Franco might have disliked it but dictatorial disdain proved a blessing in disguise for Menorca, the most tranquil of the Balearic Isles. Spared the building free-for-all that blighted neighbouring Mallorca in the 1970s, Menorca is a haven for wildlife and visitors alike.
Although Menorca’s clifftop capital Maó has no shortage of pretty churches and quirky boutiques, its predecessor, Ciutadella, is lovelier still. Blessed with a hotchpotch architectural legacy bequeathed by the Moors and the British, nothing matches but that all adds to its charm. The Gothic cathedral and yacht-filled marina are highlights but just as lovely is the warren of cobbled streets clustered around the harbour that bursts with vibrant cafés and espadrille emporia.
Along with the rather impressive Fort Marlborough and the Castell de Sant Felip, the British left a rather boozy legacy behind when they gave the island up to Spain in 1802. That legacy is gin, which is still produced at the 18th-century Xoriguer Gin Distillery (Moll de Ponent 91). Here, you can get a taste of the local tipple and a first-hand glimpse of the production process. Tours also include access to the distillery’s vast cellar and shop, which along with gin sells fruit liqueurs and other spirits (of varying strength) also produced on site.
A 186km coastal path that encircles Menorca, the Camí de Cavalls was constructed during the 14th century to connect the island’s many clifftop forts and castles. Once patrolled by soldiers on horseback, it’s now one of the best ways to explore Menorca’s rugged coastline and myriad hidden coves – some of which are only accessible from the path. While most choose to do it on foot or by bike, it’s also easily done on horseback.