The Spanish Watchtowers

There are many watchtowers along the coast of Southern Spain built to watch for pirates and other invaders from the South. The pirates attacked shipping and often conducted land raids and captured people for their slave trade. Warnings were sent by smoke signals during the day and by fires at night. The towers were usually built with an entrance high up on the tower reached by a rope ladder from outside. This led to a single room and stairs to the roof. The smoke signals came from a fireplace whose chimney was on the roof. At night a fire was built on the roof.

The southern coast of Andalucía is an area that has been fought over for centuries. During the time when the Romans settled here they built lookout towers and their system of relaying messages and warnings was improved by the Muslims in the 8th Century. They were able to pass a message from Alexandria in Egypt to Ceuta in Northern Africa in one night. Most of the existing towers found along the coast of Andalucía date from the 16th century and were built by the Christians. Some were used by the Guardia Civil and a few were converted to private homes. Most of them now are preserved as historic sites, some have fallen into disrepair but there are many still be seen along the coast. A tower situated on what is now known as the Balcon de Europa was dismantled by the British in 1810 as they were concerned that the French could use it as a base.

We visited one tower at the village of Maro, near Nerja on the Costa del Sol. It is a good example of an old watchtower that has been preserved by the local authorities who restored it in 2009. It stands 11 metres high and the elevated front door is situated about 6 metres from the ground. In times of danger the ladder would be retracted and the tower defended from above. There are no windows and only one tiny spy hole. The trail up to the tower is steep, covered with rocks and tree roots and almost impassible in places. It was a tough climb but worth it as the vistas to the beach and town below are fantastic.

If you look eastwards for approximately 8 kilometres, the remains of four more towers can be seen.  One is at la Playa del Molino de Papel (known as Torre del Río de la Miel), another one is located beside the Playa de Cañuelo (Torre del Pino, and is now owned privately.  A third is the Torre Caleta) and the last is the Torre de Cerro Gordo. Three of these towers are well preserved but the Torre del Río de la Miel has partly fallen into the sea.

Anyone interested in local history should take the time and make the effort to visit these towers before they fall to pieces and disappear.

Categories: Further afield, Near by

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