Wednesday, August 23, 2017
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Lousã Castle

It was known as the Castle of Arouce in its early history. The castle is situated 3kms southeast of lousacastlethe town of Lousá in the district of Coimbra. The approach up the winding road reveals little more than a stone keep but it looks as if it has always been there, pushed up from the ground and dominating the hillside.

The earliest documented record of the castle is from 943 and it was rebuilt in or around 1080 by the Governor of Coimbra. It was conquered by the Moors in 1124. According to ancient legend, at the time of the Muslim occupation, the castle was built by the Muslim Erir, Arunce, who was defeated and expelled from Conimbriga. He built the castle to protect his daughter, Princess Peralta, and his treasures, while he went to North Africa for reinforcements against the Christian forces. Here name is supposedly the origins of "pera" in Castanheira de Pera and the Ribeira da Pera.

The historical dates don’t quite agree with this legend, unless Arunce was the one that conquered the existing castle in 1124, rather than built a new one. The castle played an important part in the battles against the Moors, but all that remains today are the keep, a wall and turrets, all built of the local shist stone, except for the door decoration which is of white gritstone.

It is in a beautiful location on a raised rocky outcrop between two mountains - unusual for a castle as it is "in the valley" and not at the highest point. The castle is built out of the local stone, Silurian schist. There are some magnificent views out across the wooded valley and the River Mondego below. In 1513, the town of Lousã received a charter from King Manuel I and the castle was renamed as the Castle of Lousã. It was classified as a National Monument in 1910.

There has been ongoing restoration work from 1925 to 1985, which have brought the monument into
good condition. lousacastle2The castle is small and has an irregular hexagonal shape and the tops of the walls have a walkway.

There are several Xisto (shist) villages close by, but the best by far is Talasnal, where there is a lovely bar which is very small and with a terraced area as well, and also a tiny cafe, owned by a Portuguese guy who used to work on the carribean cruise liners. There are a few seats inside and a couple of tables on a terrace overlooking the mountain. Most of the properties have been renovated (lots of ideas here for people wanting to use traditional building methods in restoration projects etc) and the best time to go, is when it is raining as the slate takes on a wonderful shimmer. The view of the castle in the distance from Talasnal is breathtaking, with terraced mountain sides and dense forests surrounding the outcrop that the castle is situated upon.

The car parking at Talasnal is very good and it is not too far to walk to the castle, the walk is well signposted. The road to the castle is first class. As the castle itself is just a turret or two and a few walls, beautifully constructed, a day out there would need to include a visit to the Xisto villages also.

There is a river beach at the castle, it is quite large and the facilities there are more than acceptable. Mount Santo Antonio is not too far away, along with the Pocos de Neve (Ice Wells), where, in the 18th century, ice was stored from the Estrela Mountains and then transported down the Tejo to the Royal Court in Lisbon. A royal decree commanded the local citizens to fill up the wells with snow, beat it down with wood till it became ice, cover it with straw and hay until the end of spring. The ice was then taken in wooden carriages to Constancia and then to the River Tejo to be floated down to Lisbon. The wells are at 1,000 meters above sea level.

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