All along the watchtowers in Menorca

A path around the island's coast, where soldiers once trod, has now reopened to the public. Lucy Grewcock reports

"Finally, the Cami de Cavalls is open again," beamed my riding instructor, Sarah Barford.

She, alongside hundreds of other determined locals, had campaigned to regain full access to this historic right of way, which dates back to medieval times. It fully opened in May this year. "Where the trail passed through private land, there was conflict," she explained.

The Cami de Cavalls, or "Way of Horses", circumnavigates the island of Menorca, tracing its coastline for 185km (110 miles). The path guides visitors over red-sand coves and contorted headlands on the gnarled northern coastline, golden beaches and flower-filled gorges on the smoother southern shores, and through the historic cities of Ciutadella and Mahon at the island's western and eastern extremities. It was originally intended as a bridleway, so it seemed only appropriate to experience at least one section of the trail on horseback.

It was early evening when I rode over the headland and caught my first sight of Cala Pregonda: a U-shaped sweep of sand, backed by green-haired dunes, with jade waters sheltered by weathered outcrops, and at the centre of the bay, a stegosaurus-shaped rock that looks like it's taking a bath. Until the reopening of the Cami de Cavalls, such views were restricted, because more than 40 per cent of Menorca's beaches are inaccessible by car and can be reached only by sea or this path.

Here, on the north coast, I was on one of the Cami de Cavalls' wildest tracts. I was far from the whitewashed hotels and crowded resorts of Cala Galdana and Punta Prima, with no phone reception and not a hope of a beach bar for hours. As I cantered down a concealed corridor, my head bobbed above the wild olive trees; I imagined myself as a medieval messenger, galloping to tell the next watchtower that I'd spied a pirate fleet.

Since the 18th century, perhaps even earlier, the Cami de Cavalls has been trampled by every occupying force that landed on this island; Moors, Catalans, French and English. Along this perimeter path, watchmen would courier warnings of attack. But today, the watchtowers have been replaced by sandcastles and the trail enjoys a slower pace of life, which I indulged in by continuing my passage on foot.

I trampled a new section of the path each day, meeting roaming donkeys and wild goats but rarely a fellow tourist. At every turn, I would drop into another deserted cove, or stumble across another sheltered beach. When the ancient pathway turned inland, sea salt gave way to red dust, and the sand between my toes became a carpet of pine needles that crunched beneath my sandals like Shredded Wheat. I felt like a pioneer, discovering the island for the first time – an unexpected surprise in a destination swamped by summer-holiday pilgrims.

After going solo for a few days, I spent a day walking with Ramon Fritz, whose company, Rutas Menorca, offers excursions along the Cami de Cavalls, from three-mile rambles to week-long expeditions of the entire loop.

I filled him in on the sections I'd already accomplished, only to discover that I'd bypassed several highlights. "Did you turn off the path to Cala Presili?" – No; "Did you see Hangman's Tower near Sant Esteve?" – No; "Did you snorkel in Paradise Cove?" – No. No matter, "soldiers had little time for sightseeing", teased Ramon.

Unfolding a map of Menorca with the dotted line of the Cami de Cavalls tracing its coastline, Ramon pointed to where small detours off the pathway led to hidden treasure. Come sunset, we had fed sweet-water turtles in concealed gorges, flung rocks over Menorcan llocs (traditional farmlands) with ancient slingshots, and trespassed through prehistoric burial grounds.

Right now, Menorca's "sun and sea" tourist season is winding down, but the Cami de Cavalls season is only just getting started – it's the best time to come. "In autumn and winter everywhere is green. In Easter the island's filled with flowers," said Ramon. "Outside summer, it's cooler, prettier – and cheaper."

By the end of the week, I had traversed the northern terrains and was exploring the soft curves of the south. As I rambled along a particularly forgiving stretch, a Lycra-clad bottom wiggled past me on a mountain bike. I'd been advised by Ramon that tackling the trail on two wheels wasn't for the faint-hearted. "It's pretty intrepid in parts," he had cautioned. But as bike and bottom disappeared out of sight, I scuffed at the hard-packed dirt on the path – how hard could it be?

The following morning, I was grinding my gears behind a Spanish former mountain bike champion turned cycle guide, Ruth Moll. As Ruth nipped down near-vertical shoots, hopped over boulders and carved fluid lines through jagged rock gardens, I bounced off the rutted pathway, stalled at sandy beaches and skidded down wave-cut stairways. "It's technical, eh?" Ruth called back, as I slid off a polished platform and landed in the dust.

Two hours later, at the end of our 20km (12 mile) gauntlet, I emerged saddle sore but triumphant, with a masochistic desire to do it all again. The ultimate challenge is to cycle the entire circuit in four days, for which Ruth awards her guests an esteemed Cavalls de Ferro (Iron Horses) T-shirt. I think I'll leave that way to explore the Cami de Cavalls to the experts.

Compact Facts

How to get there

Easyjet (0845 104 5000; flies to Menorca from £113 return. Walking tour companies Rutas Menorca (00 34 685 74 73 08; rutas and Menorca Viva (00 34 634 507 305;, horse-riding operator Menorca a Cavall (00 34 971 37 46 37; menorca and mountain biking specialist Cavalls de Ferro (00 34 971 38 10 56; offer tailored itineraries of different durations and can arrange accommodation from about £55 per room per night.

Further information

The official Cami de Cavalls guidebook is available in all tourist offices in Menorca, price £17.50.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness