Castellar de la Frontera
The history of Castellar de La Frontera can be divided into two pretty distinct periods. The first is full of historical anecdotes and is based in the Old Town of Castellar. The second is more recent and begins thirty years ago in 1971 when most of the inhabitants of the Old Town left their homes to move to the new area, Nuevo Castellar, whose modern square frames an image of their former castle home on the hill behind.
The Old Town of Castellar is set within a medieval fortress in a strategic position atop of a mountain. This unique positioning has meant that Castellar has been home to many cultures and people dating as far back as the Neolithic man, evident in cave paintings that can be found in the location of the old town. Romans also inhabited this small town although their presence was not too marked. The most important inhabitants, as in many parts of southern Spain, were the Muslims. The entire fortress walls surrounding the town were built by the Muslims in a bid to ward off attacks from the Christians who eventually conquered the land in the shape of Juan Arias de Saavedra in 1434 AD.
“As you walk through the main arch to the castle and into the town itself, you are met with a maze of tiny alleys and streets, lined with white washed houses, decorated with colourful plants”
The new village, founded by the Spanish dictator Franco in the 1970´s, resulted in an improved way of life for the inhabitants of Castellar with better living conditions and a superior infrastructure which had previously been impossible in the old town due to the location and terrain. The town’s inhabitants, whilst still eager to maintain their heritage in the mountain castle village, were quite pleased to move into the new town which in terms of modernity showed a marked contrast to the homes they had left behind. During the relocation many of the abandoned homes in the old town were taken over by retired hippies and it became, and still is to this day, a bit of a bohemian enclave.
Very few tourists actually make it to Castellar castle and as a result it is very easy to get to and easy to walk round. As you walk through the main arch to the castle and into the town itself, you are met with a maze of tiny alleys and streets, lined with white washed houses, decorated with colourful plants and local ceramics. In the spring and summer, orange blossom and jasmine fills the air with an overpowering scent. The 13th century castle is of irregular shape and the Royal Palace is located over the main entrance. The views over the valley from the battlements are stunning and there are spectacular views of the Guadarranque reservoir below. On a clear day it is possible to see Gibraltar, Algeciras, the north coast of Africa and the surrounding white villages. Inside the castle, among the tiny dwellings is a hotel consisting of Casa Rurals (tiny houses used as hotel rooms), several bars and a few shops selling local crafts.
There are a number of restaurants in Castellar where you can sample the local cuisine which mainly consists of game, especially venison, rabbit and partridge. Rabbit with tomato is a particular speciality, as is goat stew.
"One of the town´s main attractions is the strategically sited defensive castle of the Nazari of Granada."
The area within the municipality of Castellar, next to the train station, known as Almoraima, is now a protected natural area which is teeming with wildlife. Amongst the wild animals living on the estate are fallow deer, roe deer, oxen and mountain goats. At the heart of the estate is the Casa Convento La Almoraima, a charming convent dating from the 17th century, which now operates as a countryside hotel, hunting lodge and restaurant, offering game lunches on Sundays. Directly behind the convent you will also find large stables, which offer horseriding tours through the leafy cork woods of los Alcornocales.
As well as the Almoraima, in the area known as ‘Cerro del Moro’ there is a zoo for visitors where, in addition to animals native to the region, you will find monkeys, reptiles, bears and foxes as well as a walking route and a picnic area.
The most important day of the year in Castellar is the first Sunday in May which is their Holy Day. Celebrations include parades, folk dances and sports competitions. 6th August is the Castle Eve when flamenco is popular to celebrate San Salvador and in the middle of February the local carnival has splendid and impressive costumes and parades.
PLACES TO VISIT
OLD TOWN / CASTILLO:
One of the town’s main attractions is the strategically sited defensive castle of the Nazari of Granada. It has recently been restored and its towers, ramparts, gateways and walls give a very realistic idea of its former grandeur and its importance.
Palacio del Marqués de Moscoso. Once part of the Muslim fortress, the palacio is a building of great importance and was put to newuse after the Christian Conquest. Latterly it was the residence of the Marqués de Moscoso and the Duquesa de Medinaceli.
Iglesia de la Misericordia. This was the parish church of the inhabitants of the old town of Castellar, which was set within the castle walls. The church was built in the 17th century on the site of the Muslim’s mosque.
Convento de la Almoraima, Finca La Almoraima. Tel: 956 693 002. Founded by the Condesa de Castellar in 1603 as a convent the church has a fine baroque altarpiece. The convent has now been converted into a hotel on one of the best farming estates in Spain, which is inhabited by a wide range of large and small game.
Molino de Conde, Ctra de Algeciras-Jimena km 82.5. Tel: 956 236 063. This old flour mill dates back to the 13th century and now serves as a popular restaurant to locals and tourists alike.
Iglesia Parroquial del Divino Salvador, Plaza de Andalucía. Tel: 956 693 184. The modern church of the new town but home to the image of ‘Cristo de la Almoraima’ which was moved from the convent and is the subject of great local devotion.
Castellar Zoo. Tel: 676 762 653. The Zoo is open everyday except for Mondays
HOW TO GET THERE
Directions from Duquesa to Castella.
1. Take the N340 coast road, heading towards Gibraltar.
2. Stay on this road until you go under the new bypass, AP7 / E15 and then you will be at a roundabout.
3. Take the 2nd exit, signposted for Secadero or San Enrique. (Do not take the slip road onto the bypass).
4. Stay on this road, you will pass through San Enrique, Secadero,
and after crossing over a bridge you will be at a town called
5. Take the 1st Left, signposted Jimena de la Fontera. Stay on this road until you reach the main road for Jimena. Take a left turn, heading towards San Roque.
6. Ignore all the roadsigns until you pass a cork factory on your left.
Immediately on you right you will see a yellow signpost for Castellar. Take this right turn and follow the road to the castle.