This very modern bridge looks a little out of place amid the old countryside of the Algarve. Built in 1991, this bridge is around 4kms north of Vila Real de Santo Antonio and is Portugal’s border connection to Spain.
Just north of Vila Real San Antonio is the village of Castro Marim. High on the hill is the Castro Marim Castle which was built in the 13th/14th centuries by the Moors as a fortification against attacks to the Algarve Coast. Every year a Medieval Festival is held at the castle.
From the top you can see the Guadiana River and the border with Spain as well as the mostly white houses of Castro Marim which is typical of the homes of the Algarve.
The southern eastern part of the Algarve has rolling hills that have a mix of trees from pine, oak and cork to almond and orange groves. There is a nature reserve which covers some 20sq kms and includes salt pans and marshlands.
During through the countryside between Vila Real San Antonio and Castro Marim, you will see on the hillsides ancient white windmills. You will also see the modern version of those windmills in the wind farms.
Located a few kilometres north of Vila Real de Santo António, overlooking the Rio Guadiana, which is the river that divides the Algarve from Spain, Castro Marim is a small town of a population of around 3,000 that is dominated by not one, but two fortresses. Castro Marim has, historically, been an important town because of its position near the banks of the Guadiana and its proximity to the coast. The remains of the first settlements in the area date from about 5000 BC and it is thought likely that at this time the town was an island surrounded by shallow waters. For thousands of years it was a port that offered shelter to the ships that sailed the Guadiana collecting metals and other wares plus it was also connected to Lisbon by a Roman road that ran parallel to the river.
Most of all, though, it has been important strategically in the defence of the Algarve. During the 14th century the soldiers of the 'Order of Christ,' who replaced the Knights Templar, had their headquarters here. At the time the border dispute with Castile was ongoing and the castle (originally built by the Moors between the 10th and 13th centuries) was very well positioned with views across the countryside in all directions and particularly across the Rio Guadiana. It fell into disuse when it was replaced by new fortifications in the 17th century - the fort of São Sebastião, on the opposite hill above the town. This, second, fort wasn't open to the public when I visited but the larger original fort is and houses a small chapel as well as a square castle within its walls. The town itself is sleepy with some nice houses and warrants a visit if visiting Vila Real de Santo António or Tavira.
I was told.. when passing... that this was the last house after leaving Vila Real de Santo Antonio before crossing the Guadiana International Bridge into Spain.