There are about 100 different watchtowers (Torre Vigia or Torre Atalaya or Torre Almenara) along the coast of Southern Spain. Some are of Moorish origins others from date from the later Christian re-conquest period. All with the purpose of looking out for invaders from the South. They have lasted the centuries with remarkable strength. In general the towers with square bases are of Moorish origin, and those with round bases were built after the reconquest. In 1575 King Filipe II ordered a major reconstruction programme including the construction of 12 forts.
They were primarily a lookout against Barbary Pirate raids from North Africa. Initally the barbary pirate raids concentrated on shipping, but later escalated to land raids and included capturing young people for their slave trade. The primary aim of the towers was to watch for pirates and to signal warning so the local inhabitants could go into hiding. The warnings were by smoke signals by day, and the light of fire at night.
In the nineteenth century many towers became Casa de Carabineros posts and barracks were often constructed alongside or nearby. In 1940 these posts became Guardia Civil barracks.
A common feature noticed today is a rough opening or 'hole' at high level. This was the 'door' of the tower, which was reached from outside by a rope ladder. Inside at this entrance level is the only room with a domed ceiling and with stairs up to the rooftop terrace. The fire for the smoke signals was in a fireplace in the room with a chimney to the roof. The fire at night was on the roof. Some towers have a rifle firing post on the roof. Some towers have an overhang called a machicolation (from the French 'mâchicoulis' ) in the roof parapet wall above the door which was for pouring boiling oil onto would be attackers.
Estepona has seven such towers that remain to this day. From west to east.
Torre de Arroyo Vaquero
Two Medieval towers share this name; one within the urbanisation (housing complex) of Bahia Dorada and the other inland near Estepona golf club.
Torre de Velerín
Torre de Saladavieja
This unusual tower is signposted on the southern extremity of Estepona town.
The tower is named for the Velerín river which runs close by.
The tower is named for the Guadalmansa river which runs close by.
Torre del Saladillo
Torre de la Duquesa near Castillo de la Duquesa
Torre de la Chullera at Punta de la Chellera
SAN ROQUE, CADIZ
Torre Quebrada de Torreguadiaro and Torre Nueva de Torreguadiaro near Sotogrande,
Torre Rocadillo in the Carteia Roman Ruins site near Algeciras.