You have to choose second and third gears to negotiate the narrow and at sometimes precipitous, winding road up to the fortified village of Castellar de la Frontera, in Cadiz Province.
The citadel dates back to 14th century Islamic Andalucía, boasting its very own Alcázar (which will soon open its doors as a small boutique hotel).
Like most places close to the Andalusian coast, visiting off season is best, as mediaeval architects totally overlooked the future demand for parking spaces!
The climb is well worth it, as it affords amazing views across the campo de Gibraltar, towards the rock, the Mediterranean, and the mountains of Morocco and Ceuta in the hazy distance. Turning west we could see as far as Marbella’s la Concha of the Sierra Blanca and of course the Serranía de Ronda range; below is the Guadarranque reservoir, surrounded by pristine oak forests.
The narrow cobbled streets of the pueblo that run between ramshackle little cottages with geraniums in the windows or orange trees brushing against the walls, are interesting to wonder through – there are a few small bars, and art and crafts galleries.
Cadiz has to be one of my favourite provinces of Andalucía, as it has escaped the developers that have changed much of the coast. History suggests that the inhabitants of Castellar old town were content to be re-housed by the local council in new homes in Nuevo Castellar, in the valley below, as this new village community is immaculate with tended gardens, neat streets and elegant fountains. A far cry from some of the dodgy villages where the local council have built ugly modern blocks to re home people living in aging properties. Earlier in the day, we had taken the autopista expressway towards Sotogrande, taking the exit for the Castellar, traveling up through the edge of the beautiful
Alconorcales Natural Park (a national park in Andalucía), with its aged oaks and craggy landscape. Searching for the turning for the village of Castella de la Frontera, we made a fantastic little discover – a small, single star rural hotel, in a converted convent. Hidden back from the road surrounded by century old oaks and aging palms, the Casa Convento La Almoraima is a real jewel. This exceptional little place makes you feel as if time is standing still. The trickling of the Andalusian fountain is all one hears as one steps into the courtyard patio, which is filled with overgrown banana palms that touch the shutters of the rooms above.
The manager chatted to us about the history of the place and told us that it was once a 17th Century Convent, converted in the 19th Century into an aristocratic hunting palace and now a low-key, rural hotel serving high quality regional cuisine. There is an authenticity and tranquillity about the place that I found really comforting and I will make a point of staying there in the future. (If you looking for something a little more up-to-date, then there is the 4 star Hotel Castellar nearby).
We polished off our little excursion in the hilltop village by polishing off a great lunch at the Venta Jarandilla, at the foot of the mountain.
Mature cheese, cured ham, Rioja, and tasty entrecote steaks…followed by ice-cream on the beach.
Thanks for the very informative and beautiful blog, there is much good info in it.
I have come to a point in my life where I travel much, just back from a 2 months in Toscana (staying in Volterra), which is always a dream.
Now, I plan one in Andalucia, for the October time frame. I usually come to stay for longer periods, this time it will be 5-6 weeks. We rent a car and travel around in a well planned (but not too planned) excursions.
I was thinking about Antequera as a good location to travel Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, etc…and still be in a nice place. I usually pick October to lower # of tourists, although this issue can not be escaped any more.
We usually take 2br apartments, which makes it homely and economical. This was we can do laundry and even cook a bit.
Do you have any special advise? How are the roads down there?
Bar-Giora Goldberg, CTO
I enjoyed reading your blog Andrew. I live in an ex-pat urb on the Costa Blanca. Being a busy mum and working on the computer all day, I don’t get out into the real Spain nearly as much as I should.
Seeing your lovely photos made me realise I must get out and ‘smell the lemon trees’ more.
Andrew that was a lovely blog – I remember staying two nights in Castello de Castellar – actually inside the castle grounds – it was a wonderful experience although I absolutely couldn’t imagine living there all year round – all shopping was brought from the car park into the tiny winding streets either in a thousand up and down visits or, if you paid 10€, the guy with the dumper truck would help you!
The artists there were inspiring though, and it reinforced my love of this area …
I now run a B&B very close to the Lake in Iznájar so it won my heart!