The castle of Miranda de Ebro is located on Picota hill and offers great views of the city and the mountains that surround it. The origins of the castle date from 1358, when Tello of Castille asked the bishopric of Calahorra for the land to construct a castle at the top of the hill of La Picota, a place that was at that time occupied by the church of Santa Maria. Nevertheless, the construction did not begin until 1449, when Pedro Sarmiento occupied the church. Construction was delayed until 1485 and were directed by the expert stonecutter Juan Guas.
The fact that Miranda has been always a border region has caused the castle to witness the consequences of war on numerous occasions, and was continuously redeveloped. The most recent conflict it saw was during the War of Independence of Spain and the Carlist Wars, that left the castle in ruins. Perhaps the most important event of the fortress's history occurred during the War of Spanish Independence, when Jose Bonaparte signed the decree of use of the French currency in Spain at the castle.
In 1903, the city council, which was at the time the owner of the castle, decided to dismantle it. The stone from the castle was used for the construction of the bullring (today disappeared), the ruins of the castle were covered with earth and used as the foundations for the construction of a water tank.
Today only the north wall is visible, between the King's Battery and the Queen's Battery. Also preserved, though hidden by vegetation, is the East-West wall and a circular tower in the southwestern edge, which was probably crenellated. The entrance to the fortification was through a barbican: a small defensive system that consisted of a series of entrance halls before the front door. It also had a pit on the west side that looks towards the rest of the hill of the Picota.
The castle was constructed of ashlar masonry stone, or at least the external walls, while the rest was completed with rubble.References:
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.