The castle at Mourão, Alentejo, was originally built in 1343 during the reign of King Afonso IV but mystery remains over who ordered its construction and the documents referring to its inception date back to time long before Afonso.
Walking up from the town the first thing you see is the clock tower which sits up on top of one of the five defense towers. The clock tower was added much later during the ‘War of the Restoration’ when control of Portugal’s crown was wrestled from Spain.
The walls are still intact although the inner courtyard is in a state of decay. What appears to be a chapel is now only a few walls with no roof and trees growing where people once worshipped. The staircases up to the ramparts are well worn and care must be taken when using them as the polished stone is very slippery in places.
The views from the walls are astounding; miles and miles of rolling hills encircle the huge system of lakes. There are also excellent views over the terracota rooftops of Mourão and on a clear day across the border into Spain, where the cannons of the castle still point.
Today the 14th century castle is quite the attraction for passing tourists and a good talking point fo the locals. Neighbouring Monsaraz to the north-west also has a castle and a walled village that combined with Mourão’s to form a strong defensive line against the Spanish.
On my visit I had the place to myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it; the child in me playing the part of a swashbuckling hero defending the land from invaders and swinging from rampart to tower, cutting down my enemies as I went.
Actually, I just enjoyed the views, climbing the stairs, investigating the area and the peace of the overall place, something it too deserves after centuries of being a focal point for raiders, thieves and conquistadores.
The castle at Mourão is a great place to visit and easy enough to find. You can park next to the Jardim Publico and a five minute walk will have you at the front gates.