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Six Marbella Watchtowers

18th Century Map of watchtowers on coast
18th Century Map of watchtowers on coast

MARBELLA OLD Watchtowers

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 rebuilt on older towers 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 on the Andalucia coast. 

They were primarily a lookout against Barbary Pirate raids from North Africa. Initially 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. The signal was also repeated alsong the line, to call soldiers from the fort in Marbella or Estepona.  

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.






Marbella has six such towers and two forts that remain to this day.

Torre de las Bovedas  - in Guadalmina Baja on the seafront next to the Roman Baths that give it the name. 

Torre del Duque - right at the entrance to Puerto Banus Marina. Partly obscured by other buildings. Constructed on a square base of 4.2m on an older Moorish tower to a height of 10.5m. It was restored 1985 and is owned by the Spanish state although located in a private garden. 

Torre Alcon - in the woods proudly looking down on Victor's Beach bar.

El Fuerte -  Not just a tower but the remains of a fort, now a little museum in the grounds of Hotel Fuerte Marbella

Torre del Rio Real - next to the A-7 coast road just east of Marbella town   

Torre Lance de las Cañas - also a small fort, well restored on the sea front at La Chapas beach.

Torre Ladrón - in the sand dunes of Artola, a square tower near Cabopino marina.