The Campo de Gibraltar municipality of Castellar de la Frontera, has been officially declared “one of the most beautiful towns in Spain” this October, which was marked with a ceremony.
Castellar de la Frontera has been officially proclaimed as “one of the most beautiful towns in Spain” this October 2020. For many people, this has always been the case, even before it received an award. The ceremony was held on Saturday, 3rd of October at the Castle, with representatives and officials from all associations in the municipality in attendance, with all Covid19 hygienic measures in place. The ceremony also featured a performance by the flamenco guitarist José Carlos Gómez.
The “Los pueblos más bonitos de España” (“Most beautiful towns in Spain”) Association locates and awards to all the wonderful towns (typically choosing rural areas) that can be found throughout Spain; promoting them under the same quality benchmark, by hosting campaigns and cultural events within the country and further afield. Now that Castellar has been added to the list, the association now boasts 94 unique locations, traditional villages to astonish any traveller, and “places of great beauty and personality that exude history and culture”.
The Mayor of the municipality, Adrián Vaca, recently highlighted that for Castellar, it is an honour to be able to say that Castellar de la Frontera is one of the “most beautiful towns in Spain”, which he says is a “a benchmark for prestige and quality at both national and international levels”, which he says “marks the start of a new era”.
The model for this initiative is based on the French ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’. The Spanish network, which was created in 2011, currently chairs the federation of “the most beautiful villages in the world”, and is also involved in the French, Italian, Belgian and Japanese networks. Within the province of Cádiz, only 4 other towns have been given this distinction, which entails having exceeded over 40 quality requirements, they are: Vejer de la Frontera, Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra and Setenil de las Bodegas.
Castellar Viejo: An Old Town Steeped in History
Nestled within Los Alcornocales Natural Park (in the Campo de Gibraltar region), Castellar de la Frontera has three “population centres”: Castellar Viejo (locally known as El Castillo), Castellar Nuevo and La Almoraima.
With a population of just about 100 inside and outside its walls, the old town, which was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument and “Asset of Cultural Interest” in 1963, with its impressive medieval fortress, stands out the most. The fortress has been turned into a splendid rural hotel which is home to a variety of cultural events. Some of the old houses dotted around the castle have been restored and transformed into restaurants and accommodation. Within ‘Castellar Viejo’, you’ll come across the Palacio de los Condes de Castellar and the Divino Salvador church which was built on the ruins of an old mosque.
Both the castle and its surroundings have been the setting for numerous significant events throughout history. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, and located in the frontier with Granada, the castle played a significant role in the 15th century Granada Wars; becoming one of the links in the chain of Nasrid Kingdom fortresses. It connected to the South with the tower from Palmones and the Bay of Algeciras, and, to the north, with the fortress of Jimena de la Frontera. During the Andalusian period, there also existed a small settlement in the La Almoraima, where the garrison of the beacon tower was housed.
The Chronicles of the time, in 1434, Juan de Saavedra, governor of Jimena, took over the castle for the crown of Castile, and was named mayor of the town by King Juan II, which was later converted into a manor. It was then taken for the Kingdom of Granada a second time by Juan de Saavedra, whose dominion would be inherited for many generations by the Arias de Saavedra, to whom Emperor Carlos I granted, in 1539, the title of Counts of Castellar. From then on, the local economy was driven by agriculture, livestock and other activities related to the mountain, such as hunting and the gathering of cork.
Other important milestones in the history of the town were the construction, in the 16th century, of the Mill of the Count of Castellar, on the Guadarranque River, and at the beginning of the 17th century, in 1603, the construction of the Convent of San Miguel de La Almoraima, inhabited by Discalced friars of the order of La Merced. In 1654, the town passed to the Duchy of Santistevan and, later, to the House of Medinaceli. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Marquises of Moscoso were successfully pursued a lawsuit which gave them title to the town, but in 1852 it was returned to the Duchy of Medinaceli, together with the district of Almoraima, where it remained until relatively recently.
In the middle of the 20th century, in 1945, the Almoraima Cork Company was created, which became the engine of the local economy and around which numerous shacks were built, in which the workers lived, and which were later replaced by proper housing. A couple of decades later, La Almoraima already had about 1,500 inhabitants.
Castellar Nuevo, where most of the inhabitants live today, was completed in 1971. It is located 9 kilometres from Castellar Viejo and just 1 kilometre from La Almoraima, on 700 hectares of land which were compulsorily purchased from the Casa de Medinaceli, it was the last town planned by the National Colonization Institute in Cádiz, as a result of the construction of the Guadarranque reservoir, whose works began in 1960, and whose extent can be seen today from the top of the Castle.
El Castillo de Castellar Features on the Front Page of the 2020 edition of the Official Guide
Coinciding with its admission to this prestigious “club”, Castellar de la Frontera features in the 2020 edition of the Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Towns of Spain. A spectacular aerial view of the Castle serves to illustrate the printed version (in English), which is now also available online.