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Cumbres Mayor, Huelva

On the trail of the Knights Templar

Cumbres Mayores, in the heart of the natural park of Aracena and the Picos de Aroche, is a town full of corners to explore, from the imposing castle of Sancho El Bravo, to the beautiful walk along the sympathetically restored GR48 that stretches across the length of Andalusia from the eastern coast to the, now undisputed, Portuguese border.

The most outstanding symbol of Cumbres Mayores is its imposing castle, which was built after the fall of the Muslim empire to protect the area against the lawlessness took hold of the land in the confusion of conquest. Bands of cutthroats roamed the hills and populated hidden valleys deep in inaccessible areas of the mountains. To protect the region from these marauding bands of warriors, Sancho IV ordered a network of castles, including the castles in Cala, Santa Olalla, Almadén de la Plata as well as Cumbres Mayores, to be built across the region to act as a defensive net against hostile incursions.

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The castle of Cumbres, which has been beautifully restored, still evokes the desperation of the times in which it was built. Strong, high walls, around which the houses cluster in defence, watch blindly across the hills and keep constant vigilance for an enemy who is long gone.

Wars were a constant theme for this part of the world until well into the 18th century and, at one stage, according to a report of 1749, which dealt with the in effects of the war between Castille and Portugal in the Sierra Onubense (now Huelva), it was clear that El Cerro, La Nava, Encinasola and Cumbres de Enmedio were destroyed in the fighting, while Aroche, Cumbres Mayores, the Cumbres de San Bartolomé, Cortegana, Fregenal de la Sierra and Higuera la Real were in grave danger from being destroyed in their turn.

Nowadays, the castle of Cumbres Mayores continues to watch. Even though the enemy is no longer there, vigilance is something that cannot easily be forgotten.

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