Sunshine, seafood and lots of history

Mellieha Bay, Malta

Mellieha Bay, Malta

The Trehearne family's Easter break turned sour after their caravan was destroyed following a collision with a central barrier on the A27

THIS WEEK IN 1993: Family’s Easter break left in tatters after smash on A27

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The mighty rock towering above us is a vivid reminder that Malta has been central to the history of the Mediterranean for thousands of years.

Just how the primitive folk of this small island managed to ease the 20-ton bulk into place is mind-boggling, and today the rock forms part of the ancient temples at Mnajdra, which feature within an impressive heritage park.

It’s no surprise that, as well as relaxation and the warm weather, Malta’s remarkable history is also a big attraction.

The island measures nine by 13 miles and has a population of 400,000.

Before you’ve even landed, old stone buildings and ancient monuments come into view, such is their presence on this little island.

Many of these are churches. The saying goes that Malta has a church for every day of the year and, indeed, spires and domes dominate the skyline, a reminder that religion is a central theme in the island’s history.

Crosses crop up everywhere, from the eight-pointed cross of the Order of St John which protected the country against the Ottoman Empire, to the George Cross awarded to Malta following the merciless bombing by the Axis powers during World War Two.

There are also frequent reminders of recent colonial history. Though the days of British rule are long gone, clear British influences remain.

English is the co-official national language alongside Maltese, and people drive on the left.

As well as being steeped in history, Malta is also ideally set up for exploring.

Our base is the four-star, all-inclusive Seabank Hotel, which underwent an extensive upgrade by Thomas Cook last winter.

Now featuring in their Holidays with Style programme, the rooms are chic and comfortable, there’s a large pool and four a la carte restaurants to choose from.

The friendly staff keep up an ongoing supply of cool drinks and, for the energetic, an array of activities includes pool volleyball and aqua gym.

The hotel overlooks Mellieha Beach, the longest sandy beach on the island. Gently shelving sands, an abundance of watersports and bars make this a great place to relax when you want a break from the hotel pool.

After a day lounging in the sun, we venture out to explore and head for the ancient walled city of Mdina, the name of which reveals Malta’s historic links to Arab countries.

A horse-drawn carriage ride is an interesting, if sometimes hairy, way to take in the tiny winding streets and stunning architecture.

We plod on to the spectacular Palazzo Parisio, Malta’s most opulent aristocratic home.

This was acquired in the 1800s by the Marquis Giuseppe Scicluna, a wealthy banker whose family introduced the local Cisk beer to the island.

For less than five euros, you can hop on a ferry and reach Malta’s little sister island, Gozo, in around 25 minutes.

The stones at Ggantija, the oldest free-standing structure in the world, puts our own Stonehenge in the shade at 7,000 years old.

Gozo’s Citadel was constructed to keep the inhabitants safe following years of invasions. Now it’s another tourist attraction, with a peaceful interior and great views.

Nestled between Malta and Gozo is the smallest island of Comino and a swim in its stunning Blue Lagoon is an unforgettable experience.

ESSENTIALS

Debbie Murray was a guest of Thomas Cook Holidays with Style, which offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the Seabank Hotel & Spa, Mellieha Bay from £575, ex-Gatwick in October. Ex-Manchester November 13 from £470, ex-Glasgow October 30 from £519.

Thomas Cook has summer 2013 Malta holidays on sale. For reservations call 0844 871 6650 or visit Thomascookstyle.com or your nearest Thomas Cook, Going Places or Co-op Travel.

For Malta travel guides, priced £4.99, call 01733 416 477 or visit thomascookpublishing.com

KEY FACTS

DON’T FORGET: Your camera for the views.

NEED TO KNOW: Buses are a cheap and easy way to get around.

TIME TO GO: Spring and summer months.

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