A Walk Around The Alameda Botanic Gardens, Gibraltar

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The beautiful Alameda Botanic Gardens are one of the must-see places on Gibraltar. There is much to recommend them: a magnificent setting with a wide variety of plants, exotic animals, and surprises around every corner. And, for those of a literary bent, there is the curious connection between these gardens and James Joyce.

A Place For Recreation

The Alameda Botanic Gardens have an enviable position on the lower slope of the Rock of Gibraltar, with glimpses of the Mediterranean far below. They were created in 1816 as a recreation area for soldiers and as a shady place for local inhabitants to escape the fierce summer sun. But their origins are even earlier: some of the oldest trees in the garden were already there in 1816.

Moorish fountain. Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
The Moorish fountain adds an exotic touch to the gardens…

The Botanic Gardens fell into decline but were renovated in 1991. Today they are full of both exotic and native species, and are a popular place for weddings. There is a theatre for open air performances and various cultural events take place throughout the year.

The gardens also incorporate the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park, a small but important sanctuary for confiscated animals and unwanted exotic pets.

Exploring The Alameda Botanic Gardens

Even in February the gardens were bursting with colour. There were cacti, ripe oranges and dragon trees (the oldest dragon tree in the garden is said to be around 300 years old). The air was filled with squawks and shreiks, from the birds in the trees and the animals in the zoo. And water plays a part, with an ornate Moorish fountain by the entrance, and a waterfall and fishpond inside the garden.

Botanic Gardens, Gibraltar
…but it comes as a surprise to find a British telephone box

This may be a Mediterranean garden with plants from around the world, but it is also unmistakeably British. There are reminders of the military presence everywhere, from the old cannons to the monuments to General Elliot and the Duke of Wellington. As if to underline the contrast you turn a corner and spot a red telephone box!

Botanical gardens with a variety of trees and colourful flowers on the ground between them.
The varied plants of the botanical garden

The James Joyce Connection

At the centre of the garden is a statue of Molly Bloom. She was the fictional wife of Leopold Bloom, the central character in James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses. It might seem surprising that this essentially Irish novel should be associated with the Alameda Gardens but it transpires that much of Molly’s famous soliliquy (the last 60 or so pages of the book) refers back to her childhood in Gibraltar.

Joyce based his novel on the Greek hero Odysseus (Roman Ulysses), and Gibraltar is one of the classical Pillars of Hercules towards which Odysseus sailed. But it’s likely that Joyce also used Gibraltar as a setting to make Molly Bloom seem foreign and flamboyant. With her breathless commentary she would have brought a splash of colour to the novel’s portrayal of a grey post-war Dublin. Who could resist “the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens… and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses…”?

Statue of Molly Bloom
A statue of Molly Bloom running through the gardens

Afternoon Tea At The Rock Hotel

If you leave the gardens by the upper gate you will find yourself by the Rock Hotel. This is a grand 1930s Art Deco style hotel with a lounge that looks over the botanic gardens and the sea below. If it had existed in Molly Bloom’s time, it is the sort of place you could imagine her going with one of her many admirers.

Moroccan pastries
Moroccan pastries at the Rock Hotel – an interesting variation on the classic afternoon tea

We stopped there for afternoon tea and I chose the Moorish version, with peppermint tea and Moroccan pastries, an interesting twist on a classic English meal. It seemed to sum up Gibraltar, a comfortable fusion of different cultures.

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8 thoughts on “A Walk Around The Alameda Botanic Gardens, Gibraltar”

  1. Doreen Pendgracs

    Thx for the great post, Karen. I’d love to visit Gibraltar and stroll thru the Alameda Botanic Gardens.

  2. travelgalcindy

    Alameda gardens looks delightful – and what an interesting association with Molly Bloom! Thanks for sharing your discovery with us.

  3. What an absolutly enchanting place to consider visiting. The Alameda Botanic Gardens sounds so unique and afternoon tea at the Rock Hotel sounds delightful. Molly Bloom certainly adds her own charm as well. Enjoyed reading about this all very much!

  4. Botanical gardens are always high on my list of things to visit when I travel. Alameda Botanic Gardens look beautiful with some interesting features.

  5. Located within the beautiful Alameda Botanic Gardens, the AWCP is the only Wildlife Park in Gibraltar. It is now home to an assortment of both exotic and native species that have either been confiscated by Gibraltar customs or otherwise unwanted exotic pets and animals.

  6. We unexpectedly stumbled upon this place during our run through Gibraltar. The park is well maintained and, moreover, the entrance to it is free. Wonderfully selected beautiful plants and trees. We liked it very much – we wandered around with pleasure before going up the mountain of Gibraltar. By the way, the park is located next to the cable car.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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