You can feel alone in Malta, urban and crowded though it is. If you only know Malta as packed beaches in peak summer season, you won’t believe it’s possible to see a different face to the Islands. And have some elbow room. But Dingli Cliffs, for all their billing as one of Malta’s most favoured beauty spots, can be a haunting, lonely spot off season. Not to mention when they are battered by the worst the winter can throw at them.
Find a sheltered stone ledge among the ragged, prickly thyme bushes and peer out over the rocky outcrop of an isle, called Filfa. Up here, you can wrinkle your nose in the vaguely warm winter sun and catch the first real heat of spring. But there’s always a breeze lifting over the cliffs to take the edge off the warmth.
But, for all its peace, Dingli Cliffs has another, darker and far more dangerous side. A friend of mine lives up there, right on the edge, in an old hunting lodge or summer retreat dating from the time of the Knights. One November evening, she dropped me in Siggiewi and took the country road home along the cliffs. Normally, it takes 15 minutes. That night, in ever thicker, enveloping fog, it took one and a half hours! It was hairy, she said, as there’s no way of knowing where the edge and the hundred meter plus drop is!
So do mind the gap when you’re up there. There’s a few stark reminders of the cliffs’ deathly allure. A small monument and plaque recall one young man’s demise up here. And if you are peer over, you’ll spy rusting car wrecks down below.
If you’re lucky, you’ll come across the herder with his raggle-taggle flock of goats and sheep of an indistiguishable, mixed-up breed. This is goat land as you certainly need a sure foot if you are tempted to stray from the road. It’s rough, craggy garrigue and it takes some negotiating.
The best time to go for a walk on the wild side here is on weekdays. Saturday afternoon and more or less all day Sunday see a steady stream of visitors, and canoodling couples in back seats of cars (yes, it’s still a favourite spot for that). If the wind is too strong, park your car aimed at the view, handbrake firmly on, and just snooze and read!