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!

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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

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The Portugal Diaries #10

So, after finishing his calls by 5pm, we decided to jump into the car and go exploring. And we hit the beach but not Fabrica. We hit a beach called Manta Rota which is a sandy beach that stretches for miles. And even better, you don’t need to get a boat to it. You simply walk out the boardwalk and you’re right on the beach.living arrows my sunday photo

It was still quite busy with lots of people still arriving. It seems it is a popular thing to head to the beach after work! And we had a great time. BattleKid got thoroughly soaked and I was glad I had a spare change of clothes as we headed to Xicken Piri Piri for dinner afterwards.

So nice was Manta Rota that on my sister’s last day I picked them up early and we headed there for a few hours to let BattleKid and his cousin play in the sand. They had a ball and it was lovely seeing them enjoying themselves. After showers and lunch, I dropped my parents home before carrying on to Faro airport to drop my sister and niece off. My sister really didn’t want to go home but they’ll be back later in the year.

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Playing in the sand with his cousin
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Burying me in the sand!

We had a quiet few days after our visitors but on the first Sunday of July, we decided to get out early and carry on exploring. We had been told of a castle fort at a place called Castro Marim that might be a good place for some dragon hunting, so off we went. I was very surprised that it was only 20 minutes for our home.

Castro Marim has two forts on top of hills. One is open to the public and in we went, on the hunt of our first dragon in Portugal. It was a great place to spend an hour or two and I’ll be writing all about our visit soon. Afterwards we stopped at a café at the bottom of the castle hill and had toasties and a cuppa before setting off for home. I can see us returning to Castro Marim time and time again.

my sunday photo
The second fort of Castro Marim
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Just taking a break from dragon hunting

After the weekend, and once BattleDad was finished work on Monday evening, we headed back to Manta Rota but not to the beach this time. We wanted to take BattleKid somewhere flat to practise his cycling and there was no better place we could think of than the big square in front of Manta Rota beach. He had a great time for over half an hour before we stopped for dinner.

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Cycling on Manta Rota

Later that week we had a trip inland lined up but it turned out even better than I thought it would. Stay tuned to find out why!

To be continued…

Cath x      

Read more of my Portugal Diaries here.          

Living Arrows 28/52

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

Kahlil Gibran

In the last week we have the pleasure of visiting not one but two castles here in Portugal. I had no idea there were so many in Portugal, let alone within two hours of us.

The first we visited was in a town 20 minutes from us called Castro Marim. Castro Marim has two fort-type castles on opposite hills, one which is open to the public and one which isn’t. We had a lovely time wandering around, looking for dragons of course, and imagining what it was like to live there hundreds of years ago.

my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting

We also visited a castle in a town called Beja which is 2 hours drive from us. We were meeting up with friends from Wales who were in Lisbon on holiday and who kindly offered to meet halfway. It was so good seeing M and his new fiancee P, who is lovely, and we spent a lovely hour wandering around the castle, hunting for dragons, before having a bite to eat and a coffee. I was blown away by this castle. And guess what? We passed another one in a town called Mertola which we are going to return to!

Beja Castle
Standing in the courtyard of Beja Castle

We also spent last Friday evening at the beach after BattleDad finished work. I still can’t quite believe that this is our life now; popping to the beach after work on Friday while it’s still hot is still something dreams are made of.

living arrows
Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

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