In the hills behind Marbella, Spain, is a little town called Benahavis. And in the hills behind Benahavis, there are the ruins of a 10th century fortress: Montemayor Castle. Now that’s gotta be worth a look.
Resplendent in wet weather gear, a daypack on my back, (and a song in my heart) I headed off on the 79 Bus west of Marbella to Guadalmina. From there I intended to change buses for the service to Benahavis, until I discovered I had missed the morning run. So I figured I would walk the 7km to Benahavis instead and pick up the trail from there.
It turned out to be a blessing, as despite the drizzle the road to Benahavis was really pretty. Australian eucalypts and wattles lined the route for the first few k’s, then an impressive boardwalk wound the rest of the way up the valley to the town.
It’s hard not to feel like the only tourist in Spain when you probably are, and I definitely felt like the stranger in town in Benahavis. It’s not that people were unfriendly; I just felt like I heard the Spanish for ‘Who the fuck’s that bloke?’ whispered more than once.
I found the start of the track to Montemayor Castle, and an interpretation sign that issued this challenge:
It gave the impression that there were degrees of unassailability, but regardless of this I hadn’t come all this way just to be stared at by the locals. I was coming ready or not.
After a short, steep climb through forest and patchy rain showers I arrived at the final ascent to the castle. By this time I was up in the clouds, and a giant cork tree – under which I sheltered for lunch – gave the whole place an fairy-tale feeling.
After lunch I made the final climb to the castle ruins…
As I reached the summit, the crumbling castle loomed from the mist…
At 579m above sea level, the castle was part of a chain of watch towers that warned local residents of danger. Though I can’t back up the claim, it is said that over 100km of the Spanish coastline, and part of Africa’s too, can be seen from the ramparts.
The castle defended the surrounding farmers and townsfolk from both raids by pirates and invasion by the Christians. Montemayor stood fast until 1485 when those persistent Christians finally captured the fortress.
I had Montemayor Castle all to myself, and although there was no view to be seen, the swirling cloud and misty rain certainly gave the place an emotive ambience. It was definitely worth a look.
For more on Montemayor Castle click here
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