Miranda del Castanar

Having left the site of the Battle of Arapiles near Salamanca, as the sun was setting over the plain, my ascent into the Sierra was in darkness accompanied by heavy, sheeting showers and low cloud. I awoke to a cool, early December morning with the ragged remnants of the clouds still lurking in the surrounding valley bottoms.

The town was founded and the original castle was built by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem in the C12th. The town’s population was further reinforced through the repopulations carried out in the C13th by King Alfonso IX, of Leon, while the current castle dates from the C14th and was rebuilt on top of the original Hospitaller castle.

c14th-castle-and-square-bullring-resize-blog

Below the castle is the town’s ‘Plaza de Toros’, which is claimed to be the oldest square bullring in Spain (Bull fights were originally conducted on horseback with lances, typically within the open space of the town’s main plaza. With the introduction of fighting on foot during the C18th the design of new rings shifted to the circular form seen today).

Situated at approximately 650m above sea level, the town has a population of some 467 people (2014), down from 576 (2004) a decade ago. There are a few modest shops, mostly servicing the locals with daily essentials interspersed with the odd tourist-orientated craft shop. There appear to be several hotels as well as smattering of bars and restaurants. It may be a shadow of its former heyday, but a glorious place to visit if walking is your thing and most of the villages are all within a comfortable days walk of each other.

Lots of narrow little mediaeval streets and passageways which help curb the chill winter winds and  provide shade against the heat of the intense Iberian summer sun, but make for dim lighting in the winter months.

Narrow, arched gateways open to old cobbled roadways, now seemingly abandoned to walkers, that snake up and down the hillsides and through valleys currently cloaked in autumnal hues.

 

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