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Up and down Marfa ridge
Up and down Marfa ridge
The walk up and down Marfa ridge in the Mellieħa area is a beautiful one, which takes you to all kinds of different habitats including farmland, wooded areas, beautiful bays, cliffs and garrigue. This Marfa Ridge walk begins at the northernmost point of the island, Ċirkewwa. The delightful, six kilometre walk ends at BirdLife Malta’s Għadira Nature Reserve. Let’s start at the top.
Musa bus stop is at the very north of the island, just before the Ċirkewwa Ferry Terminal. As soon as you step off the bus the climb begins. Follow the road heading south, marked as the road to Paradise Bay, which immediately heads uphill.
The road south runs parallel to constantly crumbling limestone cliffs. The boulder scree below is a clear warning of the volatility of these ancient walls. Just south of Paradise Bay the path swings west. This narrow stretch gives you sense of the scale of this shifting landscape and the uncontrollable, turbulent geology, beneath your feet.
Now the path mixes with the natural garrigue habitat of the area, keep heading uphill, but be careful not to stray onto private land. Hidden along the side of this path is Għar Tuta. Known locally as the climbing cave, this natural curiosity is a half-covered cave scoured into the land. The way down is very steep and should only be undertaken with caution. Moving on up the ridge the path becomes even steeper as it passes the Rdum il-Qawwi cliffs. Just keep heading up, you’re almost at the top!
The Ridge - 140m
As the top of the ridge comes into sight, up the rocky trail you will see a cluster of abandoned buildings growing in size on the right-hand side of the path. This is the Old Radar Station that sits on the far west end of Marfa Ridge. On a clear day the views are truly spectacular. South, the coast dips in and out in a seemingly endless series of bays and inlets, whilst to the north Gozo’s length and Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs can be seen, with the ferries shuffling past Kemmuna and between the main islands. This old Radar Station is a brilliant sunset spot.
The human history of this ridge reaches much further back than the Radar Station. On the south side of the path lies the ancient remains of Roman bee hives in the cliff face. Hidden amongst the Carob trees, the hives radiate a feeling of bygone days and will whisk you back to ancient times.
Follow the path east towards the Red Tower – also known as St Agatha Tower – and enjoy the stunning views. Sea and sky can be seen on all sides. This is one of the highest points in the north, and it feels that way!
After passing the Red Tower, the walk swings into BirdLife Malta’s Foresta 2000 Nature Reserve. This is an area of restored Mediterranean woodland. Now boasting a huge biodiversity, this area used to be a hugely degraded site susceptible to erosion, construction, and development.
If you still have life left in your legs and a spring in your step, Foresta 2000 is full to the brim with native Maltese fauna and flora. Explore the reserve to see if you can find some of its hidden benches, perfect for a quiet lunch amongst the pines. During winter, look out for the Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) and Robins (Erithacus rubecula) that fill the air and feed amongst the branches.
This walk finishes at BirdLife Malta’s Għadira Nature Reserve. The seven hectare reserve is comprised of brackish lake and salt-marsh habitat. Due to the dry climate of the Maltese Islands, permanent areas of inland water are rare, making the Għadira wetlands an extremely important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Around 140 species of migrating birds are seen on an annual basis and most of the birds seen are migrants, stopping to rest and re-fuel (just like us during the month of January), before continuing their long migration journeys.
The reserve is open between September and May on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 2pm and 7pm and on Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm. We’re in winter, and the water level is rising again. Enjoy the lake from the shelter of the bird hides and look back at Marfa Ridge, looming over the valley.
Length of the route: 6km
Suggested time for the walk: This walk is best undertaken on a clear day, as the ridge offers some of the best views in the north of Malta. However, the ridge can be equally as exciting in harsh weather, as those willing to brave it will feel the full force of nature on this exposed ridge.
Starting Point: Musa (988) Bus Stop, Mellieħa (Malta Public Transport routes 41, 42, 221 & 222)
End Point: Għadira Nature Reserve