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Report 2011: Gozo, Calypso’s Isle

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 4 of 26: Ta’ Cenc and Mgarr Ix-Xini Bay

photo by MAW

Dolmen, Ta Cenc Plateau

We spent a week at Ta’cenc Hotel, on the edge of the village of Sannat overlooking Ta’Cenc headland. It is a beautiful location with views across to the small uninhabited island of Comino and the north coast of Malta.

The hotel is a long, low building which blends into the surroundings. The main building houses reception, lounge, TV room and bar with terrace overlooking the pool. A small, well stocked shop sells post cards, stamps, gifts, books and maps. There are two swimming pools, spa and wellness centre. The rooms are in long low stone buildings scattered around the grounds. The paths are reasonably well lit after dark, and the lights of Malta can be seen twinkling across the sea.

We had a very pleasant room at the end of a block of four. The design had been carefully thought out and had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. There was a small terrace area with two wicker chairs and table overlooking the pool. This was an excellent place to relax with a cup of tea when we returned in the afternoon. In May most guests were ‘silver travelers' so there was little noise from people using the pools. It may be different in the height of summer. It was a large and comfortable room with excellent shower and good selection of toiletries and towels. A kettle and tea bags were provided. There was a ceiling fan and also air conditioning so we could keep the room at a comfortable cool temperature. There were warnings about mosquitoes and not to leave doors and windows open after dark. A plug in mosquito repellant was provided but we didn’t need it.

There is an excellent restaurant with an outside courtyard with a large carob tree which is laid up for breakfast in the mornings and is an enjoyable place to sit. Although there was an à la carte menu, most people ate off the set four course menu which had plenty of choice. It began with an antipasto dish followed by a choice of four starters which were usually pasta or rice based and included a fish and vegetarian choice. There were five choices of main course, again with fish and vegetarian options. Desserts were laid out on table in the dining room for you to go and choose and then brought to your table. These included a selection of flans, cheesecake, gateaux, creme caramel, fresh fruit, cheese and biscuits...

Food was good and helpings of starter generous. With vegetables they could have passed as the main meal. I learned to ask for small helpings. Breakfast was a self service buffet with fresh fruit salad, yogurts, cereals, selection of cold meats, cheeses and smoked salmon and mackerel as well as a choice of sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, and scrambled eggs. There was white and brown bread and rolls, croissants, pain au chocolate, cakes... After a breakfast like that we didn’t need much lunch.

There is a footpath onto Ta’cenc Plateau, a large flat area of limestone which is crossed by a series of footpaths and a nice place to walk. There are excellent views of the high cliffs dropping down into the sea. In spring it is covered with wild flowers, spurge, clumps of yellow rest harrow, orchids, mallow, scabious, fennel, wild artichoke, prickly pear... By mid May these were past their best and in the summer drought the plateau is brown and dead. The air was scented with the smell of wild thyme as we walked. Lizards can be seen scampering away from you.

There is an aerial map in reception which shows the footpaths and marks places of interest. There are the remains of a small dolmen and cart tracks. These run more or less parallel across an area of bare scraped limestone. The tracks are about six inches across and gouged out to a depth of two to three inches. Some ended in a wide flat puddle of silt. I must confess we weren’t convinced by the ruts as they looked more like solution or weathering to us.

The hotel also has its own private beach and during the summer runs a free minibus service to and from this.

Mgarr Ix-Xini Bay is a small inlet reached by a narrow road with stone walls and few passing places. The road runs along the edge of Ta’Cenc plateau with good views down into Weid Hanzira and across to Xewkija with the Rotunda dominating the landscape. Below the road, small terraced fields drop down into the valley. The valley suddenly steepens entering a deep gorge in the limestone before reaching Mgarr ix-Xini.

There is a steep drop into the bay with a large area half way down with an ice cream and refreshment van and some parking. There is limited parking along the narrow beach with a cafe. The clear blue waters are a popular spot for scuba divers, snorkeling etc.

This is thought to be one of harbors used by the Knight’s ships. The entrance is guarded by a watch tower which alerted the citadel to trouble by firing mortars or lighting a bonfire. The dejma or local militia would then rush to the spot to hinder a landing.

Mgarr Ix-Xini Tower has been restored and is now open weekends in summer. It can be reached by climbing up the rock cut steps behind the beach on the opposite side to the road and following the path. It is a typical Knight’s watch tower with only two stories with a powder room on the roof.

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