The imposing Moorish castle of Silves used to be the cultural centre of the Algarve
Built by the Almoravid Arabs in the 11th century, the imposing and admirable Silves Castle is today a popular place for leisure and recreation, although it still serves as a distinct reminder of the grandeur of the art of the Muslims, reflecting the splendour attained by the Islamic civilisation in the Algarve. It is the ideal space for enjoying a trip into the Portuguese past and for appreciating the fabulous view over the city, countryside and the River Arade below, from what is surely the most beautiful vantage point in Silves. Having been classified as a national monument since 1910, Silves Castle is today the largest, most important and best conserved castle in the Algarve.
With its red walls – since it was built out of red sandstone and dried mud – the imposing castle stands proudly on top of the hill, ringed by its fortified curtain walls and eleven turrets, seemingly functioning as a time machine that carries visitors back to the military fortress that it once so obviously was.
The enormous main gate, which can be reached through the Medina, is protected by two towers, and the guardhouse, which, although no longer used, seems to cast a wary eye over the visitors as they enter the fortress. Dug out of the wall to the north, a wicket gate known as the “traitors’ gate” draws the attention of the more curious visitors, not only because of its name, but because it provides direct access to the outside.
Amongst the various interesting features inside the walled enclosure are the relaxing garden and the underground food stores, old Arab silos which can be entered through small openings at ground level. The Moorish Cistern, roughly 10 metres high and with four vaulted ceilings supported on columns, and the Cistern of the Dogs, a well 60 metres deep, bring to our mind many of the stories from a Thousand and One Nights. Legend has it that the attentive visitor can hear the wailing laments of the enchanted Moorish maiden, who is still crying over the death of her beloved at the bottom of the well where he committed suicide.
This is one of the visits that you cannot afford to miss, as it is a trip that is filled with fragments of history and traces of the Moorish presence, allowing you to imagine just what life in the castle must have been like some ten centuries ago.
This information has been extracted from the website with the kind permission of the RTA.