiting for one of the lifts to appear though as the lobby contains a hall of fame of the many royals, politicians and celebrity guests who have stayed there including Sir Winston Churchill, Sean Connery and HRH Prince Charles. John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed at the hotel exchanging wedding vows in one of the private rooms and if it was good enough for all these dignitaries/ celebrities I felt confident that we would be in for a very pleasant stay.
It’s always exciting stepping into a ‘new’ hotel room with first impressions counting for so much and I had a big smile on my face as we unlocked the door. It was everything we could wish for and more. Our tastefully furnished room with its high ceilings beautifully combined colonial charm with modern day comforts.
Most of the hotel’s 84 rooms have sea view balconies or terraces and on opening our French windows we had the most beautiful views looking out over the boats moored in the harbour and towards Spain which was almost within touching distance.
As can be expected from a hotel of this calibre, rooms are air-conditioned and come equipped with a hospitality tray including a cafetière and a supply of tea and fresh coffee. A plus for me was the generous amount of milk provided in the fridge. So often in hotels I need to pop down to reception for extra milk but that was unnecessary here, even with our larger than average consumption. A nice extra touch was the complimentary dish of fresh fruit which was replenished during our stay.
The television had British channels so for those guests not wanting to miss an episode of their favourite programmes, they just needed to remember the one hour time difference. Power-points were plentiful and all with British three pin plugs. Wi-Fi was strong and it was just necessary to connect once unlike some hotels where it’s somewhat annoying to have to fill in details daily to refresh the connection.
A large wardrobe with ample wooden hangers was also to my liking as someone who likes to travel with lots of dresses. I can never understand why such a basic amenity as a hanger need ever be in short supply.
The refurbished bathroom featured a walk-in shower and separate toilet. Several rooms come with baths and these can be requested if available. A bale of fluffy towels, dressing gowns and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries completed the picture. We flopped onto our huge canopied bed, tucked in between the crisp white bed linen and were sound asleep in seconds.
The elegant Terrace Restaurant with its chequered tiled floor, potted palms and starched white tablecloths exudes timeless elegance. Guests and non-residents are also able to enjoy a meal sitting out on the Wisteria Terrace most times of the year.
The restaurant excels in fine dining and stability with the head chef taking up his role at just 22 and still at the helm over 40 years later. It’s the same with a number of the waiters who have given lifetime service to the hotel with their impeccable service and friendly smiles.
For such a prestigious hotel the menu is reasonably priced offering a varied selection of dishes catering for all tastes. We selected from the daily changing three course house menu and my starter of tomato and asparagus salad, followed by baked hake with celery and potatoes were beautifully presented and tasted just as good as they looked.
A buffet breakfast is set out each morning with hot food under silver cloches offering a wide selection of both hot and cold dishes, pastries, fruit and yoghurts. Eggs are cooked to order in any way you wish and my morning favourite of poached eggs on toast were always cooked to perfection and served promptly.
A time honoured tradition at the Rock Hotel is afternoon tea served each day in the lounge bar and out on the connecting Wisteria Terrace. Silver cake stands arrive generously filled with double decker finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam plus a mouth-watering selection of cream cakes.
Tea and coffee pots are replenished on request and glasses of champagne (extra charge) make the occasion even more special. It was so lovely sitting out on the sun bathed terrace taking in the views whilst enjoying a quintessential English afternoon tea in Gibraltar, a little slice of Britain in the Mediterranean.
The hotel has several comfortable lounges, all with sea views with the lounge cocktail bar a testimony to Gibraltar’s rich heritage with décor depicting photographs of the Rock’s colourful past and its days as a fortress defending Britain’s interests in the Mediterranean.
The hotel boasts an outdoor swimming pool that’s located just across the road on the edge of the Alameda Botanical Gardens. The pool is open between April and October and despite being closed at the time of our visit looked to be a very pleasant place to relax on one of its sun-loungers. A seasonal bar serving drinks and light snacks means that guests don’t need to trek back across the road to the hotel for refreshments. Just take care crossing the road to the pool as it can be quite busy.
Other hotel facilities include free car parking, a hair salon and function rooms.
Out and About:
For such a small place Gibraltar is filled with historic sights, attractions and activities. We spent an entire week in the territory and discovered so many interesting things to see and do. Here are some suggestions:
Take the cable car up to the Top of the Rock, a stunning 6 minute journey then walk around the Upper Rock Nature Reserve with its breath taking views.
Visit St. Michael’s Cave, the largest chamber of which has been transformed into a concert hall. It feels like a magical experience with its glimmering red, white and grey stalactite columns, resembling a cathedral complete with pulpit, chancel and organ pipes.
Stroll through the Alameda Gardens, a haven of tranquillity filled with exotic plants and flowers.
The plants are a combination of native species and others brought in from former British territories such as Australia and South Africa with which Gibraltar had maritime links at the time of the British Empire.
Walk across the Windsor Suspension Bridge, a 71 metre long thrill seekers attraction suspended over a 50 metre deep gorge with spectacular views.
Follow in the steps of Luke Skywalker by bravely stepping onto the Skywalk – a glass viewing platform, 340 metres above sea level where you can enjoy more spectacular views.
Go underground and explore the Great Siege Tunnels, once a secret military base constructed to defend Gibraltar.
Go tax free shopping along vibrant Main Street which runs for almost 1 km through the heart of the city. Each Saturday at 12.00 noon watch the historic re-enactment ceremony at Grand Casemates Square.
Staying at the Rock Hotel is an unforgettable nostalgic experience with its luxurious accommodation, delicious food and impeccable service. The dedicated staff are a credit to the hotel and nothing is ever too much trouble. I’d return in a heartbeat and I feel sure you would love staying there too!
The Rock Hotel, 3 Europa Road, Gibraltar GX11 1AA. Tel: +350 2007 3000
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