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Alcalá la Real, Jaén

Alcalá la Real, Jaén

Alcalá la Real, Jaén

An historic beginning

A town of two hills, it is not by chance that Alcalá la Real is located in the centre of influence for the area. The natural strategic defensive position is occupied by the fortress of La Mota, the foundations of which date from Roman times but which experienced an expansion under the influence of the Moors. The fortress dominates the surrounding landscape and ensured that the Arabic rulers of the time kept their independence for more than 700 years.

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The land occupied by the modern town of Alcalá la Real has remains of human habitation that date back to prehistoric times. Although the architects of the Roman Empire left their mark, the dominant civilisation was that of the Moors who, from the 7th century until the defeat of the last caliphate of Spain in Granada in 1492, were the ruling defensive and social force.

Castillo de Locubín

Castillo de Locubín

Castillo de Locubin

Of heritage Andaluz

A toothless smile wrapped into a sun-wrinkled face provides a fitting setting for this sleepy town of some 5,000 souls that lies unpretentiously off the beaten track, almost as if its given up waiting for something to happen. Castillo de Locubin’s main occupation is, however, just that. It is waiting for time and the slow process of maturation to complete. It is waiting for the sun to perform its complicated process of cellular transformation.

Castillo de Locubin lies in the heart of olive country and is surrounded by an endless sea of olive groves, plantation on plantation, ancient and new lined neatly up and down the hilly terrain. Its main industry and raison d’être is the production of olive oil, the golden, cholesterol reducing agent that is one of the principal industries of Jaén.

But there’s more. Castillo de Locubin, like all the towns and villages in this corner of the world, has a history that reaches back into the beginning of historically recorded time. Nearby are Palaeolithic remains of our human forbearers and the castle, after which the town is named, and of which, unfortunately, little remains, has its origins in roman times when, as a remote outpost in the extreme west of the European continent, Iberia was the provider of many of the raw materials of empire, a fat queen protected by its armies of soldiers and slave labour. Later, seven hundred years of Arabic rule left its indelible mark in the form of isolated watch towers, endlessly vigilant and lonely reminders of a frontier existence, a world between cultures.

Ruta del Califato

Castillo de Locubin doesn’t have much for those looking for bright lights and a rock ‘n roll lifestyle, but what it lacks in superficiality it excels in reality. The whitewashed houses baking beneath the Andalucian summer sun don’t bother with a welcome, they’re too busy waiting for the hectic harvest, a month of frenetic activity, at the turn of the year.

More information – Caliphate’s Trail:

For more information:

Tarifa, Cádiz

Tarifa, Cádiz

Tarifa, Cádiz

The southern tip of Europe

Tarifa, known for its year-round high winds, a feature gifted by its location near to the thermal playgrounds of the gods where the fury and power of the Atlantic merges with the tranquil serenity of the Mediterranean, and its close proximity to the African continent, is a town that straddles time. This town on the Costa de la Luz is a pleasure to visit at any time of the year.

With its loud proclamation as a loyal and proud supporter of the process of reconquest, that occurred over a period of some six hundred years, and its esplanades full of twee shopping centres populated by free spending northern Europeans, Tarifa is a town between cultures.

The advantages of European equalisation appear to outweigh the disadvantages. Houses are being restored to their old grandeur, a lazy-day cafe culture is spreading slowly through the back streets and there are high quality hotels and restaurants full of customers sitting contentedly in self breeding plastic chairs that, with the rising temperature spill, amoeba-like, onto the adjoining pavements.

With the salt wind playing in your hair its easy to imagine the tantalising attraction that Spain had for the first Moorish conquerors who invaded here in the 7th century. Standing on the restored walls of the castle, the Atlas Mountains of northern Africa looming through the distant haze, provide a permanent reminder of the threat that local inhabitants of those long-gone days must have felt. Fears that lasted until Sancho IV ‘The Brave’ at the head of his fervently Christian army ‘liberated’ Tarifa from the Moors on 21st September 1292. Today, its much easier to reach the other side, in fact its actively encouraged; the high-speed powerboat eats the journey to Tangiers in just 35 minutes.

And Tarifa is one of the best places in the Iberian Peninsula to be if you’re a wind surfer. The wind rushes in from the sea and plays a tattoo on the mountains that mantle the town.  Its almost as if with additional gust, another surfers’ shop blossoms from the sandy soil.

Much has been written about where to stay and what to do on the Costa de la Luz, and we offer this link from the Guardian newspaper that sums it up very well.

and here is the official website of the Diputación de Cádiz, which gives up to date information:



Oviedo, Asturias

Ancient, enduring belief

Oviedo is a monumental city, not only in the traditions and customs that dominate its festivals, history and culture but also in the physical presence of architectural jewels that trace the development of man’s relationship with the Iberian Peninsula from the first indications of human settlement to the fanfare of imagination that accompanies Spanish modern-day architectural ingenuity.

The modern-day origins of the city can be traced back to 761 when a monastery was founded on the skirts of the Oveto mountain. Its official title of capital city goes back to the reign of one Fruela I and it was then that it became, after Santiago de Compostela, the most sought-after destination of pilgrims from the Christian world.

Routes and Places worth a Visit

Santa María del Naranco is one of the jewels of pre-romanic architecture of the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. This singular building was built on the sides Mount Naranco, outside of but close to the heart of the city of Oviedo. It is a building with two floors and beautiful symmetry that was originally built as a summer palace for the Asturian kings.

San Julían de los Prados is the largest and, arguably, the best preserved pre-romanic temple of Spain, if not Europe. Amongst the treasures kept within its walls are some fabulous painted murals that date from the Spanish Middle Ages. The church was constructed between 812 an 842 on the orders of Alfonso II and formed part of a palace that was built by him outside the walls of the ancient city.

The university of Oviedo is a magnificent collection of medieval buildings whose construction was completed in 1608. However, during the revolution of 1934 much of the original building was destroyed by fire. A new building, conserving the original lines was constructed on the ruins around the XVI plateresque façade that was saved from destruction.

The most typical ‘barrio’ of the city is found in the El Fontán area of the city. This square, lined with medieval arches, was built over a dried lagoon and is the location of some of the most monumental and memorable buildings of Oviedo.

Oviedo remains one of the places that any self-respecting pilgrim, whether religious of tourist, should visit when in Asturias.

To find out more about Oviedo:



Ávila de los Caballeros

From the frontier to the heart of Castille

Ávila de los Caballeros, located in the south of the Autonomous Community of Castilla and León is a pristinely preserved medieval town; one of the most impressive in Europe. Ávila is a museum town full of architectural wonders that doesn’t fail to impress those from more industrialised areas. In 1985, the town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO and it’s easy to see why. Its narrow streets are full of palaces, churches and monasteries; history’s ghosts forming spectral crowds that demand attention from the expectant visitor.

The monumental centre of Ávila is much as it was some five hundred years ago, long before the efficient network of communication made it easy to get to from just about any part of Spain. And the added bonus of this city is that it is the gateway to the Sierras de Gredos, the mountain chain that rises in the southern part of the province and provides a backdrop of the some of the most spectacular and unspoilt scenery that can be seen anywhere in Spain.

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