>Cumbres Mayores stands proudly above the surrounding countryside © Michelle Chaplow
>Cumbres Mayores stands proudly above the surrounding countryside

Cumbres Mayores

Cumbres Mayores is located at the northern most edge of Andalucía, only 10km from the neighbouring comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of Extremadura. Its border position can be seen in the change in land use - the farming of cereals and cattle - that is more characteristic of Extremadura than Andalucía.

Painted tiles - Cumbres Mayores ©Michelle Chaplow
Painted tiles - Cumbres Mayores

Things to see

The views 
Unlike the heart of the Sierra with its steep hillsides almost completely covered by trees, the hills around Cumbres Mayores are gently rolling, with swathes of stone-walled pastureland for grazing cattle. The main woodland here is olive trees. The views in this open landscape are superb; you can see the battlements of the medieval castle in Cumbres Mayores from miles around. From Cumbres you can clearly see the village of Higuera la Real in Extremadura, among other villages nearby.

The Castle of Sancho the Brave -  Castillo de Sancho el Bravo
Cumbres Mayores boasts an enormous castle and it's easy to imagine the village that was once here contained within its walls. Now it's home to the village's football pitch, a curious fact but hardly surprising in a hilltop village where large, flat areas are in short supply.

Views from the castle of Cumbres Mayores © Michelle Chaplow
Views from the castle of Cumbres Mayores.

Sancho IV ordered the construction of the castle in 1293, along with those of Aroche, Cortegana, Santa Olalla de Cala, Fregenal de la Sierra north of Cumbres, Villanueva del Río and Lebrija. The castle at Cumbres was the largest one in this so-called Banda Gallega, the series of defensive fortifications aimed at protecting the border against a Portuguese invasion. The castle was finished in the 14th century under Fernando IV and was heavily restored in the early 70s.

The castle walls are 400m long with nine square and round towers, constructed from recycled blocks of stone originally used by the Romans. The 10m-high and three-metre-thick walls are now surrounded by houses abutting the castle itself.

The Church of Saint Michael - Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel
Opposite the castle across the small Plaza de Portugal is a huge ochre church, the Iglesia de San Miguel, with a Gothic vaulted ceiling and Renaissance features. The famous architect of Seville's cathedral, Hernán Ruíz, helped to design the church. It has a large collection of Mexican silver and an impressive Baroque retablo (altarpiece).

The Church of San Miguel in Cumbres Mayores (click To enlarge images). ©Michelle Chaplow
The Church of San Miguel in Cumbres Mayores (click To enlarge images).

Next door to the castle is the village's bullring, unusual for its rectangular shape, and a small tourist information office.

The Three Cumbres
Cumbres Mayores is one village in a line of three Cumbres occupying the summit (cumbre) of a ridge of hills. A few kilometres west is Cumbres Enmedio (the Middle Cumbres). Its grand main street is rather out of keeping with its tiny size of a mere 50 people, which makes it one of the smallest hamlets in Andalucía. It even has its own ayuntamiento (town hall). The third one is Cumbres de San Bartolomé, with an attractive square and whitewashed church.

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