Medieval castles in Basque Country

Castle of Charles V

The Castle of Charles V is located in the strategic area of Hondarribia, at its highest point. It still conserves the structure of a medieval fortress and its defensive appearance. It was built in the 10th century by King Sancho Abarca of Navarre, although it was subsequently reformed by Emperor Charles V. The building served as both a castle and a palace, both connected by an interior courtyard. The castle had a square f ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Hondarribia, Spain

Tower of Varona

The Tower of Varona (Torre de los Varona) is a tower located in Villanañe, Valdegovia. The origin of this tower dates back to the end of the 14th or start of the 15th century. The surname Varona dates back to the 7th century and came into being with Doña María Ruiz Pérez. From then until the present day, the tower has been inhabited by her direct descendants. The whole building has been restored by the Provincial Cou ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Valdegovía, Spain

Tower of Mendoza

The Tower of Mendoza is strategically located between the roads of Old Castile and the Ebro river. The Mendoza"s entered to the service of the kingdom of Castile during the reign of Alfonso XI (1312-1350). Álava is one of the Basque territories incorporated into the Castilian monarchy with jurisdictions. Before the Mendoza"s went to Castile, Álava was a battlefield, in which the lordly families resolved th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Muñatones Castle

Muñatones Castle was the culmination of a long construction process lasting from the 14th to the 15th centuries, amid the ferocious factional wars that ravaged Enkarterri. It is without adoubt one of the finest examples of the region’s architectural heritage and has been designated a landmark. Mighty nobleman Don Lope García de Salazar was born in the castle, where he wrote the first history book on the Biscayan ...
Founded: 1339 | Location: Muskiz, Spain

Tower of Guevara

The Tower-palace of Guevara was built in the late 13th or early 14th century by local Guevara noble family. Today one of four original towers exists.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Barrundia, Spain

Castillo de Lanos

Castillo de Lanos was probably built in the 12th century. Little is known about its origins, but Sancho IV of Castile conquered it.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ocio, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.