If you’d like to learn more about the strategic importance of the island and its military history, I would highly recommend a visit to the fortresses of Marlborough and La Mola. Located on either side of the mouth of the Port de Maó, these fascinating fortresses protected the finest deep water port of the western Mediterranean.
Standing on the southern side of the harbour entrance in the cove of Cala de Sant Esteve is Fort Marlborough. This small fort set deep into the rock was built by Sir John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough – the most prominent British general of the time who gave the fort its name – between 1710 and 1726. Both the French and the Spanish laid siege to the port; although it bravely held out for a considerable time with a small garrison, in both cases the invasions were successful.
The fort is now a museum that hosts an excellent re-enactment of being under siege while the island was occupied by the British. Uniformed soldiers and immersive special affects make this a must-see place for any lover of military history. Entrance for adults is €3, while concessions are just €1.80 and children under 8 are allowed in for free.
Fortress of Isabel II, La Mola
North of the entrance of the harbour lies the peninsula of La Mola. During the period of British rule this was to be the site of a fort, to be named the fort of St Anne; however, this was never completed.
During the period of Spanish rule in the mid-nineteenth century, attempts were made to fortify La Mola. An ambitious fort was eventually finished, a huge structure crafted out of local yellow sandstone. However, during the 25 years it took to build this enormous structure, advances in weapons technology meant that the defence fortress was obsolete!
Today you can visit the fort throughout the year. Entry costs €8 for adults, with discounted tickets for seniors, children and residents.
For a fascinating insight into the island’s turbulent past and spectacular views of the Menorcan coast, it’s well worth a visit to these fortresses during your holiday.