Enchantment at Almourel

Almourel Castle

Romantic Almourel

Hidden in Portugal’s quiet depths we found another Templar treasure.  A more serene setting I have yet to find, wholely at odds with the history of the Knights and their battles against the Moors.  We had travelled from Constancia in the Ribatejo, at the junction of the rivers Tagus and Zezere (a name that delighted me), so we knew all about sleepy and tranquil.  Still, nothing prepared me for this.

A little before 10 in the morning we rounded a corner and there it sat, with barely a ripple reflected in the water.  A tiny ferry boat lay at anchor, awaiting a boatman and maybe even a passenger or two.  Castles just don’t come any more enchanting than this.  Nothing to do in the still morning air but to breathe in the calm and admire.

Almourel Castle

The ferry boat awaits

How and why was it here?  The name seems to derive from the Arabic, almoran meaninghigh rock”, appropriate for a huge chunk of granite.  The site was known in Roman times, and used for defence purposes then.  It was during the Reconquista period, when the Portuguese were trying to break free from the stranglehold of the Moors, that it came into it’s own.

The Knights Templar were entrusted with the rebuilding and fortification of the castle, in a line of defence of the then capital, Coimbra.  Like the mighty Convento do Christo at Tomar, they gave it nine circular towers, enclosing a quadrangle, and a jail tower at the centre.  It was completed in 1171, two years after the castle at Tomar.

Convento do Christo at Tomar

Convento do Christo at Tomar

With the Moors evicted from Portugal, Almourel was abandoned and fell increasingly into disrepair.  Further damage was inflicted by the 1755 earthquake, but all good castles have a happy ending.  The castle became a listed building in 1910.  Further renovations took place and during Salazar’s dictatorship events were held there.

Today there is no sign of any conflict…. just a ferryman plying his craft.

Almourol ferry

The lone ferryman

Naturally there’s a legend befitting the castle.  A tale of Moors, Christians and treachery.  The Arab lord of Almourel’s daughter fell in love with a Christian knight, and gave away the secret of a passage into the castle beneath the Tagus.  When the knight ambushed the castle, the lord and his daughter flung themselves from the ramparts rather than face capture.

There is no charge to visit the castle, generally open from 10am till 5pm.  Simply pay the ferryman his minimal fee.

14 comments

  1. Ciao restless jo,

    Great post, I too am a fan of castles. They hold such wonder and awe. Thank you for your comment on my blog, let’s not worry about social media too much and just write. I hope the sun is shining for you. Ciao

    1. Thanks muchly! Suspect you have a better chance of sunshine than I do just at the minute. Days are a bit grey and it’s dark by 3.30 here in N East England! Help, when’s my next trip to Portugal?
      Never been to Sardinia but it sounds beautiful.

    1. Thanks Doreen. Have a look at the Obidos and chocolate cups blog? The chocolate cups certainly tasted great, but the sour cherry brandy inside could have had something to do with! My husband has a preference for dark chocolate but I’m no expert. Obidos has a chocolate festival just before Easter each year- might be one for the diary?

  2. I know Richmond well, I lived on a street called Newbiggin for a while in 1997 when I was working in the town. I have never been to Durham and I should because Kim is from Bishop Auckland. We haven’t got many castles in Lincolnshire!

    1. It’s an amazingly small world sometimes isn’t it? Don’t suppose you noticed my link to “Romantic Richmond and it’s Ivory Tower” on the side panel? I wrote it for the now defunct Simonseeks website last Autumn. Trip down Memory Lane?

  3. Thank you Andrew,me too. We’ve got some cracking ones up here- Durham and Richmond to name but two. Sometimes there are English Heritage events on which really bring them back to life.

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