A walk around Sintra Romantic ruins: the Castle of the Moors

The Castle of the Moors is one of the first thing you will see when raising your eyes in Sintra. It stands proudly above the town, guarding it, like it has for centuries. By day time and maybe even more at night, its curtain wall which hugs the hill and mingles with it, creates a scene of rare charms & beauty.

The Castle of the Moors - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Together with the Palace of Pena, the Castle of the Moors is part of the landscape of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site sin 1995.

 

A tad bit of history

The Castle of the Moors or Mourish Castle was built between the 8th and 9th century, when most of Spain and Portugal were under Muslim control. It’s location at the top of the Sintra hill is the perfect spot to protect the surrounding area. As you will notice, the Atlantic ocean can be seen in the distance. Being able to see invaders coming from the sea, was an important feature for a military outpost like this one, with such a strategic defensive location.

Medieval times were times of pretty much constant wars: Vikings (yes Vikings!!), who were raiding and ransacking all European coastal sites, during the 9th and 10th centuries, attacked the region several times. The war between Christians and Muslim lasted centuries and the Sintra area often changed hand during these troubles times. In 1147, Afonso Henriques’ armies, the first Portuguese King, won the war against the Muslims and the Castle of the Moors surrendered voluntarily.

The Castle was thereafter completely renovated and under the management of the Knight Templars, it was give its current layout comes. The Castle kept its defensive purpose until the 15th century. After that it was gradually abandoned and felt into ruins. Time and various earthquakes and especially the one from 1755, left little more than a few ruins and piles of rubble.

In the 19th century, King Ferdinand II rebuilt the Castle of the Moors, at the same time he built the Pena Palace. This was the Romantic period when the focus was on reviving Gothic architecture and landscaping was about nature in its pristine state.

The Castle of the Moors felt partially into ruins again during the early 20th century but things were taken under control and major repair works undertaken in the80s and 90s. The Castle opened to public in 2013, which really isn’t that long ago.

 

The visit of the Castle of the Moors

There is something magical about visiting a Castle like this one. It is as much about what you see, than it is about what you can imagine. Imagine the life of the people who lived there, how they constructed such a place in such an environment, how their daily lives may have been. Each stone, each wall, each building has seen so much of history…. This Castle has seen wars, probably famines & plagues and yet it is now a place to relax and dream…

The first gate of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The first gate

The outerwall of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The outer wall

The Dead-head at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The dead head is one of the additions of King Ferdinand II

A tomb at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

It’s a bit hard to see but this is a tomb carved in the stone. The area filled by water is the body and the patch of grass and sand is where the head was resting. There is a whole area of tomb but this one was a bit separated from the others. 

View of the Keep - the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The surrounding nature of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Entering the Castle Keep - The Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The entrance of the keep 

The Castle Keep of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Detail of the Keep of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

View of the Royal Tower from the Keep

View from the Keep of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com The square tower at the Castle Keep - the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Another view of the Keep

View of the Pena Palace and Royal tower of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The Pena Palace in the distance

The walk to the Royal Tower... The Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The Curtain Wall of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Walking on the curtain wall

Deadly poisonous Digitalis at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The vegetation at the Castle is diverse. Here you can see some deadly poisonous Digitalis. 

The Betrayal Gate at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The tiny betrayal gate or traitor’s gate. It was an escape route of last resort in case of conflict. But it also could allow the enemy to get inside the castle, hence it’s name. 

Castle of the Moors in Sintra, Portugal - The Curtain wall - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

As you can see, the weather changes quickly in Sintra due to the proximity to the Ocean which can be seen in the picture above. 

View from the Royal Tower of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Reaching the top... at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

View of the Pena Palace from the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Looking down on the Castle of the Moors Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

View from the Royal Tower of the Keep. It is quite a climb to reach this tower but so worth it!! 

At the footstep of the Royal Tower of the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The Royal tower from below

Beautiful stairs at the Castle of the Moors Castle in Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Euphorbia characias at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Euphorbia characins found on the way down

The old stables transformed into the information center at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Reaching the old stables and the information center

Granaries at the The Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The grain pits: Introduced by the Muslim population, these were used to store grains. The silos had to be sealed to remain cool,  dry and bacteria free. The interior was lined with clay or straws. 

The Cistern at the Moors Castle, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The cistern, which seems to date from the 13th century (notice the ogive arch and tunnel vault) was a considerable advantage in case of siege. 

The information center at the Castle of the Moors in Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

More grain pits can be find outside

The Moors Castle in a distance, Sintra - Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Saying farewell to the Castle…

 


The Technical bits: 

The official website: www.parquesdesintra.pt

This is such a cool place to check out. It is probably best enjoyed with less people so try to avoid the crowd. This is also for safety reasons. The stairs are not that wide (although slightly more than in Obidos!) and not much would prevent you from falling from the curtain wall if pushed.

But quite frankly, it is refreshing to be able to walk around such an amazing and historical place freely and not be led throughout it between barriers or health & safety regulations!

Map of the Castle of the Moors - Learn more on RoadTripsaroundtheWorld.com


 

If you haven’t check out my post on the Pena Palace, you should!! 

 


 

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