Malta Circumnavigation Day 1: Fort Ricasoli to Marsascala

This was the first leg of the 2011 project which is to circumnavigate Malta on foot, in a clockwise direction, keeping as close to the coast as possible.

Fort Ricasoli from the air

Paddy Dillon, in his book “Walking in Malta” recommends skipping this section of coastline since it is rather uninspiring and marred by debris and fly-tipping. Since I have plenty of time to complete the whole circumnavigation there are no excuses for leaving any sections out! In the event it wasn’t too bad, except for one formidable obstacle which wasn’t there in 2004 when Paddy’s book was published.

I would have liked to start from inside Fort Ricasoli which guards the Eastern side of the entrance to the Grand Harbour. (Its much better-known counterpart, Fort St Elmo, guards the Western side.) Fort Ricasoli was built by the Knights of St John between 1670 and 1693 and covers a large area of about 17 Acres. It is in quite an advanced state of decay but has been much used as a film set. It was used in movies such as Troy, Gladiator and Agora and also more recently in the HBO production Game of Thrones.

Fort Ricasoli is however closed to the public so I had to content myself with photos of the entrance gate and the bastions. I’m not sure what goes on in there nowadays but the security guard on the gate didn’t seem keen even on my taking photographs.

Entrance to Fort Rinella

From there I walked up the hill to the next fort, Rinella, which is a very different beast. It was built in the Victorian era to house a single gun, the massive 100-ton Armstrong gun which is on display there. The fort is recessed into the ground to provide camouflage and to protect it from return fire from approaching ships.

Next door are the Mediterranean film studios which provide massive tanks which can be used for maritime scenes, including underwater filming.

Once past the studios I was expecting to skirt the third fort, St. Rocco, and carry on along the coast. However the way was obstructed by the massive development of the SmartCity, a joint project between the Maltese government and a Dubai-based company. The security guards gave me permission to walk down to the site to take some photos, but, without jumping the wall, there was no way through. I retraced my steps, bid farewell to Jaqui who had kept the car there in case it was needed, and headed inland. It took about half an hour to get to the other side of the the SmartCity site!

Commonwealth War Graves, Kalkara

One piece of good fortune was that my detour enabled me to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery between Kalkara and Zabbar. Eventually I rejoined the coast at Xghajra. Even here I ended up in a farmyard through attempting to head coastwards too soon (as evidenced by photograph of a horse on the photo journey).

Salt pans at Xghajra

Xghajra is a rather pleasant, unpretentious little coastal resort which isn’t on the main tourist trail and is used more by locals. Once out of town I hit the countryside proper and had a very enjoyable amble along the rocky coast, passing various fortifications, some dating from the time of the Knights and some from the Second World War. I finally arrived at Zonqor Point from where buildings are encountered again and continue all the way into Marsascala.

Marsascala Bay

Marsascala bay and harbour are very attractive and made for a nice end to the walk. A bus appeared just as I was approaching the bus stop so in my haste I didn’t manage to photograph the actual end of the walk. I’ll remedy this next time at the start of Day 2. See here for the photo journey and don’t forget to read the captions!

On the buses

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