Torres de Arroyo Vaquero, Estepona

The "newer" beachfront Torre Vigia Arroyo Vaquero, Estepona © Michelle Chaplow
The "newer" beachfront Torre Vigia Arroyo Vaquero, Estepona © Michelle Chaplow

The two watchtowers - Torres de Vigia Arroyo Vaquero - in Estepona

There are two 400-plus-year-old watchtowers, or torres de vigia, in Estepona, both named after Arroyo Vaquero, the small arroyo (stream) that runs nearby.

The “newer” Torre Arroyo Vaquero, built in 1575, is located close to the beach within the 1970s Bahia Dorada residential development, between Estepona and Casares. The tower, which is in excellent condition, can be reached by a public footpath from Calle Moreno Torroba. This watchtower has a conical shape, typical of those built after the Christian Reconquest.

Torre Arroyo Vaquero is located on a raised mound next to the sea, 200 metres south of the mouth of the Arroyo Vaquero, which also lies within the Bahía Dorada development. This (relatively) newer Torre Vaquero replaced an older square Moorish tower, whose ruins are located inland, in the Estepona municipal golf driving range (see below).

This tower has a truncated conical shape. The inner chamber was built over a solid base, with an opening on the north side, about 7.6 meters above the ground. This chamber would have had another small opening on the south side, where the chimney and stairway to the roof, which was protected by a parapet, were located.

The tower was constructed of masonry, using brick in the exterior and interior. Its base has a perimeter of 26.60 metres and a diameter of 8.45 metres, with a total height of 13 metres.

According to a report written in 1749 by Jerónimo Amici, the Arroyo Vaquero Tower needed half a bushel of lime for its repairs, which he budgeted at 15 reales and 28 maravedíes. The repairs were paid for by the Duke of Arcos.

During the restoration of the tower in 1987, some painted outbuildings that were attached to the tower had to be dismantled. It was discovered that these buildings were constructed from stones and bricks taken from the tower itself.

This tower can be reached from the N-340 (Manilva – Estepona road), turning right at the Bahía Dorada residential development, at around km149. Its geographical coordinates are 36°23′54″N 5°11′39″W

The older Torre Arroyo Vaquero is also known as Torre Vigia Nazari Arroyo Vaquero (Nasrid Arroyo Vaquero Watchtower), or Torre Quebrada de Arroyo Vaquero.

Arroyo Vaquero Moorish watchtower is located on a small hill called Torrequebrada, in the middle of the Estepona municipal golf driving range, on the left bank of Arroyo Vaquero river itself. This driving range, known as La Dolena, is not to be confused with Estepona Golf Club nearby.

The tower, of which only a part of the base and one wall remains, was built as a square plan construction about 8 metres high.

The Califato de Córdoba needed to keep watch on the coast to defend against raids by other tribes from North Africa. We cannot be sure when the Torre de Arroyo Vaquero was first constructed: perhaps in the 11th century of the Taifa kingdoms; or the Nazarí de Granada of the 13th century.

The Moorish watch tower of Arroyo Vaquero certainly existed on September 13, 1497. Following the reconquest of Malaga, the city sent several expeditions westwards under the direction of Juan Alonso Serrano, the assistant corregidor (mayor) of the city. His written report stated that Torre Arroyo Vaquero was staffed by two guards, who earned a daily salary of 25 maravedíes. Later, in 1565, the tower's exterior walls were plastered; a concrete bed was forged on the roof and a parapet five quarters high was built, with its "loin" on top.

Strangely this tower is located about 1.8 km inland and, although it is 70 metres above sea level, does not afford particularly good views of the coastline.

Its geographical coordinates are 36°24'45.0"N 5°12'23.0"W.

Coastal Watchtowers

About 200 watchtowers or forts have been built along the coast of Southern Spain, whether by Islamic or Christian forces, to look out for invaders arriving from across the sea. Some of the watchtowers seen today have Moorish origins, mainly constructed by the Nasrid dynasty of Granada after 1250. However most of them were constructed (or reconstructed) in around 1575, as part of the major coastal defence programme of King Felipe II.

After 1518, attacks increased by Barbary pirates, (also known as Barbary corsairs, or Ottoman corsairs) based in North Africa and acting on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan. Initially the pirate raids concentrated on shipping, but later escalated to territorial incursions. They were slave-hunters, and their methods were ferocious, capturing young people for the Ottoman slave trade.

Over half of the towers constructed have lasted to the present day; due to their remarkably solid construction and also due to being occupied, and therefore maintained, right up to the middle of the 20th century. Estepona alone has seven watchtowers, and there are a total of 41 in Malaga province

There are about 10 different architectural construction types. The towers that are Moorish can be identified by their shape: rectangular or cylindrical with vertical walls; the majority, which are are slightly conical in shape, are from the later, 16th- century Christian era.

Read the full account of the Coastal watchtowers.