Raise your eyes to the sky. Contemplate the clouds and the stars. Watch planes, helicopters and paragliders soar through the air. In Els Ports all this is possible, but there is much more. When we look up, we find ancient fortresses that have survived the passing of time. Hundreds of years of history and memories of those who inhabited them await us inside.
In Ares del Maestrat, in the Alt Maestrat region, we find the Arab Castle that was a settlement for Muslims and Christians. At the top of the ‘Mola’ it’s what was the first piece of the ancient Kingdom of Valencia conquered by King Jaume I. Although the first known evidence of civilisation dates from the Muslim period, thanks to the various excavations carried out, Iberian and Roman remains have been found. A strong bastion of war, its watchtower was last used during the Civil War. A large part of the old castle has been demolished and deteriorated by the passing of time, but we can, and should, still visit the bowels of the great rocky mass. Inside the ‘Mola’ there is the Cova del Castell Museum with remains from prehistoric times to the present day.
The Olcaf Castle is also of special relevance. Belonging to the municipality of Olocau del Rey, it stands at an altitude of 1,203 metres. We have before us an ancient construction, with no date of construction, but of which we find the first writings in the 10th century in relation to the confrontations between the descendants of Al-Muctácir of Zaragoza, Arab lords of Zaragoza and Tortosa, which occurred in approximately the year 1084. Legend and history surround Olcaf Castle as it was occupied by El Cid who rebuilt it and filled it with life; it is even said that Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar himself controlled the area from its walls during a harsh winter. Changes of ownership and even imprisonment for the nobility, including the Countess of Urgel, mother of Jaime de Urgel, aspirant to the throne after the death without descendants of Martín el Humano, are part of its history. Today we may still see the remains of part of its walls and towers. Spaces of great importance in the course of the history of the region.
Between Vilafranca and Mosqueruela, the Muslims decided in the 10th century to build a fortress away from the main squares in Mosqueruela or Morella that fell into the hands of the Christians. In this way was born the Castillo del Majo, practically disappeared, of which only the putlog holes of the accesses to the crag of the Estacas and remains of the construction that, with the passing of the centuries, mimic the rocky landscape of the mountain.
We could not visit some of the historic medieval fortresses of Els Ports without taking a look at Morella. At the top of the municipality, with breathtaking views, is the castle. The ‘muela’ on which the fortification sits has been inhabited since the beginning of mankind, with remains from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as Iberians, Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. The Christians conquered it from the hands of the latter and between the 13th and 14th centuries it underwent various remodelling works marked by advances in the art of war. Abderraman III, El Cid, Jaume I, King Fernando de Antequera, Pope Luna, Saint Vicente Ferrer, the Prince of Viana and General Cabrera are some of the names that form part of the history of Morella Castle. Its good state of conservation ensures that the visit is full of magic and enveloped in the mysticism of those who lived there in past centuries.
Visiting Els Ports is to visit history. Ancient fortifications that are still present today. Pieces of a past full of life and secrets yet to be discovered. Come and discover them!