Menorca is an island marked by the wind and the wild nature. An island fought for by the Romans, Muslims, French, English and Spanish, due to its strategic situation in the centre of the western Mediterranean, in the Port of Mahón it possesses one of its main symbols. It is a strategically placed natural port that has left an impressive historic legacy.
Declared in 1993 as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO due to the compatibility between economic development, the consumption of resources and the excellent conservation of the heritage and landscape, Menorca possesses great diversity and Mediterranean habitats, with animals and plants autochthonous to the island, some in danger of extinction.
This year it is a candidate for World Heritage by UNESCO for its Talayotic monuments, an open-air museum of really exceptional value due to their high level of conservation and for the great concentration of sites (1,500 in just 700 km2).
Menorca has a surface area of 702 square kilometres, and the spot where the first sunrays of the day can be seen in Spain is on the coast of Sant Lluís, in the east of the island. Geologically, the island can be divided into north and south. A north battered by the tramuntana wind, rough, irregular, with lots of islets, reddish and dark beaches and with little vegetation, and the south, gentler, made up of calcareous rock crossed by ravines, with white, sandy coves and pine trees.
The Port of Mahón is the largest natural port of the Mediterranean, with five kilometres in a straight line that opens out to the sea. On the south shore is the city of Es Castell and Mahón, with seafront esplanades, restaurants and shops. On the north shore is the Naval Base, an exclusively military area and one of the most prestigious urbanisations on the island, Cala Llonga, which combines summer homes of the local people and celebrities from the national and international gossip columns. The most emblematic houses in the Port are Venecia and The Golden Farm (or Sant Antoni). Casa Venecia is the old summer house of the de Richard Branson family, a lovely white house that seems to be floating in the middle of the port. The Golden Farm is an estate linked to all the most important historic episodes of the island, such as the landing of the Spanish troops at the orders of the Duke of Crillón, or the defence of the troops of Admiral Nelson, who according to the legend, had a rendezvous with Lady Hamilton. It was also the setting for the passing of Empress Sissi, the last Italian queen, and Edward VII, the Prince of Wales with his wife, among other episodes.
The Fortress of La Mola is another spectacular enclave of the Port of Mahón and is in fact where the 10 Miles race starts from. It was in the 16th century when the Governor Moncayo recommended the construction of a fortress in the area but it was not until 1708 that the English started building a fort and hornworks. This fort was not completed but in 1799 two defence towers were built, Cala Teulera and Princesa. The fortress we can visit today was built by the Spanish.
The Naval Base of Mahón will be another scenario of the 5 and 10 mile races. Started in 1708 by the British fleet, during the seven years of French occupation, the work was stopped. In 1763, once again under British rule, they were able to continue and Isla Pinto was levelled out, which the English knew as Mahón. They built large pavilions which are still conserved today. Then in Spanish hands a shelter was built to guard small beached boats. Between 1782 and 1798 the arsenal reached its maximum splendour in construction and repair of boats. Between 1825 and 1830, the installations were rented to the North American fleet. From 1850 improvements were made and new constructions, with barracks, water towers, storerooms, offices, fuel tanks, a power station, a coal store, an infirmary, a general entrance gallery to the underground installations, pavilions for officers, three breakwaters, and a torpedo workshop that has left the Naval Base as we know it today (integrated into the Naval Military Command of Mahón, belonging to the Balearic Naval Sector of the Naval Armed Forces of the Armada).