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Montemajor, Benahavis

Montemayor, Benahavís

Montemajor the castle ruins on the hill overlooking the village of Benahavis

The castle of Montemayor stands at 580m on the top of a commanding pyramid hill once dominated 100km of coastline, at a time when the raids by African pirates were still common. Local stories still tell of underground passages leading down to the coast which were once used by Moorish troops of the Sultan Havis.    The castle was constructed by the Moors, there is little evidence of any previous structure.  The first references in written sources are those given by Ibn Hayyan in al-Muqtabis V (10th century), he describes it as a place where Umar Ibn Hafsun had supplies and full warehouses.

 

 

The original entrance to the castle stood on the opposite side of the mountain so there is no obvious entrance to the fortress as it is approached. It is necessary to scramble over the first line of defences to reach the outer bailey which occupies a site of 3.000 square metres. Situated in the centre is the old keep, a further scramble onto the walls will get you to the highest point. The pinnacle is marked by a small stone obelisk.  

The reward for getting this far is the magnificent view. On a clear day it is possible to see the coast form Gibraltar to Fuengirola plus the African coast and ships passing the strait. All roads to Benahavís can be seen, as the motorway and the San Pedro to Ronda road.   There is a curious sense of timeliness and melancholy peace. You are most likely to be the only visitors. This castle was the most significant Moorish stronghold on the western Malaga coastline.  

The castle of Montemajor was once a symbol of strength, wealth and power. Those who lived in it and those who finally took and destroyed it were the greatest men in their time and place. During the reconquest the castle would have been a formidable obstruction to the Christian troops and once conquering it, they destroyed it so it could be used again. It was never a stronghold again after its fall in the 1480s. it was used as a refuge by the Moriscos fleeing the Sierra Bermeja in 1568 and in the early 19th century in the resistance to Napoleon’s troops in the Guerra de la Independencia ( Peninsular War).

The original structure of the keep is difficult to define since many of the upper levels have caved in and collapsed into the keep itself. Hidden chambers must still exist as can be seen form the northern towers. One of which bears a pinkish rendering.  There were several aljibes or water storage tanks located here.

View from the top of Montemayor

 

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Montemajor the castle ruins on the hill overlooking the village of Benahavis

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Access

The ruins of the castle despite their proximity to the village are not easy to reach. A sturdy old  car will take you a good part of the way, a good off road vehicle will take you closer. The ruins themselves are ultimately only accessible on foot.  The roads up from the village is called Calle Aixa and leads up to a housing complex called Benahavis Hills. If you park the car here the walk will take about an hour. At the little roundabout with mock castle keep in the centre, follow the road upwards  on the right hand side which runs round the back of the Benahavis urbaniszacion. After 200m take a right fork onto a track called Camino a Montemayor. The pyramid shape of Montemajor hill makes it a clear destination. When the track runs out,  as you near the castle, follow the steep path along the ridge. This last section is steep and not for the unfit, not for those alone, and not for those with slippery shoes nor sandals.

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