LIKE most Scots arriving in Malaga Province, James Douglas was intent on moving on quickly. The knight was on a mission to deliver Robert the Bruce’s heart to Jerusalem, while the hundreds of thousands of Scots who fly in every year are Costa del Sol bound. I’m on my own mission to find out more about The Bruce and to also see if Malaga is a city worth lingering in.

If you read last week’s page I left you boarding the train from Seville, a painless high-speed trip that lands me at the central station just feet from the Barcelo Malaga ( It’s a tower hotel fit for a king with a rooftop pool and bar peering out over this dramatic port city set within a natural amphitheatre of hills and sea. I dine on octopus and a pork steak. In Malaga they eat more pork than they do beef and they eat well – more on that later.

I quickly find more out about The Bruce from resident of 20 years Bard Vos. He explains: “James Douglas is fondly remembered here.”

Indeed he is celebrated in an annual festival complete with a pipe band in the nearby village of Teba. Douglas was diverted – with Bruce’s embalmed heart in a casket draped around his neck – when he offered to help the locals tackle Moorish forces. It was a detour from his crusade to the Holy Land that cost him his life and Bruce his wish to have his heart buried in Jerusalem.

Keen not to lose sight of my other mission, I join Malaga-born guide Trinidad. “It’s a shame so many people go straight to the resorts as Malaga is a brilliant city and we’ve got our own beaches too," she said.  

"You’ll soon see why I love it,” she promises as we sweep down a palm-lined boulevard into the heart of Spain’s sixth largest city.

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Malaga is one of Europe’s oldest cities too. The cathedral is impressive enough even without the second tower Trinidad tells me is missing. We go into heritage overdrive, discovering the Roman amphitheatre (only uncovered in 1951), the 11th-century Moorish Alcazaba, and the vaulting 14th-century Gibralfaro Castle. Ascending to the ramparts, the mountains and Mediterranean swim in an orange sunset glow.

Malaga looks good at any time of day: it’s an impossible city not to like. Since my last visit over 20 years ago they have chucked cars out myriad streets, creating a walkable, clean and safe oasis for impressed visitors to explore along with what I find are equally delighted citizens. I’m not remotely surprised when Trinidad tells me Malaga is the fastest growing city in Spain. I’d live here.

Actor Antonio Banderas does live in Malaga. Indeed we pass his grand house, but I’m more interested in another local boy made good. Pablo Picasso may never have returned to Spain after fleeing Franco, but he was born in Malaga in 1881and inspired by the special qualities of the local light. You can still visit his birthplace to learn more about his early years. Another must is the Picasso Museum in the grand Buenavista Palace.

Picasso was no one off cultural wonder – Malaga is hailed as the “City of Museums”. It well deserves the title: I savour the Carmen Thyssen Museum and the only Pompidou Centre I’ve visited outside Paris. The Malaga Museum brilliantly tells the city’s story, while Malaga Centre for Contemporary Art delves into the avant garde. I don’t even have time to visit the museum dedicated to aviation and many others.

Malaga may impress with its history and culture, but there is an infectious winning sense of celebration of life too. I fall in love with the old school, fresh local produce driven Atarazanas Market, then stay in the 19th-century at Casa del Guardia, enjoying a glass of Pedro Jimenez sherry straight from the barrel for a shade over a euro. Then a heaving plate of fresh prawns too for not much more, my order chalked up on the bar.

Trinidad recommends El Pimpi, part owned by Banderas. It’s a wise move as I feast on that delicious Jamon Iberico and try their own take – with the pigs fed with chestnuts rather than acorns.

My last stop is a fitting one – St Andrews Beach. Reclining in a beach bar I tuck into the local delicacy of a skewer of sardines cooked over a charcoal grill. If Douglas had sought a more relaxed sojourn here Bruce might have made it to Jerusalem.

Scots flying into Malaga these days have no excuse for not making a beeline for what I’ve found is one of Spain’s most beguiling cities.

easyJet ( fly to Malaga from Glasgow. Tourist information is available at