The latest glass-bottomed skywalks open in Gibraltar and Seattle, and the best of the rest...
Mark Hamill earning his fee. Stormtrooper No2 takes a more casual approach
May the reinforced glass be with you...and with actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the 1977 Star Wars (and four subsequent films) and was on hand to declare the platform open. His hamming was aided by the prescence of several extras from Boogie Storm - an unlikely troop of Stormtrooper-themed dancers who appeared in a heat of the UK's 'Britain's got Talent' in 2016.
Gibraltar's glass-bottomed 'Skywalk' is the latest in a global fad for fear-inducing experiences. They take what was already an outstanding view and render it terrifying by adding a pathway and a see through floor.
Skywalk at night. Photo MeteoGib Steve Ball
Bragging rights for these skywalks seem to be all about who's platform is the highest, and how far you can see from up there on a 'clear day'. Which reminds me of a friend in south London who was having new windows fitted in his flat by a workman wag. My mate was on the 5th floor and it's true that he had nice large windows. The workman stood back to admire the handiwork and declared, "on a clear day you could see Barbara Striesand from here".
The Rock of Gibraltar, with the airport runway running beside it
The Gibraltar Tourist Board can't promise quite that from atop The Rock, but for sure you can see the 842 metre high Jebel Musa in Morocco, some 20 kilometers away. The Moroccan sumit is likely the southern leg of the so called Pillars of Hercules - a term used in antiquity for the singular mountains that stand on either side of the strait.
So the latest Skywalk is on the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426 meter high monolith known simply as The Rock. The 360 degree viewing platform was built onto the the foundations of an existing WWII structure and is at a height of 340 metres.
The top of the Rock and Skywalk by day. Photo Visit Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar has been for centuries, and as such has been modified and tunnelled into. Visitors to the upper levels will find the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and the Windsor Suspension Bridge, the ancient battlements, World War II tunnels, and the magnificent St Michael's Cave.
The Moorish Castle tower, built in the 14th Century. Photo Visit Gibraltar
|I've been to Gibraltar many times and it makes for a refreshingly different city break, though most visitors day trip there as part of their holiday in southern Spain, plus the territory is inclreasingly popular with cruise lines. It's a friendly place with a facinating geography and history.|
|Gibraltar International Airport is literlly a short walk from the main settlement and handled 548,000 passengers in 2016. Its runway famously bisects the main raod from Gib to Spain. It currently offers flights with British Airways to London Heathrow and Easyjet to London Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester, and Royal Air Maroc to Tangier and Casablanca.|
|Gibraltar is a year round city break destination, with the same climate as the surrounding south coast of spain. Summers are dry and hot, when temperatures can top 30 °C. Most rain falls between November and February, but generally only in short sharp downpoors, and winter temperatures rarely dipping below 10 °C.|
The Skywalk is inside the Gibraltar Nature Reserve on the Upper Rock. Admission costs £12 for adults and £7 for children ged 5-12, and free for senior citizens. For more information see Visit Gibraltar
Other great Skywalks...
Spece Needle, Seattle, USA: the latest glass-bottomed skywalk experience opened on 8th August 2018 at Seattle's iconic Spece Needle Tower. It's the worl'd first revolving glass floor and is the highlight of a USD$100m renovation, or 'spacelift' as it prefers to call it.
On a clear day you can see the ground. Photo Space Needle/John Lot
Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle rises 18m above the city streets and reflects a bold space-age vision of the future. The USD$100m makeover includes what's termed 'The Loupe', after the handle-free magnifying glasses used by watchmakers and jewelers. The gently revolving turntable is original, but now there is a circular glass floor to stand trembling on.
The main observation deck, from which on a clear day you can see peaks of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, is above the glass floor level, and has been improved with the addition of 48 floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Visitors are encouraged to lean backwards against these for some harum-scarum selfies. The SkyCity revolving restaurant is on this deck too, and is due to reopen later in the year - also with added glass floors. See Space Needle
Tianmen Mountain, Hunan Province, China: This extraordinarilly sheer-sided massive has long been known to the people of Hunan Province - and in fact there's a Tang Dynasty era Buddhist temple sits at the sumit built in AD 870.
It's not reported what you might see on a clear day - I'd be facing the rock anyway.
The pathway is 61 meters long, some which has 2.5" thick glass pannelling on its floor, is grafted onto the rock some 1,430 meters above the surrounding countryside. high is also 6,35 centimeters thick (2.5 inches).
The cable car rides up to the scenic area from the city of Zhangjiajie, in the northwest of Hunan Province. The city's international airport has flights from across China, plus Bangkok, Busan, Jakarta and Taipei. For more info see Zhangjiajie Tourism
Mirador de Abrante, Canary Islands: anyone driving across the rugged northern side of La Gomera should call here for a coffee and a view. Next door to the cafe/restaurant is a seven-metre overhang with glass sides and floor. If it's not foggy you can see the tiny villages of El Charco, Las Casas and the most isolated, La Montañet in the valley of Agulo, 400 metres below, with its houses and vertiginous agricultural terraces. On a clear day you can see Mount Teide - Spain's highest peak - over on Tenerife.
On a clear day you can see Mount Teide, Tenerife. Photo Thomas Jundt/Flickr
Get to La Gomera on a short flight from Tenerife North with Binter, or from the port of Los Cristianos on the south side of Tenerife with Fred Olsen, and from Los Cristiano and La Palma with Naviera Armas.
Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge, Beijing, China: this new glass-bottomed monstrosity claims to be the world's largest and longest glass-bottomed viewing platform, jutting out 33 meters from the cliff edge.
Wills Tower Skydeck, Chicago, USA: Remember that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when the three friends press their heads against the glass to admire the view of Chicago? Well it was filmed at the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. So many visitors to the tower started doing the same that the developers decided to build four glass cube viewing platforms especially for them – collectively called the Ledge.
Willie Wonka eat your heart out. Photo Skydeck
Despite being built way back in 1973, the tower formerly known as Sears is still the tallest building in the western hemisphere. And now you don't have to strain your neck for a view – you just step into a glass box that extends out 1.3 metres from the skyscraper 400 metres above the bustling city streets. Don't look down, but out to the horizon, where on a clear day you can see across four states - Illinois of course, plus Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Nobody will have been wondering, but just so you know, the glass cubes are retractable, and are brought inside the building for cleaning and maintenenace. The tower is at 233 S Wacker Dr. Admission is $24 for adults, and $16 for children aged 3-11. For more info see Skydeck
Glacier Skywalk, Banff, Canada: the Skywalk stands 280 meters above the Sunwapta Valley in the heart of the Columbia Icefield, the largest area of ice in the Rocky Mountains.
Nice views, shame about the steel/glass eyesoar. Photo Glaciel Skywalk
The Skywalk is accessed via the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre, just off Highway 93 an hour's drive south of Jasper and 2.5 hours north of Banff. The nearest gateway airport is in Calgary International Airport, 140 kilometres to the east. Entry to the Glacier Skywalk is CAD $31 for adults and $16 for children aged 6-16. For more info see Glacier Skywalk
Aiguille du Midi Skywalk, Chamonix, France: 'Step into the void' as it is known, is a glass box skywalk at the top of the Aiguille du Midi peak, near Chamonix, in south-eastern France. The part cube may be minimalist, but the vertigo is not.
David Blaine might be at home here - not me. Photo Wittur Group
With nothing standing between them and the blissful one kilometer void (a sheer drop of 12,604ft), than a 12 mm (1/2 inch) platform of glass enforced by steel frames.
Grand Canyon Skywalk, Nevada, USA: jutting out over the canyon 1,219 meters above the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened in 2007 and has since proved hugely popular, especially as it's so much closer to Las Vegas than the more familiar views from the South Rim.
When the natural edge of a canyon just isn't enough. Photo Skywalk Grand Canyon
The horseshoe-shaped Skywalk extends out beyond Eagle Point by 21 meters and is a four-hour drive west of the South Rim visitor centre, and two hours east from Las Vegas.
The Edge, Eurika Skydeck 88, Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne's Eureka Tower is a self proclaimed 'gem in its urban skyline' located down by the Yarra River. It opened in 2007, is 297 meters tall, and as if a 91-story monolith isn't eye catching enough, its top 11 floors are 24 carat gold plated.
The Edge projects out from the 88th floor at about 300 meters above the city. No self respecting attraction down under would be complete with a few 'in the southern hemisphere' epethettes, and getting to the Edge, 'the ighest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere' will mean travelling on the fastest lifts in the Southern Hemisphere.
Some bright spark grafted a glass box onto 88th floor. Photo Eureka Skydeck 88
The Edge is at 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank. Admission is AUD $12 for adults and $8 for children. For more info see Eureka Skydeck