Exploring Malta’s Victoria Lines

The Victoria Lines is a 12km long series of fortifications that cuts across the island of Malta from coast to coast, along a steep escarpment called The Great Fault.

[…the Great Fault was actually no one’s fault… just geology…]

They were built by the British between 1870 and 1899, to defend the main part of the island from a landing and invasion in the north.

The Grand Harbour became the Royal Navy’s most important Mediterranean base when the Suez Canal opened in 1869. And so they needed a defensive perimeter that would keep potential enemies at a distance from the Harbour — preferably beyond artillery range.

It didn’t make sense to fortify every bay and inlet. And so a string of fortifications that cut across the island at the natural barrier of the Great Fault made the most sense. The Knights of Malta had thought of this too. They’d actually built a series of entrenchments in the area in 1722, but lost interest and never finished the job.

You can see a map of the full extent of the lines HERE.

The wall is only a couple meters high in most places. But it was enough to shelter behind and fire down on an approaching enemy.

The Lines were never tested in battle, and were considered obsolete even before the start of World War One. They were abandoned about 100 years ago when their military significance faded.

Most of it has since crumbled into ruins, its structures spray painted with graffiti and its enclosed spaces and rooms littered and shit in, like all the other abandoned sites in Malta. But you can still walk the length of it, exploring 3 of the 4 principal forts, the gun batteries and the remains of the long infantry line.

I’ve been curious about this ruin for a while now. I can see the Great Fault from my terrance, and a big section of the Victoria Lines is right around the corner from my apartment.

Easter Sunday provided a good opportunity to take a walk along the section near the outskirts of Mosta. I figured everyone else would be stuffing their faces at hotel buffets or family dinners, and spring hunting hadn’t started yet, so there was no chance of getting yelled at or having shots fired in our direction simply for having the nerve to take a walk in the countryside.

I posted a few highlight photos for you below.

There are a lot of great spots like this in Malta, where nature and history and the past intersect. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking it out.

This tunnel leads to an abandoned atomic-proof bunker, built in the 1950's to be used as HQ in case of nuclear war.

This tunnel leads to an abandoned atomic-proof bunker, built in the 1950’s to be used as HQ in case of nuclear war.

Looking back along the Lines and the Great Fault — the structure below is a WWII pillbox

Looking back along the Lines and the Great Fault — the structure below is a WWII pillbox

Trying to get a glimpse inside Fort Mosta (now a closed military installation) — I know you guys are hiding something...

Trying to get a glimpse inside Fort Mosta (now a closed military installation) — I know you guys are hiding something…

Found a cave cut into the rock below Fort Mosta's outer wall, leading to...

Found a cave cut into the rock below Fort Mosta’s outer wall, leading to…

...a set of catacombs from the Paleo-Christian period (ca. 200 AD)

…a set of catacombs from the Paleo-Christian period (ca. 200 AD)

Who IS that nosey man? He's awfully persistent...

Who IS that nosey man? He’s awfully persistent…

Sliding down into Wied il-Ghasel... The arches at the bottom are all that's left of the original masonry bridge built by the British as part of the Victoria Lines.

Sliding down into Wied il-Ghasel… The arches at the bottom are all that’s left of the original masonry bridge built by the British as part of the Victoria Lines.

A small chapel dedicated to St. Paul the Hermit, built into a cave high up on the wall of Wied il-Ghasel...

A small chapel dedicated to St. Paul the Hermit, built into a cave high up on the wall of Wied il-Ghasel…

Exploring Wied il-Ghasel — a steep gorge that cuts through the Great Fault...

Exploring Wied il-Ghasel — a steep gorge that cuts through the Great Fault…

Photos ©Tomoko Goto 2015
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