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.
MIJAS COSTA Watchtowers
Estepona has three such towers and one fort that remains to this day. From west to east.
Torre de Calahonda - located overlookingthe beach in the grounds of a private villa.
Torre Nueva de la Cala del Moral - Also called Penta Pesetos, located in the grounds of an housing estate.
Torre Batería de la Cala del Moral - This is the fort in the centre of La Cala de Mijas
Torre Calaburras - On the headland in El Faro housing estate above the modern lighthouse.