A Dragon Hunting Adventure at Castro Marim

One of the very first castles we visited here in Portugal was at Castro Marim. Castro Marim lies in the East Algarve near a town called Vila Real de Santo Antonio and the castle sits on a hill overlooking the Guadiana River which forms the border between Portugal and Spain. It is only about 20 minutes’ drive from where we now live, and we visited early one Sunday morning in July, before the heat of the day set in with one things in mind – a dragon hunting adventure at Castro Marim.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - blog graphic

As you know by now, our dragon hunting adventures started while we were living in Wales and when we left Wales for our new life in Portugal, I thought those days might be over. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are quite a lot of castles in Portugal and that some are within easy access to us.

Portugal was never a country I associated with castles, but I was totally and utterly wrong with that thinking. We haven’t visited many, but our plans will be to work our way through them before and after the heat of the summer. It’s just too hot during July and August to be walking around castles hunting for dragons.

Our dragon hunting adventures in Portugal began in Castro Marim and as mentioned, we visited early one Sunday morning. We parked in the town, not realising there is a municipal car park hidden behind some building at the foot of the castle. We worked our way around the back of little houses until we found the walkway leading to the entrance of the castle.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim

dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - the walkway up to the castle

You enter the castle through a gateway and pay your entrance fee of just €1.50 at the ticket office that faces you as you enter. We paid up and then set off to find out if there was a dragon hiding in the grounds of Castro Marim castle.

The castle at Castro Marim is a medieval castle sitting on top a hill overlooking both the town of Castro Marim and the Guardiana River. It was once part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templar and was a stronghold during the Portuguese Reconquista. It dates back to the 13th century and fell into disrepair in the 17th century when it was replaced by the fort of São Sebastião, on the opposite hill above the town. Both are a formidable looking sight as you approach the town.

dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - looking out to the fort

We started our dragon hunt in what we believe were the stables of the castle grounds. What we noticed about this castle is it is very old, yet it is easily to imagine what life would have been like in the castle and grounds during medieval times.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The stables area of castro marim castle

The footpaths are dirt paths and quite uneven and we followed one from the stables towards one of the main buildings on the castle grounds, all the while searching in holes, around trees and behind walls for a dragon. So far we were having no luck!dragon hunting adventure at castro marim

The main building that remains standing in the grounds would have housed the Lord and Lady of the castle, so to speak. In here we found a small museum with information posters about Castro Marim Castle and artefacts of the castle. We then climbed the stairs to the battlements to enjoy the view across the River towards Ayamonte in Spain and down towards Vila Real. We did have to be careful as there were no guard rails around the battlements and the stairs were very steep and narrow. They must have had small feel in Medieval times!

my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting

After we left this area, we continued our dragon hunt and we were starting to wonder whether there were ANY dragons in Portugal when we spotted a small one in a hole in a wall outside the main building of the castle. BattleKid was thrilled to find him.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - finding the dragon hiding in a hole

We decided to explore a bit more of the castle and Mummy ended up in the stocks! I did get a kiss from my boy before being released. We continued past more ruined buildings, past what was the market and cooking area of the castle, back towards the entrance and the church within the castle grounds.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - battlemum in the stocks, getting a kiss from battlekid dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The market and cooking area of castro marim castle dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - ruined buildings

This building is very cool and was a welcome break from the sun which was starting to heat up. However, it is a strange building. While being a church and being lovely inside, it houses an exhibition of torture equipment and displays from the times of the Spanish Inquisition. I found this most odd, and we didn’t linger, especially as we had BattleKid with us.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - The church inside Castro Marim Castle

A final visit to the gift shop within the ticket office to buy some Castro Marim rock salt and our first ever dragon hunting adventure in Portugal was at an end.

Things to note if you going on a dragon hunting adventure at Castro Marim Castle.

  • It costs just €1.50 per person to enter the castle. Both times we’ve visited we haven’t been charged for BattleKid, but I cannot find information about at what age children are charged from.
  • There are toilets in the main building towards the back of the castle, but these are the only ones at the castle.
  • The castle is not wheelchair accessible and those with a child’s buggy would find it difficult as well due to the rocky terrain within the castle.
  • The castle is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.
  • A municipal car park can be found below the castle which is hidden from the main road through town and this gets very busy on a Saturday when there is a market held in this area of town.
  • There is a gift shop in the ticket office selling various souvenirs.
  • There is very little shade in this castle, so bear this in mind if you are planning a visit during the hot summer months.
  • The Fort of São Sebastião on the opposite hill is not open to the public, although you can walk around the outside of the fort walls.

If you happen to be visiting the area of Castro Marim, you could time your visit to coincide with the Medieval Festival held in the castle every year at the end of August. We missed it last year due to being on our two-week USA road trip, but we plan to visit it one year when we are not away. You can hire costumes, and if you arrive in medieval dress you may be given free entry to the festival.dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - Facebook graphic

Castro Marim castle is nice to visit but it won’t take you more than an hour or two to see everything. I think it’s a castle to visit along with a lunch break in the town, or if you are visiting Vila Real de Santo Antonio. We returned to Castro Marim with my parents for a second dragon hunt in November and it was a very pleasant day.

Have you been dragon hunting yet?

Cath x

dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - pinterest graphic dragon hunting adventure at castro marim - twitter graphic

Living Arrows 46/52

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

Kahlil Gibran

This weekend past we made a return visit to Castro Marim, this time bringing my parents. It is a town near Vila Real de Santo Antonio and one they haven’t visited before. It also boasts two castles, or forts, on opposite hills, one of which is open to the public. Our aim was to show them the castle while doing a dragon hunt for BattleKid, and afterwards enjoy a drink and toastie in the square beside the church.

As it was there was a huge market on in town, and we had a wander through, enjoying churros as an after-dragon-hunt treat. But I really noticed how grown up BattleKid is looking these days from some of the pictures I captured of him!

living arrows - BattleKid at Castro Marim Castle living arrows - BattleKid at Castro Marim Castle living arrows - BattleKid at Castro Marim Castle

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Living Arrows

46/52 My Sunday Photo: 12/11/2017

Yesterday we made a return visit to Castro Marim castle, which is only about 20 minutes from where we live. We also brought my parents as it is one town they haven’t visited here in the East Algarve. We did a dragon hunt for BattleKid and afterwards we visited the market in town which was the biggest I’ve seen so far.
But before we left the castle, a back cat came by and was quite friendly. We left her sitting on the steps outside the church which is located inside the castle. I just couldn’t get her to look at me while I took a picture of her!
 my sunday photo - black cat at the church of Castro Marim castle
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Photalife

The Portugal Diaries #11

As mentioned last time, we had a trip inland pencilled in for the Wednesday of the first week of July. A good friend of ours from Wales and his fiancée were holidaying in Lisbon and he had asked if we could meet up as we haven’t seen him for a few years. We also would be meeting his fiancée for the first time, so BattleDad found a place that was roughly half way for us and we planned our meet up.

Little did I know that the reason BattleDad chose it was because there is an amazing castle in the town. We left our place and headed past Castro Marim towards Beja, taking the mountain roads inland. We passed through a town called Mertola, which also hosts a castle on a hill. We plan to visit that as it’s only an hour from us.

After almost 2 hours on the road we arrived in Beja and found the castle. I honestly did not associate castles with Portugal but you can imagine my delight that we managed not one, but two dragon hunts within days of each other.

my sunday photo
Beja Castle
my sunday photo
Beja Castle

M and P were running a little late so we walked along the outer walls and admired how beautiful the castle looked. Once our friends had arrived we went into the castle to explore and hunt out the dragon lurking within.

be in the picture
Selfie with my boy at Beja Castle

After an hour, we found a café for a sit down and catch up with toasties and a coffee. I have to say I’m a big fan of toasties since moving to Portugal. They aren’t afraid of using butter and the bread they use is really good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend the afternoon with M and P as BattleDad had to get back for a conference call at 3pm but we thoroughly enjoyed our catch up and were so grateful they took time out from their holiday to come see us.

We decided to head back to Tavira via the main motorway and we got a nasty surprise on our way home. We came across a set of tolls not far from Beja and I mistakenly thought we could use the fast lane. I’ve set up an online account for our tolls along the A22, the main motorway that runs along the South of Portugal. But alas, these electronic tolls are different to those on the other motorways.

There are actually 3 different types of tolls and unless you have a tag, which you can only get for Portuguese plated cars, you have to get a ticket and present it at the other end. We didn’t have a ticket and as a result ended up paying a fine of over €100 for a trip that should have cost less than €10. A costly lesson to learn! I’m just glad we had enough on us to pay.

On our way home we did pass the exit for Silves which my Dad reliably informs us has another castle. I really am surprised at how many castles there are in Portugal and how amazing they look. I had been wondering whether we would be able to continue our dragon hunting adventures but thankfully we can.

Later that week we spent yet another Friday evening at the beach. Someone fell asleep on the way there and woke up to discover himself at the beach. He and BattleDad had a whale of a time jumping waves and running away from them.

living arrows
Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

It’s an absolute joy to be able to nip to the beach of an evening and see the joy in our son’s face as he plays in the sand and sea, which is warm by the way. It makes us happy to know our decision to leave the UK for a life in the sun is paying off. We’re starting to settle in and find out feet but we’ve a while to go before I think it’ll truly feel like home. But so far so good.

Next time I tell you of more blogger mail that has winged its way to us here in Portugal!

To be continued…

Cath x

Read more about our Portugal Adventures at Portugal Diaries.

29/52 My Sunday Photo: 16/07/2017

The week before last we met some friends of ours from the UK in mid-Portugal. They were holidaying in Lisbon and we hadn’t seen them in quite a long time. Seeing as we were both in the country we found a halfway point and met for lunch.
It just so happened that the town of Beja, our meeting point, also had an amazing castle in it which we explored briefly before lunch. I am amazed at how many castles are in Portugal. They’re just something I didn’t associate with it.
my sunday photo
my sunday photo my sunday photo my sunday photo
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