Alcalá La Real

Alcalá La Real has one of the best and most interesting old castles I’ve seen in Spain! 
To backtrack: why am I in Alcalá La Real, a scrappy looking little town between Córdoba and Granada? In the middle of nowhere!

Well, I saw a fabulous castle from the bus from Córdoba to Almería. Marked it on my Gaia map so I’d remember where and, here I am. After this, a few days in Córdoba, then Madrid and then Sydney. 

On first impressions, Alcalá La Real was not a memorable town like the beautiful little white, remote, Andalucían villages I’ve walked through recently, the ones that cling to hillsides and are obviously ancient. Partly it was because i am staying on the edge of the older section of town and even that looks pretty recent to me considering I’m in Spain. 

Yes, the town has the crooked, goat track, streets. Otherwise, hmmm, not very exciting. 😏 Have I been in Andalucía too long? Spoilt by the many special other little towns I’ve walked through here? No, it’s just not that the old and the huge castle dwarfs everything else in every way! 

On second impressions, this town is amazing but again, only because of its castle, the Fortaleza de la Mota. The castle covers the top of the high hill overlooking the town. No, it’s not just amazing, it’s up there with the castle in Almería for me. Wow! So my first impression of the town is now irrelevant. This place is amazing. 

Fortaleza de la Mota

The site of the castle has been occupied by humans since the Palaeolithic times and in all subsequent major epochs: those of the Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and more recently the Christians. Up to and including during the Middle Ages people were living up on the hill near the castle and in houses spilling down from one side of the hill. 

A once important church built up there can still be visited. Evidence from the lives of the earliest settlers is on show within it, including old wells and burial cavities once below its floor.

So are the nearby ruins of places where people lived, drank, made wine, fought etc all on show up there. The area on top is huge. The military lived over in one area, locals in another, and important people over where the church was later built. 

Where residents bought meat during one period is visible, so is where they bought various other goods including those from a pharmacy.

As time passed the town extended further down the hill and widened out around it, leaving space, of course, for the ubiquitous olive trees. By then the castle was abandoned, along with the houses that had been within its outer protective walls. Not much is visible now, it’s been so long. 

There was a river below the town, long since disappeared, that helps explain the extended survival and importance of the town. So does its location, between the very important old cities of Córdoba and Granada, both also important for as long as humans have been on the Iberian peninsula.

Go! If you are visiting Spain, go to the Alcalá la Real castle. Stay in the Hostal de Río de Oro. €45 a night and I’ve stayed in places costing more and giving less. I’ve got two balconies as I’m on the corner of the building, first floor (room 101) and will be back when I walk from Granada to Córdoba. Yes. Wifi is good! 

Food here? I’ve given up on finding a restaurant open during the week. But, even with Coke you get tapas. Yesterday, for example, 3 small bottles of coke light = 3 tapas: one of calamari and the wonderful Spanish chips, one of three small sausages and one a piece of tortilla. I’d almost had a lunch by just having drinks. Why? Yes, it’s in the shadow of Granada with its especially generous tapas-with-any-drink practice. 

Viewing the castle

Today I walked around the hills overlooking the castle and town. A young woman and her dog walked towards me, said hi and checked I was the Australian???? I couldn’t place her as there was no young gorgeous Spanish woman walking the Mozarabe. 

Yes, I’d spoken to her when I visited the castle yesterday, she works up on top, and I’d said how impressed I was and wondered why there were so few tourists there. Not the 50,000 arriving in Granada or Córdoba each day. No, just 10 others on a weekday! I saw 2 Dutch, 5 Spanish and 3 others in my hours and hours of walking around up there yesterday. So anyhow we chatted for a while and I said I hoped I’d be back. Nice to see her again today.

Found an ermita, one of those common, but to me puzzling, mini churches people put up sometimes for those who’ve emigrated or to commemorate something

More interesting was the remnants of an old roman well. A passing woman told me there had been one of those communal clothes washing places there more recently.  

Hmmm, so many men in this town stand around in groups everywhere and fill bars, more than in usual towns. Most are older. Why so many? Who knows but it is very noticeable. And it’s from first thing in the morning until later in the day. 

And women used to spend their spare time washing clothes together? For fun? 

I like the everpresent and colourful wall plaques around the town. There are also many with a poem, some from one of the very significant Arab poets from their time here.

And the huge drinking fountain is in a pivotal place. I don’t know how old it is but I was very impressed. 

As usual, some of the most exciting bits for me in the museum were the bones. Why this one had two left femurs and tibias I don’t know. 

One showed the outcome of a very different type of burial.

And, as always, I loved the old bones showing interesting problems: 

Femoral fracture repair pre modern splints and more recently, surgeries:

A very grotty spine:

A mandibular osteosarcoma:

And finally, from 400 years BCE, stones for manually grinding grain, similar to the larger one we found in the Simpson Desert (in Australia) a year or so ago.


Go to Alcalá La Real, visit the castle and the museum.  Do it now, before the 50,000 per day who visit Granada and the 50,000 per day at Córdoba, get wind of it. 

It’s high and 

huge! In area and size. Wow. Yes, my photos really don’t do it justice. It needs a real photographer. 😁

Visit this town! It’s worth it. 


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