Britain’s Long Menorca Holiday

"Menorca 2011 014" © 2011 Pablo Asorey, used under a Creative Commons Attribution

Some people have the impression that Britons first went to Menorca with the popularity of the 20th century-style Menorca holiday.

In fact, in the 18th century, many Britons were very familiar with the island over a period of 100 years or more – though sadly not exactly in a holiday context. Britain seized the island in 1708 during a war with Spain and France. It was considered critically important to British interests due to Mahon’s magnificent natural harbour.

Over the next century, the British lost and re-took the island twice before finally handing it back to Spain early in the 19th century, by which time its strategic naval importance had declined. During that lengthy period, many generations of British military personnel would have become very much enamoured of the island’s charm and they indeed left a lasting legacy themselves on Menorca.

Today in the local dialect you’ll find words such as:

  • Winders – used for the Georgian sash windows still found in some houses;
  • Saydbors – sideboards;
  • Bifi – beef;
  • Grevi – gravy;
  • Xumaquer – Shoemaker.

You can see many other examples of that legacy in things such as the architecture of buildings and even cuisine (Menorcan chefs tend to use more dairy produce than other Balearic islanders). Today, around 5% of the island’s permanent population is British, though times on the island are noticeably quieter than in the 18th century! It is a marvellous destination and many visitors are notably reluctant to consider going back home at the end of their Menorca holiday. You might end up being one of them!

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