With rain forcasted for this particular day in July in Portugal, we decided to venture away from the coast and head towards Santarem. The forecast was much more positive for the area around Santarem, and it turned out they couldn't have been more right. The short drive from Caldas Da Rainha towards Santarem resulted in the clouds making way for blue skies and glorious sunshine.
Our destination for the day was Castello de Almourol, a river castle located nearby Vila Nova da Barquinha. The area is marked by the river Rio tejo which flows gracefully through the Portuguese landscape. The Rio Tejo (River Tagus) is the longest river in the Iberian peninsula and reaches the sea nearby Lisbon. Before we went to the castle, we decided to stop in Vila Nova da Barquinha, a sleepy town along the Rio tejo where we decided to take a break in Barquinha Park. A refreshing drink was ordered and the shade of huge Platanus (Plane trees) provided some relief from the lunchtime sun while the kids played in the playground in the park. Afterwards, we headed towards Almourol castle, a short drive away from the village. At the castle, there is ample carpark space close to the river. The Rio tejo is a beautiful river which is marked by many sandy river beaches, some which were frequented by kayakers.
Castello de Almourol is the kind of castle you would sketch when somebody asks you to draw a castle. The castle is located on a small island in the Rio Tejo and is reached with an inexpensive ride in a little colourful boat which ferries people between the carpark and the castle.
Castello de Almourol was part of the defence line controlled by the Knights Templar and was used as a stronghold during the Portuguese reconquest. Ones the boat arrived at the island, a small path brings you up the granite outcropping to the main door which shows the date of the castle's foundation: 1171 Entering the main entrance, you find yourself in the exterior enclosure. From here, you enter through a second gate into the area which also houses the 3 storey keep.
The views from the castle across the Rio Tejo are amazing, and you can only imagine how strategic this location must have been during times of war. The first thing we did was climb the walls from which we admired the river and the little ferry.
After having walked the defence walls, we entered the keep which currently has informative displays explaining the history of the castle. Taking the iron stairs, you go from floor to floor (three floors to be exact) until you reach the roof from where you can admire the river views. This castle is known to be one of Portugal's top rated castles, mainly due to it's idyllic location.