Great Siege Tunnels
If you’ve ever tried to imagine what 18th century engineering might have achieved, all you have to do is book a tour of the Great Siege Tunnels. Built by the British to maintain their claim of the rock from the Spaniards and French, this remarkably well built (or dug out) series of tunnels is a feat that highlights rock solid determination (pun intended).
The British desperately needed to cover a blind angle on the battlefield if they were going to defeat the dual pronged assault of France and Spain and the only way they could successfully have done it was by mounting a gun up high on the Rock of Gibraltar. Unfortunately though this would have been an uphill task; the steep gradient made it impossible to lay a path.
Sergeant Major Henry Ince finally came up with a crazy plan; dig out a tunnel through the solid limestone. Given the limited technology of 1782, where the only earthmovers were crowbars and sledgehammers its anyone’s guess why the plan got approved. But it was.
Long story short, the British won and Spain went home holding on to a grudge and a memory of what could have been.
After the Great Siege of Gibraltar, the Tunnels didn’t get much action thereafter. That was to change however with World War II.
Gibraltar in general and The Rock in particular served as a military foothold for British forces. By this time technological advancements abounded and a new round of tunneling was reinitiated yet again. Unlike the past when the Tunnels had only served as gun emplacements, during the Second World War the Great Siege Tunnels served as a garrison with a capacity to house 16,000 men together with supplies to last them a year!
Old is gold. Since the tunnels were quickly dug out during WWII they have not been as sturdy as the original channels excavated in the 18th Century. For this reason only parts of the Tunnels are open to the public due to safety concerns.
The Great Siege Tunnels are made up of around 32 miles of winding tunnels.
Getting to the Great Siege Tunnels
There are three ways to get to the Great Siege Tunnel; bus, cable car, taxi. Alternatively you could walk but it’s a long way up so really wouldn’t recommend.
To get to the Tunnels you’ll need to catch a #1 bus which will drop you off at Willis Road from which point you’ll walk a fairly short distance to the entrance of the tunnels.
If you prefer a cable car ride you’ll have to head for Elliot’s Way/Boyd Street which is within 200 meters of the Cable Car Stop. To get to Elliot’s Way you could use the #2 bus. The great thing about taking the cable car to the Tunnels is that you get to make a stop (not always) at Apes Den or middle station so you can interact a little with the monkeys.
Don’t get too concerned if the cable car doesn’t make any stop at middle station you still get to interact with the monkey’s first thing when you get out of the cable car. They have this acrobatic dance they do (sort of a welcoming committee dance) make sure you keep all plastic bags out of sight though as the Barbary Macaques will try and steal it.
Travelling to the Great Siege Tunnels by Bus can prove to be quite difficult given the narrow roads not to mention the long queues you’ll have to endure at the frontier. However, from Main Street branch to the right on King Street and turn left onto Line Wall Road driving all the way South. Once you branch into Elliot’s Road join the traffic on Europa Road and continue driving south. Take a sharp left onto Green Lane right opposite the Alameda Botanical Gardens. From here continue driving straight North. Take the first left onto Old Queen’s Road and turn right.
For best value the Cable Car & Nature Reserve ticket is the best. It encompasses a cable car ride