Castelo de Almourol
The weather has turned a bit here in Portugal, the temperature has dropped a little, still in double figures though, and we have had some rain. On an rather overcast day I went to Castelo de Almourol (Almourol castle), which is regarded as Portugal’s most beautiful castle. Situated in the municipality of Praia do Ribatejo, the castle sits on a small island in the middle of the Tagus River, and is a significant, military, medieval monument. The castle was part of the defence system created by the Templar Knights to secure the border of the Christian Kingdom against the Moors and remained a major stronghold for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages. When the Christians arrived here in 1129, the castle already existed under the name of Almorolan.
A short, scenic, boat ride takes one to the island, and on the walk to the castle are cactus ‘trees’, said to be as old as the castle.
Six kilometres north of the Castelo de Almourol is the town of Constância situated on the banks of where the River Zêzere and River Tagus meet. Originally known as Antiga Punhete, from the Roman for fight of the Tagus, due to the rebelliousness of the meeting of the two rivers. In 1836 Queen Maria changed the name to Constância, due to the constancy of the villages inhabitants in support of the liberal cause. Constância was taken from the Moors in 1150, and given the status of a town in 1571. In 1809 the English army met here before marching to Spain, on their way to the Battle of Talavera, where Wellington defeated the French.
The town has narrow, winding, hilly streets, with whitewashed houses accented in yellow. A climb to the town’s highest point provides views of the area.
The two markers on the wall of the building below, show the levels flood water reached in 1978 and 1979.
North of Constância is the Castelo de Bode Dam, located on the Zêzere River, it’s 402 metres wide and 115 meters high, and supplies water to 3 million people, including Lisbon. Opening in 1951 it was one of Portugal’s first hydro-electric power stations. Castelo de Bode lake is the largest body of fresh water in Portugal.