Category Archives: Ronda

Ronda city is one of the most picturesque destinations in Spain, and the third most visited city in Andalucía. Popular sites to see are the Puente Nuevo bridge, the Plaza de Toros Bullring, Ronda’s cathedral, the historic Arab Baths, and much more.

In the Ronda Mountains you’ll find the beautiful white villages of Andalucía, including the most popular, Grazalema, Setenil de las Bodegas, Zahara de la Sierra, Genalguacil

The church of muestra Señora del Socorro in Ronda

Nuestra Señora del Socorro

The parish church of Socorro (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Socorro) was only built in 1956 but it and the plaza around it feature prominently on every walking tour of Ronda. The ground on which the church stands was the location of a parish chapel, a hospital, and before that a Muslim chapel.

During the reconquest of Ronda the plaza in front of the church was the campsite of Don Tello de Girón, the Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava. After the reconquest the Order of Calatrava built a residence in the site of the current church for their Grand Master, the last of whom, Don García López de Padilla, generously gave the house and its land for the purpose of a hospital for the poor and travelling pilgrims.

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pileta-caves-ronda

A Day Trip from Granada to Pileta and Ronda

We often get reader emails asking for advice about visiting the Cueva de la Pileta at Benaojan, and the following email conversation is real, but the sender’s name has been removed to avoid identifying her.

From Reader
Hello, We will be visiting Ronda on March 17. We would like to visit the Pileta Caves as well. Is there a place where we can rent a car in Ronda to get to the caves? If not, how can we hire a taxi and ensure that we get a ride back to Ronda in a few hours (after the tour) since the tour only occurs if there are enough people? Do the taxi offer round trip? We also have 2 kids (4 & 6). Do they need booster seats for the taxi to take us to the caves? Do the taxis wait for us at the caves until the tour is over? Thank you for your help

Ronda Today Responds
What a lot of questions… let me see if I can answer them all :)

1. It is possible to get a train to Benaojan, and the walk to the caves is beautiful, but 4km uphill, and with young children probably not suitable. However it is possible to call a taxi in Benaojan from the station at Benaojan, and arrange for the driver to meet you after the tour to take you back to the station. The tour of the caves can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on the group and how talkative people are.

2. Yes, you can hire a car in Ronda for the day, whichever hotel you’re staying in will have their brochure and contact details. I don’t know the price of hiring a car but availability shouldn’t be a problem if you arrive on the 17th. Readers can contact Ronda Rent-a-car

3. A taxi from Ronda can be arranged, you’ll need to agree a fixed price with the driver, and should expect to pay around 50-60 euros. The driver will wait for you at the cave car park and then bring you back to Ronda, however, you should ask your hotel to arrange this as soon as you arrive so that you have the pickup confirmed.

I’m not sure about booster seats in taxis, some of them have them in the trunk, and others don’t. Be sure to mention this when you reserve the taxi so that the driver can install them.

From Reader
Thank you very, very much for your response and for answering all my questions. If you don’t mind, I have some more questions!

We are arriving from Granada at 9:21 am on March 17. Is there a train from Ronda to Benaojan around that time? Do you know how long the train ride is? I like your suggestion of calling a taxi from the Benaojan station but do you think we can get a taxi when we arrive at the station or is there a way of calling for one in advance? We don’t have that much time.

If that doesn’t work out, we are also considering a taxi from Ronda to the caves. However, we are not staying overnight in Ronda. We have to catch the 17:34 train back to Granada on the same day. Since we are not staying at any of the hotels, how can we arrange for a taxi in advance? If we get to the Ronda train station and hire one then, do you think we’ll be able to have somebody come within half an hour to an hour? From your website, there’s only one taxi company. Do you have an email address where I can contact them?

I really appreciate all of your help. Thank you once again. You have been very helpful and friendly!

Ronda Today Responds
All of the taxis in the Serranía are independent, and they have a single phone number for their cooperative. If you’re only coming for the day you’re going to struggle to get everything in, so my advice with the train from Granada is to stay on the train, and get off at Benaojan. Looking at the Renfe website, your train departs Granada at 06:50 and will arrive at Benaojan at 09:34, which should give you plenty of time to call a taxi at the station for the cave. The first tour in the cave starts at 10:00 but is often several minutes later whilst they wait for people to arrive.

The return train departs Benaojan at 13:11 arriving Granada 15:57, or you could get off at Ronda, see some of the sites for the afternoon, and plan to depart Ronda on the 17:36 train arriving in Granada at 20:10. The journey time between Benaojan and Ronda is only 15 minutes.

If you decide to stop in Ronda, then I’d make plans to have lunch at either the the venta “Bar STOP” across the road from the station in Benaojan, or take a short 200m walk to the Hotel Molino del Santo, so that you have plenty of time to wander around Ronda without needing to stop for lunch.

From Reader
Wow, that’s great advice! We will follow all of your suggestions and take the train to Benaojan, come back and have lunch at the station, and then check out Ronda for a few hours before leaving for Granada. What a plan!
In your experience, do you think that there will be taxis waiting at the Benaojan station that we can hop into upon arrival?

Yes, all of the information that you’ve provided has been extremely helpful.

Ronda Today Responds
I very much doubt there will be a taxi waiting at the station, but right next to the ticket office there is a small venta that provides coffee, beer, and tapas, and if you ask them about the taxi you’ll have no problem. However there is also a pay phone across the road from the station, and you can call the Benaojan taxi direct on 952 16 71 41.

Cycling the Via Verde

Cycling on the Via Verde

By TRISTAN CANO author of Historic Walking Guides: Gibraltar

The Via Verde de la Sierra is one of 20 so-called ‘green routes’ which chart a trail of disused railway lines across Andalucia. Forming part of a proposed rail route across the Cadiz Sierra between Almargen and Jerez de la Frontera, it would have connected the cities of Malaga and Granada. Although much of the groundwork, including tunnels, viaducts and railway stations were completed in the early 1930s, the project was never finished and lay in neglect until 1993 when the line was renovated for use as a walking and cycling route.

We started our day in the town of Olvera where we were staying in the charming Casa Andalus on Calle Maestro Amado. Like many of the other white towns in the vicinity, Olvera’s roots are Roman and the town went on to flourish during the Muslim occupation of Spain. It has a Moorish Castle constructed on a rocky crag high above the town which, like parts of our own Moorish castle, was built during the 13th Century Nasrid Dynasty. Some of the original Moorish walls and their supporting buttresses remain intact, but most of the Castle was built after the reconquista. Another noteworthy building in the town is the twin-towered neoclassical church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación whose impressive façade dominates its surroundings and was built on the site of a former mosque.

Cycling the Via Verde

We followed the short though steep path from the town centre down to the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril which marks the starting point of the Via Verde. This hotel offers bicycle rentals and is the last opportunity to pick up refreshments before you reach the Estación de Zaframagón, 15 km along the route. The reasonably flat terrain makes the route perfect for cyclists and we opted to hire bikes, although plenty also chose to follow the route on foot. We were immediately impressed with the scenery, a distinct patchwork of brown and green fields with endless olive tree groves looking like blobs of green paint on a watercolour just asking to be painted. The Via’s thirty tunnels are a feature of the journey and we overcame nine of these before reaching the first official rest-stop at Estación de Navalagrulla. Although we had enjoyed a slight downward gradient thus far and barely broken into a sweat, we would be following the route in reverse on our return later and enjoyed a welcome respite, noting the need to conserve as much energy as possible.

As we got closer to the Estación de Zaframagón, the landscape began to transform from arable land into forests of Spanish Firs. We were transported through mountains and river valleys with the help of immense viaducts and increasingly lengthy tunnels. The viaduct at Zaframagón offered inspiring views of the Peñón de Zaframagón, an impressive 584m-high limestone outcrop with sheer cliffs, and the verdant valley below strewn with delightful stone ruins. Overhead we saw our first venue of about a dozen Griffon Vultures. Two hundred breeding pairs live in these mountains and there is a nature centre dedicated to them at the nearby Estación Zaframagón which includes a video feed showing live footage of the vultures on the opposing rock face. The centre closes daily at 16:00 and a vending machine, which is available until that time, provides another opportunity to get much-needed refreshments before reaching the town of Coripe.  Although we had originally intended to end our cycle at the Zaframagón we were feeling relatively spritely and decided to soldier on to the next Estación.

The Guadalete and Guadalporcún rivers join at around the 26 km mark of the route but the Guadalporcún meanders alongside the cycling track all the way from Zaframagón to the Estación de Coripe which has also been transformed into a hotel and restaurant. There is not much happening in the town of Coripe itself which is about 2 km from the track however a small diversion from the Coripe Viaduct takes you to the Chaparro de la Vega. This supposedly 700-year old Holm Oak of enormous dimensions is an Andalucian National Monument and plays its part in local traditions by providing a meeting point for the villagers of Coripe on their annual pilgrimage during the Fiesta del Virgen de Fatima, their patron saint.

Following Estación de Coripe, the route continues to the third and final hotel at the Estación de Puerto Serrano which adjoins the town of the same name. However having already cycled 22 km we were acutely aware of the 200 metre height climb on the return route and set off on the arduous journey back to the start. About 2 hours later and with tired legs and saddle sore beginning to rear its painful head, we arrived at the hotel at Olvera, dropped off our bikes and were happy to place our feet firmly back on terra firma. Our walk back to town was slow but pleasant, not only for the sense of achievement we felt for having completed our long cycle, but also due to the beautiful purple and pink Sierra sunset that accompanied us on our way. We were aware that our legs would soon be stiffening up, so grabbing a quick shower at Casa Andalus, we headed out for an early dinner at the lively Restaurante Lirios before retiring to what was always going to be an excellent night’s sleep.

Offerings at the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

Though predictably sore and stiff from the previous day’s cycle, we opted for an early rise and a trip to the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios which overlooks Olvera from a nearby hill. This sanctuary, built on the site of an 18th Century hermitage is apparently visited by 300,000 devotees each year who bring offerings to the Señora in fulfilment of their vows. The interior of its colourful chapel is a pastiche of numerous gaudy styles dominated by a shocking amount of gold plating, and stands adjacent to stunning courtyard overrun with potted plants. A room upstairs was undoubtedly the most interesting, housing the devotions deposited by visitors: hundreds of photos, items of clothing, locks of hair and numerous other knickknacks set down often in memory of long passed loved ones.

Next on the agenda was the village of Zahara de las Sierra where the remains of a castle recall its day as a Moorish outpost. Despite its small size (population of about 950) thousands of visitors are attracted to Zahara each year by its picturesque setting perched atop a mountain, overlooking a valley and a man-made crystal blue lagoon. After a quick photo stop, we moved on to Setenil de las Bodegas, possibly the most unique town in the area. After driving through twice, we finally managed to find a parking space to explore this fascinating town where many of the houses are built into the walls of a huge mountain gorge. Setenil shows evidence of human occupation for at least 2,000 years but was possibly occupied by troglodytes long before then.

Olvera can be reached either via Ronda (taking the E-15/AP-7 in the direction of San Pedro de Alcántara and then the A-397 to Ronda, followed by the A-374 and following signs for Olvera) or via Jerez (taking the A-381 to Jerez/Los Barrios/ Seville and then the E-5/AP-4 to Seville, before taking exit 80 towards Arcos de la Frontera). Casa Andalus is a ‘self-catering’ house which can be booked by calling Karen/Andrew on +34 951276249, mob. +34 689665342). Bicycles can be rented at the Antigua Estación Ferrocarril hotel at the start of the Via Verde at the price of €15.00 per day.

Photos from Olvera’s Via Verde

Murallas de Levante

Ronda’s Arab Walls and City Gates

Part of the reason Ronda is so important in the history of Andalucia directly relates to how secure the city was from attack, a position that allowed Ronda to develop and be independent, or at least nominally so, and the city walls in combination with the gorge and rio Guadalevin made Ronda impervious from attack until the age of cannon.

Whilst wooden palisades existed to protect neolithic communities and their successors before the constructions of the Roman castle, the reality is that most of the stone walls around Ronda directly owe their construction to the Islamic era, a period that spanned close to 800 years from 712 until 1485.

Given the absolute impregnability of the gorge and cliffs, the actual length of the city walls didn’t need to be terribly great in the first instance, however as the city expanded down towards the Barrio de San Francisco and into the former Jewish Quarter extra walls needed to be built. Consequently, many of the existing walls around Ronda never did join up, in fact they were originally part of separate encircling rings that no longer exist.

The former Jewish Quarter and factory area of Ronda during the Moorish rule of the city no longer exists except for the Arab Baths, a few houses, and the hotel Alavera de los Baños, though it is possible to see where part of the outer wall protecting this district was.

Extending from the Puente Arabe, the original wall snaked between the city houses and factories and the Arab Baths which were always on the outside of the city walls, and then along the edge of the stream until it started turning back toward the fortress on which the church of Espiritu Santo now stands.

A gate used to stand at the city side of the Puente Arabe, this having been the main road to Granada before the new quarter at Padre Jesus was developed in Christian times. As the main entrance to the city, this was considered one of the most critical to defend, and two walls with towers converged at this point.

Puerte de la Cijara

We can still appreciate how solid those gates might have been when we continue up the path at the base of the inner walls, the Murallas de Levante, to the Puerta de la Cijara. Certainly without cannon it would be impossible to attack the gate and walls without terrible loss of life.

Traders and visitors to Ronda in Moorish times would generally enter the city from the Puente Arabe, and the majority would bathe in the Arab Baths, before visiting a small mosque located next to the gates which probably stood where their is now a small chapel. From there visitors would ascend into the city proper through the Puerte de la Cijara.

On the way along the Murallas de Levante, and before you reach the Espritu Santo church is a short track that leads to the left, and under one of the houses of this street you will see one of the most enigmatic arches, the Puerta de los Esparteros. Believe it or not this used to be one of the gates into the city of Ronda during the Moorish times, though as you can see now it merely part of the foundations of someone’s home.

The only traffic that entered through the gates at Almocabar was from the coast, specifically from the Algeciras/Gibraltar direction, or local farmers and traders who needed to go in that direction. Whilst many have speculated these gates must have been the main entrance to the city due to their grandeur, in fact the square in front of the gates was the town cemetery, the “Al-maqabir”.

Almocabar was also the most heavily defended part of the wall and it was here that the Moorish rulers built their biggest fortress, a large octagonal structure that gave them 360 degree control of both sides of the wall for their longbowmen. The Almocabar gate is now two separate gates, the other being the Charles V gate which bears his coat of arms to this day, next to which you can see a watering trough for horses.

Puerta de Almocabar

As Spain developed and Christian rule brought about times of peace, Ronda’s role as a vitally important defensive city has diminished. Whilst the Almocabar gate is impressive, it is now only a monument, so the wall only extends from the beginning of the houses surrounding the Espiritu Santo church to the hotel Jardin de la Muralla.

To the north of Ronda, in the direction of Sevilla, and starting at the Guadlevin below the Puente Nuevo, additional defensive walls and gates were built to give a protected route into the city for the flour mills and their workers. In Moorish times the valley below Ronda was a major wheat growing area, and at least 5 or 6 mills were located along the river to grind the wheat.

Sadly in the early 20th century a rock fall from above destroyed all of the mills, however they were already becoming a relic of the past as 20th century industrial engineering was making them redundant. At least two of the mills can still be seen and appreciated, start by making your way to the Puerta de los Molinos (visible from the Parador Hotel terrace walk, the Puente Nuevo, and the Casa Don Bosco gardens), and then follow the narrow walking track back to the base of the Puente Nuevo.

It is possible to walk under the bridge, but you will also see a small aqueduct running along the edge of the tajo gorge which is still in excellent condition and was used to provide water to the mills for turning their grinding stones. One of the ruined mills still has a domed ceiling and the stones remain in place.

In the days of the mills, the existing walking track from the Plaza Maria Auxiliadora was only useful for workers or travellers entering the city, but the majority of traffic through the Puerta de los Molinos were carts bringing wheat to be ground, so an easier route was built, and of course a new wall had to be built. This particular wall only ever extended as far as the Puerta del Viento, and is called the Murallas de Poniente, though many people only know it because of the rocky point extending into the sky which is jokingly called “El Pene”.

Tourism Office Map of Gates and Walls


View Murallas y puertas árabes in a larger map

Ronda’s Gates and Walls Photos

El Tempranillo by John Lewis

The Romero Dynasty and Ronda’s Bandoleros

Bullfighting and banditry almost go hand in hand in Ronda, or at least they did in the early days when the Romero dynasty first came to prominence. A major part of the culture and history of modern Andalucia, bullfighting shows no signs of diminishing in Southern Spain, in fact both main political parties in the parliament of Andalucia seem determined to protect the art for the enjoyment of future generations.

Banditry on the other hand has had a much longer history, and these days is nothing more than a romantic memory, the last bandits having been shot or arrested by Franco’s Guardia Civil in the middle of the 20th century. Starting in the 9th century during the rise of the Islamic era, banditry was often more about politics and tax avoidance than outright thievery, though of course the objective was always to relieve wealthier people of their precious possessions.

Aristocrats and wealthy officials who had cause to travel between the cities and towns of Al-Andalus, the Taifas, and the Kingdom of Granada were the prize most bandits dreamed of encountering since Spain’s feudal system that existed until the 19th century was not known for being in the least fair to those who had nothing or found themselves at the bottom of society.

The overwhelming majority of the population lived in abject poverty and a man really only had two options for improving their lot, find a job with a landowner as a soldier or perhaps if he was lucky as a herald assisting the lord by keeping his armor in good working order. The second option was to follow the dishonourable path of becoming a bandit, living in the mountains and only coming into town when it was safe to do so.

It was into this feudal society that bullfighting developed primarily as a form of training for knights on horseback, after all a horse that would stand its ground against a bull would also stand its ground in battle, and in those times Spain was not at peace being engaged in wars in Europe, North Africa, and in the Americas.

Some academics have speculated that bullfighting actually began in pre-Roman societies around the Mediterranean, and certainly there are records of young Greek men jumping over charging bulls and practising acrobatics, but the pure art of killing a bull seems to have been more or less developed by noblemen of the medieval era, though not necessarily in Spain.

Francisco Romero became a renowned bullfighter by accident, leaping to the defense of a nobleman who had fallen from his horse in the path of a wounded bull. Francisco defended the stricken nobleman armed only with his wits and a hat, and so impressive was his effort that others soon took up the art of the torero on foot.

Spain's Philip V (Felipe V)

An edict by Philip V of Spain in the 18th century banning noblemen from the cruel and barbaric spectacle of killing a bull set the stage for impoverished young men to finally break free of their roots and become men of substance legally instead of the traditional route of being a bandit. As so often happens in history, the Romero family were in the right place at the right time to take advantage of this new found opportunity.

The most famous of the Romero’s was Pedro Romero Martinez, born the 19th day of November 1754 he was the third in a line of toreros, including his father Juan Romero and brother Joseph Romero, though credit for creating the Ronda style of bullfighting belongs to Pedro’s grandfather Francisco.

Pedro Romero however goes down in history as the true father and master of the Rondeño style since it was he who perfected the craft and laid down the first rules of engagement, and it in his honour that Ronda’s Corrida Goyesca and Pedro Romero Feria is held. One of his most enduring lessons to aspiring toreros is the idea that “whoever wants to be bullfighter has to think that from the waist down there is no movement. Bullfighting is not done with the legs, but with the hands”.

It was Pedro Romero and his arch nemesis Pepe Hillo who were the toreros honoured to open the new Plaza de Toros in Ronda in 1785, an event that even to this day is remembered in Ronda as being one of the defining moments of Ronda’s recent golden age. The Plaza de Toros is owned by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, the same group of noblemen whose unfortunate member was rescued by Francisco Romero.

The connection between bullfighting and banditry continued with many bandits engaging not just in contraband, but also in the spectacle of the bullfight. It isn’t surprising that toreros and bandits would know each other, in the main they would come from the same barrios, would drink in the same taverns, and probably were fast friends when the constabulary weren’t watching.

One of the main reasons banditry was so hard to eradicate is that each successive bandit leader would be a folk hero for making sure to always attack tax inspectors and other officials since in those times the common man firmly believed he was downtrodden by the landed gentry. History suggests the story was less one sided than they believed it to be, but there you have it, those who feel disadvantaged will always take out their frustrations on those who are better off then them.

El Tempranillo by John Lewis

Without doubt the most famous of the bandoleros was a ruthless murderer named El Tempranillo who seemed to derive pleasure from killing those who couldn’t afford to pay his fees for crossing his territory. El Tempranillo, whose real name was José Maria Hinojosa Cabacho was born in the village of Jauja on the 21st June 1805, to a poor family just before the time of the Spanish War of Independence from France.

During those times French Imperial troops were being harassed at every turn and would often take preventative action that involved what we would now consider mass murder. In any event El Tempranillo was raised in this environment and it is said he killed his first man at the age of thirteen, though history doesn’t record who his victim was.

El Tempranillo led the authorities a merry chase around the mountains which he and his gang knew like the backs of their hands, even going so far as to embarrass the town mayor and officials of Grazalema when he and his posse rode into the village to have his son baptised in the Nuestra Señora de la Aurora church, much to the dispair of the local government who learned after that the village folk had prevented the town hall from sending word of El Tempranillo’s whereabouts.

Despite his reputation for violence, El Tempranillo was also known to be quite charming and popular with the ladies, at one point being quoted as having told a wealthy lady in her carriage that her hand ws so beautiful it had no need for adornments, and then proceeded to remove her rings, before kissing her hand and bidding her a safe journey.

A violent man such as El Tempranillo couldn’t be expected to live a long life, and he didn’t, but it wasn’t the gallows or a firing squad that saw the end of El Tempranillo. Instead he accepted a pardon from King Fernando VII and became head of the Escuadrón Franco de Protección y Seguridad Pública de Andalucía, and it was while chasing another bandit known as El Barbarello that El Tempranillo was mortally wounded, dying in Alameda on the 23rd of September 1833.

It was the control of the Sierras enjoyed by El Tempranillo and his successors that led the Spanish government to establish the Guardia Civil after his death, their taskbeing to find and apprehend or kill bandits who continued to terrorise the nobility and traders on their ways about Andalucia.

Tragabuches

One of the more famous bandits, at least internationally, was the bandolero Tragabuches, a local man born with the name José Ulloa who was a huge fan of Pedro Romero and indeed started his life as a bullfighter, but after discovering his wife in the arms of another man, killed him in hot blood and then fled to the mountains of the Serranía and took up a life of banditry. Whilst his story is true, Bizet’s opera Carmen, which is somewhat based on the life of Tragabuches blurs the truth a bit and has contributed to Tragabuches being better known than he perhaps deserved.

The very last of the great bandits to have survived in the mountains with his gang was Pasos Largos, a man still remembered by Rondeños some of whom to this day remember his death since it was so recent, 1934 to be exact. Pasos Largos was an angry and often violent man who killed out of revenge and spent as much of his life behind bars as he did in the mountains, but finally being killed in a shootout with the Guardia Civil after he refused to surrender to them on charges of poaching, theft, and murder.

These days the bandoleros of the Serranía de Ronda are romanticised and form a part of local culture and history, with many of their names reflected in local businesses, such as El Tempranillo wine, or the restaurant Tragabuches, or the hiking club Pasos Largos and they enjoy as much stature in death as their torero peers, the Romero and the Ordoñez dynasties of Ronda.

Gaucin, Genal Valley

Gaucin in the Genal Valley

Gaucin at the Southern end of the Serranía de Ronda is more than just a village in the middle of nowhere. This attractive white village founded by the Romans, and then expanded and heavily fortified by the Moors who named their village Gauzan, an Aran word meaning strong rock. These days Gaucin is better known as a haven for international artists who flock to the area for the peace and tranquility afforded them.

With a population of 2,000 and a few more scattered outside the village, Gaucin is large enough to have a small town centre, with markets, butchers, fruit shops, clothing, banks, and other miscellaneous traders. In fact many of the residents are able to buy everything they need on a daily basis in the village without having to travel to Ronda or the Costa del Sol.

At 626 metres, Gaucin is also high enough above sea level that the weather is noticeably cooler in summer and winter than the coast, which makes the village almost ideal for many foreign residents who choose to setup home, and then proceed to rip out the modern features of their homes and replace them with traditional wooden beams, tiled floors, and rough painted walls; to the endless amusement of Spanish residents.

For visitors, Gaucin is considered one of the prettiest of the pueblos blancos, malaga’s white villages, with narrow warren-like streets strewn together as if a large ball of twine had been dropped and houses built in the gaps between the string.

This may in fact have been intentional for two reasons. First, the castle above the village, perched on the crest of El Hacho mountain was of strategic importance from Roman and most especially in Moorish times, and narrow winding streets make an attack more difficult as soldiers have to first battle from street to street before reaching the formidable castle defences.

The second reason is more practical and perhaps more believable; narrow streets at odd angles from each other prevent the hot Sahara winds from overly heating the village houses in the summer, and in winter offer some protection against the cold northerly winds. Certainly other Moorish towns without a castle have a similar pattern so it isn’t impossible to assume weather played a bigger role in the town layout.

The castle of Gaucin, named Castillo del Aguila, the Eagle’s Castle, is an impressive structure visible above the village from many miles away, and is open to the public in the mornings and early evening. Great birds of prey such as eagles, vultures, and kestrels have always inhabited the mountains of inland Andalucia, so it is hardly surprising the castle would take its name from the eagles which can still be seen to this day circling the parapets.

Within Gaucin visitors will also see the church of san Sebastian built in 1487, on the ruins of the mosque destroyed when the town was taken by Christian conquerers. As well, Gaucin is home to a large convent built in the mid 1700s though abandoned in 1835 and now used by the town hal for concerts and other local events. Recent renovations have sadly destroyed the historic interior.

However, by far the best reason for visiting Gaucin is not for the monuments of the village, it is instead the streets and people of the village that will appeal. A simple walk around the town centre will impress how friendly the villagers are, whilst those with a penchant for the quaint will absolutely love the cute windows filled with flowers, or the tiled frescos adorning doorways and walls, or the cobbled streets that could tell a thousand stories.

Gaucin isn’t on the way to anywhere, the village is a destination of itself. Some choose to stay, others only pass through, but no visit to Andalucia will truly be complete until the soul of villages like Gaucin has touched your heart.

lasenganches2010-40

Photo Gallery of Las Enganches 2010

This year Ronda Today stayed in the streets of Ronda to photograph the Sunday morning show at the Plaza de Toros on the final day of the Pedro Romero Feria 2010, Las Enganches. See last years article for a video of the carriages being judged inside the bullring, Las Enganches 2009.

Here is a selection of our favourite photos of horses, carriages, beautiful ladies, and gentlemen in traditional riding suits.

Cueva del Gato

Benaojan Walk, Station to the Cueva del Gato

Ronda Today recently caught up with Tony Bishop, the author of a new walking guide entitled “Walking in the Ronda Mountains: 30 half-day walks in Andalucía” due to be published by Editorial La Serranía in October 2010, and we believe will soon become the guide against which all others are judged.

As part of our interview, Tony kindly escorted us along the Guadiaro River from Benaojan Station to the Cueva del Gato, explaining the birds and wildlife we saw through the binoculars he provided. Tony isn’t a professional walking guide, though he enjoys nothing more than to show friends his favourite walking tracks.

The walk we did can be completed in an hour, it is only 3km, though there is a lot to see so Tony recommends 2 hours. The walk is easy and certainly within the capabilities of the majority of walkers, but in the colder months can be muddy.

Birders and keen nature lovers will be enthralled at the fauna and flora of this stretch of river, we saw Barbel in the river, and White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Griffon Vulture, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift, Melodious Warbler, Grey Heron, and Bee Eater. We also heard Cetti’s Warbler, and Tony regularly catches sight of Iberian Ibex on the rocks above the Cueva del Gato.

Start the walk at the railway station in Benaojan, and cross the line about 100m past the station, then follow the road another 150m till you cross the Guadiaro River. At this point you’ll see a sign pointing to the three walking tracks that lead from here, we’ll take the Ronda direction.

There really isn’t much to the track, just keep following it straight ahead, you can’t miss the cave entrance as you approach it, though at the hotel Molino Quatro Paradas you should continue past the side of the hotel and not up the hill to the carpark.

Whilst the walk is relatively short, it does allow people staying in Ronda or the Guadiaro Valley the opportunity to see some native wildlife, the beautiful limestone mountains of Benaojan, and the cave entrance; the Cueva del Gato which is a popular picnic spot.

After you return, you could stop for a drink on the terrace of the Molino Cuatro Paradas Hotel, but if they’re closed, probably the friendliest barman in Benaojan is Pepe from “Bar STOP”, located directly across the street from the station. Don’t forget to try his wife’s tapas menu, it really is quite authentic and absolutely delicious. Bar STOP is especially known for the Solomillo a la Pimienta.

Between the train dropping you off and the return service, you’ll have 3 hours to explore the river and enjoy a cold drink or tapas, the day isn’t too strenuous, and is perfect for visitors staying in Ronda who have a few hours to get out of the city.