Castillo del Aguila (Eagle’s Castle)

Castillo de Gaucin 1849 by Perez-Villamil.  Prado Museum Madrid
Castillo de Gaucin 1849 by Perez-Villamil. Prado Museum Madrid

Castillo del Aguila (Eagle's Castle)

Castillo del Aguila (Eagle's Castle) in the Moorish hilltown of Gaucin, consists of a series of fortifications built across a rocky ridge above the village.

The castle, which is of Roman origin, and was reinforced by the Moors, is located on top of a hill whose east and south slopes are practically impregnable; the best way to reach this magnificent, historic building is by walking up Calle Larga.  

Just before you enter the castle through Puerta Este (east gate), notice the Via Ferreta (iron rope walkway) on the right-hand side secured into the rock. Don't be tempted - this is a route for experience and equipped climbers only.

The castle complex has an irregular double-defensive layout - the outer defenses protect the larger compound area, and interior defences create a further two walled compounds.



Puerta Este

You arrive through Puerta Este - this double arch gateway has characteristics of Moorish architecture.  The arch is slightly pointed in shape with lateral bricks supported on limestone blocks in a rectangular frame. The gatehouse walls are a later modification. 

You enter the largest or outer of these compound; this was used as a refuge for villagers from invading forces or bandits. The views from the first terrace area over the countryside, river Genal Valley, and the Rock and Straits of Gibraltar across to Africa, are spectacular. A few small canons from different eras have been laid out to give the visitor an idea of the castle's defensive role. One is located next to a sentry box.

Plan of Gaucin Castle
Plan of Gaucin Castle

Ermita de Santo Niño

Ermita de Santo Niño is the recently-restored white-painted chapel near the Puerta Este.  The chapel was built in the 17th century on the site of a mosque. Its original name was Ermita de la Encarnacion.  It is now a two-nave baroque chapel with masonry exterior and a small portico. The original nave has an altar covered by a highly decorated dome with a statue of the revered Niño Santo (Holy Child) himself.   The other nave, built in the 18th century, includes a quadrangular cross-vaulted chapel overlooked by a wooden statue of San Juan de Dios. A further altar, added in the 1960 reconstruction, is dedicated to Adelfilla.  

Outside the church you will find a small kiosk selling refreshments in the summer and there is also a public toilet.

The legend of the Holy Child says that in 1536 when Juan Ciudad was returning from Gibraltar loaded with books, he found a barefoot boy, and carried him on his shoulders as far as the spring at Adelfilla. The child called out "Juan of God, Granada is your cross." Juan went to Granada and founded a hospital for the poor. In return, he donated to the town an image of the boy which was placed in the castle chapel for safety. During the sacking of the castle by Napoleon's troops in the 19th century, the image was thrown off the castle walls but later recovered. Unfortunately it did not survive the sacking and burning of the chapel on 8 September 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The castle grounds are well-kept - follow the path that has been laid out. Eagles and vultures glide overhead and blue rock thrushes can be seen in the castle compound. The size of the castle indicates how many villagers took refuge here when the town was under attack.  

Torre de la Regente

At the far end of the castle compound is the square plan representing the ruins of the Torre de la Regente (Regent's Tower).  This is the site of the gunpowder store which blew up in 1848. The oldest underground water tank is also located in this area.

View of Torre de la Reina  from inside the Castle compound
View of Torre de la Reina from inside the Castle compound

Torre de la Reina

On the highest ground (688m above sea level) you will find the inner and older compound.  This probably dates from the Moorish caliphate period (tenth century), and here stands the Torre de la Reina (Tower of the Queen).  This compound is protected by another double entrance arch, itself protected by another tower. The three water tanks located in this compound, now open, offer us an idea of concern for water collection in the area.   

The Torre de la Reina itself is square in plan with two storeys. The lower floor, built by the Moors in the 10th century, is now covered with a barrel vault with steep narrow staircase leading up to the second-level 17th century bell tower, which is an open terrace. One bell still hangs here in a more recent lattice birch construction in the tower wall. This is the best place to enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside in all directions.


Romantic era artists David Roberts  from Scotland,  and Pérez Villamil from Northern Spain, are the most famous of many painters over the ages to have captured the castle and the surrounding countryside including the Rock of and Straits  of Gibraltar, and the north African mountains across the sea. They travelled throughout the region independently in the 1830s.

Castillo Gaucin 1834 by David Roberts
Castillo Gaucin 1834 by David Roberts

North west Gate

You can leave the castle compound by the North West gate. This was a modern opening in the outer wall to allow access to the chapel for the throne-carrying processions. The path winds down to Calle de la Parras; turn right here and visit the cemetery.   

Opening times

Wednesday to Sunday 10.30 to 13.30 and 16.00 to 18.00 (20.00 June to September).

Free entrance. 

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