The way to Fomm ir-Rih is via the small hamlet of Bahrija – the latter signposted well enough all the way from Rabat’s western outskirts. Once Bahrija’s single main street is traversed there’s a right turning just past the last houses and then a somewhat bumpy road goes through the scenic garigue and eventually dips down towards the bay via another right fork. Thoughtfully there’s a miniscule parking area at the end of the road.
The makeshift carpark is still some sixty metres above the bay though and from here a rock-cut trail that hugs the cliff starts dipping again – but don’t worry, although this stretch of path has no handrail it’s wide and safe enough for all except perhaps the very worst of the inebriated. Along this trail one can notice the huge cliff wall backing the bay which exhibits a geological feature known as a syncline - a fold in the rocks in which the rock layers dip inward from both sides towards a central line. Nearer to the beach the trail peters off over small rocks by the shore and finally reaches the tiny shingle beach at the bottom. From here the view is simply awesome, with the straight majestic line of cliffs jutting out from the bay’s southern side now in full unobstructed view. It’s a magic spot with the sea lapping and whooshing the smaller pebbles into perpetual motion.
Further exploration of the area is possible along the beach’s northern shore. From here a trail of sorts carries on for some distance in a landscape that is Malta at its best insofar as raw natural beauty is concerned. So remote is this stretch of boulder scree and the cliffs above so inaccessible, that the Knights never bothered with a watchtower to guard over this area since an enemy landing here was seen as highly unlikely. It was only the more wary British a few hundred years later who built a tiny gun post on the towering cliffs above when an invasion of the islands looked like a real possibility at the height of World War II.
The scenic boulder fields here are characterized by a few mighty pillars sculpted by nature – in their turn backed by smooth clay slopes; here and there fastened by the perennial esparto grass which helps to lessen the slopes’ natural erosion. The fact that people don’t walk this stretch often is also witnessed by the appearance here and there of a few strands of rusted barbed wire which still remain from those dark wartime days. If the initial pretty shingle beach was stunning this area is even more so.
The trail dies off some 700 metres from the shingle beach at a place where two rock shelves in close proximity jut into the sea and basically this is the cue to turn back. But it’s far from a boring return since the ever changing views make this short two-kilometre ramble a kaleidoscope of colour and contrasts. And although it is a short walk, the nature of the terrain – rough but never too difficult – will probably require up to two hours to complete, naturally allowing some time for some justified staring and gawping!
Very much as is to be expected there is no public transport that goes as far as Fomm ir-Rih, but an hourly bus does run from Rabat to Bahrija (No.109) from where it is a scenic two kilometres from the start of the trail. Bahrija is also a good place to chill out after the walking is done – the humble hamlet is considered the rabbit capital of Malta with a handful of cheap and cheerful restaurants specializing in this quintessentially Maltese dish.
Essential for this walk are a good pair of trekking shoes, a bottle of water and – needless to say - a camera. This shore trail is however not recommended when the westerly wind blows at a force of six or higher – the name of the place does give a fair warning about that after all…