Banyeres Castle, Alicante
Magnificent castles are one of the enduring legacies that the Moors left in Spain, that continued their military function for centuries after the Moors left, and today provide dramatic and imposing features on the arid landscape, a joy to the eye for those visitors who venture off the standard tourist trail.
Banyeres is one such castle, lying on the road between Alicante and Alcoy, occupying an impregnable position that dominates the surrounding countryside and the town of Banyeres itself. (Find a hotel near Banyeres here.)
The castle at Banyeres (know to the Moors as Benirehes) was built in the early 1200s, but fell to the christian king Jaime I in 1248. It remained in christian hands thereafter, conveniently missed out on the turbulent years of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and only came to military prominence again during the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century.
Banyeres was loyal to the cause of Felipe V, and was thus beseiged by Raimundo de Casamayor. In total it withstood more than 20 assaults on its walls. At one point the defenders were reduced to hurling rocks down on their attackers, as their ammunition ran out. Neverthless the castle held out, and having found itself on the winning side, the town of Banyeres was granted the title "royal, true and loyal" by the grateful King Felipe V.
Perched above the town, Banyeres has an irregular ground plan dictated by its position on a rocky promontory. There is a double curtain wall with battlements and defensive towers, and the original entrance was high up in the wall: inconvenient for day-to-day coming and going but handy when the bad guys come round. Just pull up the ladders and man the defences. At a later stage, a new gateway was constructed at ground level which remains today. The keep is the crowning feature of the castle, rising high above the rest of the structure where it provided living space for the main castle occupants and the main lookout point.There are also the remains of a hermitage and an arab water deposit within the curtilage of the castle.
Today the castle is extremely well preserved and is an important visitor centre. It also houses a museum which is dedicated to the local tradition of "Moors & Christians", one of those great Spanish excuses for a party when everyone dresses up and loosely re-enacts a local battle of the re-conquest. The museum is open at weekends and public holidays. The castle is open every day.
NOTE: This is Banyeres de Mariola in Alicante province, not to be confused with the small castle ruin at Banyeres del Penedes.