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View of Catalan Bay in the morning looking North from the Caleta Palace Hotel.

Catalan Bay (Spanish: La Caleta) is a small bay and fishing village in Gibraltar, on the eastern side of The Rock away from the main city.



The true origin of the name of Catalan Bay is unknown, but a couple of theories exist. The first suggests that the bay is named after a group of around 350 Catalan (from Catalonia, Spain) military men believed to have settled here after having assisted the Anglo-Dutch forces who won the Capture of Gibraltar during the War of Spanish Succession on 4 August 1704. However, no evidence exists to prove that Catalans did in fact settle in Catalan Bay and although this theory is regularly used as the supporting argument for the origin of the name, it is only a supposition that they ever did.[1]

Tha name La Caleta (meaning 'small bay or cove') considerably pre-dates that of Cataln Bay. The fishing villages of La Tunara (La Línea de la Concepción, Spain) and La Caleta are mentioned in a Royal Dispatch of the 6 March 1634 of being under the jurisdiction of the "Tercio del Mar de Marbella y Estepona" in the Kingdom of Granada.[2] Since it has been called La Caleta for much longer than it has ever been called Catalan Bay, the second theory suggests that the latter could simply be an English mispronounciation of Caleta.[1]


Early view of Catalan Bay looking South from the top of the access road - late 19th century. The round shaped rock which juts out into the sea is commonly known as "la mamela" (Italian: la mammella, the breast), the name given to it by the early Genoese settlers as it resembles a woman's breast when viewed from the shore.

Historically, Catalan Bay had been populated by Genoese fishermen who were part of a much larger settlement pattern along the eastern coast of The Rock during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century Genoese was so widely spoken in Gibraltar that government notices were also published in this language (alongside English and Spanish). Genoese was spoken in La Caleta well into the 19th century, dying out in the early decades of the twentieth. There has been some discussion that the British may have mixed up Catalans with Genoese but it is by no means clear why they would suffer such a confusion especially since there is other evidence which demonstrates that the British were perfectly aware that the residents of La Caleta were Genoese: the orders for the siege of 1727 refer to this bay as the Genoese Cove and the numerous 18th and 19th century census record large numbers of people born in Genoa, not in Catalonia.[1]

During the nineteenth century only fishermen were permitted to live in Catalan Bay. They were required to have a fishing permit granted to them by the Governor and only a limited number of permits were issued. The families who live in the village today are mainly descendants of these Genoese fishermen,[1] and are colloquially known as caleteños.


The beach at Catalan Bay, is the second biggest sandy beach in Gibraltar. It is very popular with both Gibraltarians and tourists, and can often become overcrowded during the summer months.

Catalan Bay is home to the Caleta Palace Hotel, a number of restaurants (specialising in fresh seafood) and the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried to the beach each September when the Bishop of Gibraltar blesses the sea in what has become the village's main religious festival.[3]

Beyond Catalan Bay to the south is the nearby beach of Sandy Bay, but the coast road now ends there, due to the closure of Dudley Ward Tunnel for safety reasons in 2002. To the north lies Eastern Beach, Gibraltar's largest and most popular sandy beach.

Further reading

  • Catalan Bay - E.G. Archer, E.P. Vallejo & Tito Benady


  1. ^ a b c d - Catalan Bay
  2. ^ Jose Carlos de Luna (1949), Historia de Gibraltar  
  3. ^ The Melting Pot

See also

Coordinates: 36°08′20″N 5°20′29″W / 36.13875°N 5.34128°W / 36.13875; -5.34128

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