There are three fortresses in Castro Marim, so a paradise for those who love castles. Even if you don’t climb the castle ramparts Castro Marim is a lovely village to stop for coffee.
The largest castle was commissioned by King Afonso III in the 13th century, and surrounds an inner castle much like an English keep but in fact an earlier fortress believed to a Musulman construction. It costs just over an Euro to look round, and worth it for the views of the village and surrounding area from the walls. In the summer there is an amazing Medieval fair within the castle walls, something we have yet to visit but if you want to know more pop across and say hi to Restless Jo, she wrote an excellent post a few months ago about the fair. It looks incredible.
The castle is an large fortification, which gives you some indication of the battles between the Christians and the Moors which once took place in these hills and coastal areas. Once inside there are few information boards so unless you picked up the town Tourist map be prepared to use your imagination. The town map helpfully marks out the cisterns, cemetery, old hospice, two churches and the magazine within the castle walls, alternatively you could just talk to the castle cats!
The castle was once occupied by the Order of Christ, an Order created after the Order of Templars had been disbanded. The Order was awarded by the Kings of Portugal rather than the Pope, and it had huge influence during the Age of Discoveries when the Portuguese were great maritime explorers.
The second castle – Forte de São Sebastião– was constructed in the 17th century as was the fortress on the hill – Rocha do Zambujal – to the south east of the castles. We didn’t walk round São Sebastião on this occasion, saving it for a later date and a later post! We did though enjoy watching the storks fly above it.
The third set of fortifications – Ravelein de Santo António – are hardly visible compared to the two castles these days, however they were once of huge military significance and controlled navigation on the River Guadiana. We were pleased we took the time to explore as more lovely views and plus an opportunity to see a Portuguese windmill close up and in good repair.
On our way back to the village centre there were more cats for me to befriend and an opportunity to shop! The old Mercado in the centre of Castro Marim have some great local crafts – we bought a wonderful basket but resisted the saline solution!