Mighty stone forts with towers and battlements provide plenty of inspiration
for sandcastles when you take the kids for a family holiday on Malta.
The island and its little sisters Gozo and Comino make up one of the most
child-friendly destinations in the Med.
For a start, the country is only a three-hour flight from Britain. Then
there are the no-tears transfers, with most family resorts within a half hour or
so from the airport.
English is spoken everywhere, chips are on the menu and there are plenty of
safe, sandy beaches for the bucket-and-spade brigade.
And with water temperatures staying at 20C even in late November and
23C-plus in summer kids can run in and out of the sea all day without turning
The largest sandy beaches tend to be in the north, in family resorts such as
St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba and Qawra.
The beaches at Mellieha, Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay are also a good bet
for young families.
The beaches on Gozo, half an hour’s ferry ride from the main island, tend to
be rockier small, pristine coves where the sea is as clear as spring water.
This is the place for skimming stones, racing crabs and fishing for tiddlers
in the rockpools.
If the kids want to build sandcastles on Gozo, your best bet is Ramla
I-Hamra where red sand adds a touch of colour to their creations.
You might have your work cut out dragging the kids away from the beach
initially but they’ll soon come round to your way of thinking.
Play king of the castle when you take them to Valetta, Malta’s historic
capital built around one of the most dramatic harbours in Europe.
Drop a coin into one of the telescopes on the St Elmo clifftop to bring into
focus the mighty white limestone walls of the citadel, the mediaeval stronghold
of knights in clunking armour.
Before exploring Valetta, it’s worthwhile taking an hour out to watch the
Malta Experience, a sound and light show tracing the island’s turbulent history
from the Stone Age through to Malta’s bombardment during the Second World War
Most of Valetta was built in the Middle Ages when the powerful Knights of St
John commissioned Europe’s biggest names in architecture to build ornate
palaces, a cathedral and state-of-the-art hospital.
The best way to get around the old town and the island’s other ancient city,
Mdina, is on foot, strolling through whitewashed lanes that are surprisingly
cool even on a summer afternoon.
Don’t miss a visit to Ggantija, one of the oldest freestanding monuments in
the world dating back to 3600BC (entry about ё2). Across the water from Malta at
Gozo, the stones are every bit as impressive as Stonehenge and a good deal
The Maltese used to believe that as the stones that made the temple are so
big giants must have built them.
Kids addicted to swashbuckling movies like Gladiator and Troy will instantly
recognise many of the scenes filmed on Malta and Gozo. More than 70 blockbuster
movies have been shot on these islands where old stone fortifications make a
believable ancient Greece or Rome. Sandy Bay was the setting for Brad Pitt’s
Troy. And nearby Anchor Bay is home to the Popeye village called Sweethaven,
where Robin Williams starred in the film version of the cartoon.
A fun park has been built around the original set and entry costs about
5.10 GBP for adults, 2.30 GBPkids.
Strap on a pair of fins to take teenagers scuba diving off Gozo.
The island has become one of the most popular dive destinations in Europe
thanks to its unpolluted beaches, fairytale caverns and arches.
If they’re old enough to have a scuba diving certificate (recommended from
14 upwards for international dive organisations such as the British Sub-Aqua
Club) then book them on to a guided dive at Blue Hole.
In a 30-minute dive straight off the shore they might spot tiny seahorses
hiding in clumps of seaweed or come face to face with a large grouper. And are
those rock formations the Lost City of Atlantis?
Stop for ice-creams (and a well-deserved beer for Dad) at one of the dozens
of small cafes and restaurants tucked away in the backstreets or shady
courtyards of Valetta and Mdina.
Kids will love the local sweet speciality called kannoli cakes tubes of
pastry stuffed with ricotta, apricots and chocolate.
If your hotel has a children’s club, park them for lunch and treat
yourselves to a meal without chips in Valetta. Try Malta’s favourite dish, a
fish soup with garlic, tomatoes and rice called aljotta. It’s on the menu just
Or find a table in Valetta’s most famous restaurant, Rubino along Old Bakery
Street. It’s an old stone cellar serving traditional Maltese dishes such as lamb
shanks and rabbit.
For desert, go for the wicked cassatella, a ricotta cheese-based cake with
glace fruit and marzipan.
Malta has yet to adopt the euro so prices are still in Maltese lire. Expect
to pay about ё8 for a two- or three-course lunch and from about ё2 for a bottle
of very drinkable white plonk. Children’s meals served by tolerant waiters
average around ё3.
Sunday Mirror, June 26, 2005, Sunday