This was an exciting walk for me because apart from the starting point and the Esplora Museum I was walking in an area I hadn’t visited at all.
I drove to Kalkara where there was easy parking and started my walk from the finish point of my previous walk – Kalkara Parish Church. The weather was a little bit overcast which was perfect for walking but not so perfect for picture taking.
Taco and I started walking along the dockside and climbed the hill to the Esplora Science Museum. If you are visiting Malta with kids then this museum should definitely be on your list. It’s brilliant – cheap to get in, huge so you can visit many times, never that crowded, loads of interactive exhibitions and a planetarium. Besides the museum sits Villa Bighi – the centre for Arts and Science. Construction of this majestic villa began in 1675 by one of the Knights, Fra Giovanni Bichi. It was once used as a naval hospital and was bombed during World War II but has now been restored.
Taco and I headed on to Rinella Bay which is the only sandy beach in the three cities so apparently popular with locals in the summer. Today it looked rather disappointing. It was a bit grey, empty and not even worth a photo. We headed up inland where we could see signs for Fort Rinella which we didn’t stop at but it did look worthy of a visit on another day. Here you can see the world’s largest cannon – a 100-ton Armstrong gun. Clutching the walking book and the phone GPS we managed to navigate our way across the top of Kalkar and started heading towards Xghajra (no idea how you pronounce that one!). Finally, we found the road heading back towards the coast and the sign for the turnoff to Smart City.
There are signs all around the island for Smart City and since we’ve moved here I’ve been curious to visit. Smart City – it sounds pretty cool and it’s Malta’s technological centre. I saw the entrance and started to make my way down the side of the road unsure of what I would find at the bottom. A slick modern complex with offices, cafes and restaurants is what I imagined. Instead, I came across a car park and a rather dull office building. Was this it? I felt very out of place in my hiking gear and with Taco in tow. This was the car park of a workplace. Despite some curious glances Taco and I walked past the building hoping to see something a bit more exciting. We followed the path down and did see a kind of lake thing that looked like it might have some reasonably impressive fountains in the middle, had they been switched on. A few empty cafes and a sad looking palm tree. The place really lacked the bustle and energy I had expected and so we carried on our way making a note not to bother returning.
From here I recklessly abandoned the walking book. Mainly because it was out of date as Smart City wasn’t even built when it was written. So we followed the new coastal road for a while, admiring the sailing boats dotted out at sea and a quaint coastal village.
The Xghajra coast
It was pretty quiet here with just the odd car along the road and really nobody about. I did feel slightly concerned that we were in the middle of nowhere and I would never find our way back to the car again. Taco and I picked up the pace and marched on. She was able to come off the lead and roam around some great bits of beach and rock. Although I was slightly concerned about her running down these steps and disappearing at sea.
The GPS on my phone seemed to suggest that the road was going to come to an end at a water station so we did head inland for a bit. Which actually was well worth it because it was really rural with ploughed fields, very old buildings. and a crematory.
Here every road and field was defined by a traditional dry stone wall. These walls are found all over Malta but here I noticed something different in one of the walls. A shrine to a beloved pet or maybe they were just a few stones short when they built the wall.
Here we cut through a small pathway (thanks to Google Maps else we never would have found it – it was so overgrown). Taco was off the lead on the sniff and we followed the path back down to the coast. And here it was walking along a coast that looked – well quite like Pembroke and many other parts of the coast of Malta with more salt pans, Knight’s Towers and more yellow rock with random shrubs growing. There are a lot of these coastal defences along the Xghajra coast because of it’s proximity to the Grand Harbour.
Yep, the Knights of St Johns had been busy here in the South too and they were spaced along the coastal path. I hardly saw anyone along this bit of road although we did pass a group of women have a picnic at their car who thought it was hilarious when Taco and I walked past. Clearly not the norm. Taco was getting quite hot and ran into every single muddy puddle (and there were quite a few) she could find and then rolled in the orange coloured dust. It wasn’t looking good for the Taxi ride back to the car…well I wouldn’t want her in my car.
This was the longest stretch of coast on the walk and easy to navigate so with the book now tucked back in my bag we started to pick up our pace. Eventually, we turned a corner and could see our end destination, Marsaskala. I didn’t have particularly high expectations of this village – it wasn’t somewhere that you hear much about and I assumed it to be a run down bay with little of interest. However, as I started to walk along what soon became a promenade I was pleasantly surprised. Victorian looking lamp posts led me down towards the small bay with boats bobbing on the water and a string of reasonable looking places for lunch.
We walked the length of the dockside just to check out the full choice of cafes. I settled on one and quickly ordered. Taco insisted on sitting on the chair next to me and then starred at me whilst I ate a ham and cheese toastie (yes she got some). The man next to me told me he was from Marsaskala and had 60 pomegranate trees in his garden that had just fruited. He then very kindly insisted on giving me some. He couldn’t speak highly enough of his hometown and told me they were going to be converting this bay into a proper dock. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing as it would probably lose its charm – however, he insisted it was and would be good for business.
Taco and I said our goodbyes and ordered a taxify. A very smart car came in 1 minute. I asked if he minded my rather dirty dog but he shrugged and told us to jump in the front. Had a bit of difficulty finding my car – mainly because of my poor directions. (Note to self – next time drop a pin on google maps).
Walk 4 complete in 2 hours and was about 9.5 km. It was a great one and really interesting to see a new bit of Malta. Easily doable whilst the kids are at school. Next time is is Marsaskala to Birzebbuga.