Menorca: On your bike

Secluded coves, peaceful beaches and stunning scenerywas enough to persuade our novice cyclist into the saddle


To someone like me, who's not an experienced biker, a seven- day self-guided biking tour around Menorca was starting to sound a little ambitious.

But Xavier Mendez, Freewheel's local rep, had other ideas. "All these routes are very easy," he insists as I climb on the bike in Menorca's capital Mahon to test it out for size. "Around 35–40 kilometres (22-25 miles) a day with just a few minor hills."

It's an e-bike too; a normal road bike, but with a small electric motor to help on the uphill stretches. He shows me each day's route, gives me maps, advice for sightseeing and lunch and a GPS, pre-loaded with my routes door to door. "Just follow the pink line, it's too easy!"

Then with a promise to drop off my luggage at my new hotel each day, Mendez leaves me to bond with my bike and plan my adventure on this beautiful island. Full of hidden coves and bays, and with tourism still relatively new, much of Menorca is free of development with Unesco protecting its wildlife, beaches and interior.

For novice cyclists, it's a great place to start. The country lanes are not busy, the island is relatively flat but the scenery is spectacular with wonderful opportunities to experience local life somewhere still blessed with rural charm and tradition.

Getting there

Andy Mossack travelled as a guest of Freewheel Holidays, a specialist cycling holiday provider. Menorca self-guided cycling tours start from £779 per person for a seven night break (including bike hire and accommodation but excluding flights).
Easyjet and Monarch both fly direct from Luton and Gatwick to Mahon.

On a warm sunny morning, pedalling along a narrow lane past fields and orchards to a soundtrack of birdsong, it's perfect.

Dry stone walls point the way as I cycle past impressive whitewashed villas and through sleepy hamlets. I'm heading for the Cales Caves after stopping for a cold drink and a sandwich at a cosy bar somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

The Cales Caves are a fabulous find. A tiny cove with turquoise water surrounded by cliffs containing man-made prehistoric caves. Boats are anchored just off shore and people are swimming in the crystal clear water.

A few kilometres further on lies Cala en Porter. The town and its restaurants are high up on a cliff top but there is a beautiful beach nestling in the bay below, accessible via wooden stairs.

Weary but pleased with myself, I arrive for my overnight stay at the boutique Finca Llimpet just outside Alaior, a town famous for its master bakers, their traditional sweet pastries and La Menorquina ice cream.

My luggage is waiting in my room and the owner greets me like a long lost son, insisting I take a dip in the pool before offering a few recommendations for dinner in town. Breakfast the next day is out on the sunny terrace where I wolf down some local bread and cheese along with some fresh eggs from Finca Llimpet's own hens.

With a taste for the local dairy products, my first stop is the Subaida Cheese Factory for a free tour to see Menorca's delicious world-class Mahon cheese being made. I snack on a few tasty pieces on my way to Menorca's rugged north coast; a coast open to the elements, the wind battering most of the almost lunar rocky coastline.

The solitary lighthouse at Cap Favaritx, at the end of a single winding road, stands like a sentinel on ancient black and grey slate carved into a weird and wonderful variety of shapes and flanked by an esplanade of salt flat pools.

Ready for a well-earned rest, I complete my circuit by falling back into the welcoming arms of Finca Llimpet before the journey to the north west.

With my detailed notes warning me that the next route has no towns along the way for lunch, I stop off in Es Mercadal to pick up a picnic. It's been an important gastronomic market town since 1300 sitting at the junction of Menorca's two main roads.

Stopping to eat my picnic at Cavalleria Beach, it's so remote I can only get there on foot. Locking up the bike at the cliff top, I walk down onto the soft reddish sand and sit by the sea with just a clutch of people and the sound of surf for company.

The electric motor is a godsend as I continue towards the remote lighthouse at Cap de Cavalleria, built in 1857 and perched right at the top of a hill. The views along the rugged northern coast are fantastic, and there's a small museum too. After a tasty coffee in the cafe I freewheel all the way back down towards the small fishing village of Fornells, where the narrow winding streets hug a tiny harbour.

Here, I'm staying overnight at the family-owned Hostal Port Fornells, a very unhostel-like hostel with private rooms and balconies, just a 10-minute walk from town, before journeying south once again.

Menorca's ancient Royal Path, the 18th-century Cami Reial, is a 116-mile bridle route circling the island and I get a taste as I head south east to the charming village of Es Migjorn Gran. The very essence of traditional Menorcan living, small whitewashed houses with pretty floral window boxes line the narrow streets.

Just a few kilometres on is the popular Sant Tomas beach, a huge inlet that opens out directly to the Mediterranean. At the first sea facing café, I park the bike to enjoy a long cold drink.

One of the bonuses of exploring on my own two wheels is finding places off the usual tourist radar as well, such as Ferreries with its long tradition of leather shoe manufacturing, in particular the traditional Menorcan Abarcas sandals.

As I cycle into the resort of Cala Galdana, to my bed at Hotel Audax, I suspect few of the sunseekers at this lively, family-friendly resort set on one of Menorca's most famous beaches have ventured so far. I'm also silently thankful I invested in padded lycra shorts but am feeling surprisingly fine.

Then without a hint of trouble so far, disaster strikes. Riding through Cala Macarella forest on the homeward leg my trusty GPS falls off my handlebars. I find it lying on the forest floor unusable with a broken screen. Following that pink line has been so easy and now I have to resort to the paper back-up.

Inevitably, this is the trickiest section; along the stony and uneven Cami Reial once again and then walking the bike down a steep cliff path to Macarella Beach.

I celebrate my success with a few hours relaxing at Cala en Turqueta, a simply gorgeous beach. A young man is selling cut up chunks of cool fresh fruit and I take a few off his hands. This is my idea of heaven.

But Ciutadella beckons now, a hugely impressive fortified medieval city of stone arches and cobbled streets: a perfect place to end my biking tour. The old town is full of local colour; a stark contrast to my days of isolation and birdsong.

Mendez greets me here at the hotel as he arrives to collect my trusty bike once more. "You made it," he smirks. "Was that easy or what?"

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