Castril de la Peña is now known just as Castril but there is nothing ‘just’ about it. The town of Castril is in the Granada province, north-east of the city of Granada. Generally undiscovered by tourism Castril sits in fantastic mountain areas and is twinned with towns in Portugal, Germany and Italy.
Next to the Sierra de Cazorla is the Sierra de Castril, Segura and Las Villas natural parks. The landscape is carved by waterfalls, gorges and peaks and rises to over 2000m above sea level. North of the town is limestone scenery, craggy mountains, caves and steep hills. East is the Altiplano, flat land used for arable farming and South and West the landscape is smothered with olive and almond trees. Head out on the Benamaurel road to see the strangest wild moonscape desert landscape.
Castril is a typical small town of the province and the centre is known for the nature of it’s houses. They are white, not very tall and wood and arabic tiling is used extensively on the facades. The houses sit in harmony with their natural environment but there is much more than just the town centre to see.
The River Walk
A lovely way to spend an hour is to take a walk along the River Castril. To get to the start of the walk start at the visitors centre about 200m off the main road outside the village. Head for the town and turn into the main street, 200m down a slight hill take a right turn down a steep narrow road, go past the school and keep following the winding road down the hill. This is a 20 minute walk, but you can drive to this point as there is plenty of parking. You will know you’ve arrived because you’ll see the river!
To the left of the river is a park (Parque de la Arboleda Perdida), tree lined and offering lovely shade in the summer. Walk through the park to a gateway and onto a wooden walkway that follows the river (there is no entrance fee!!)
At the end of the walkway, follow the river to a metal suspension bridge, cross this into a tunnel (halfway along take the left turn to a viewing platform). Come back and continue along in the tunnel to the end. On exiting the tunnel, follow the path, down the steps and use the iron bridge to cross the river. Here you’ll find a picnic area.
You can retrace your steps and go back the way you came or if you want a longer walk you can follow the narrow road up through the olive groves where, once at the top you can see the white houses of the town.
Back in the village follow the steep streets in the direction of the small red “Urbano Castril” signs on the buildings. Get to the Church door, but go past it to the gate where steps lead up to the top of the natural rock monument of the Peña del Sagrado Corazón (Rock of the Sacred Heart) . It’s a mix of dirt track and stone steps but the views at the top are worth it.
Sierra Castril Natural Park
North of the village the Sierra Castril Natural Park is a dramatic mix of gorges, vertical cliffs, waterfalls and, below ground, numerous caves. The park supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its altitude rises from 900m to over 2,000m.
The lake (Embalse del Portillo) is 200m from the village, on the C330 Pozo Alcón road and the visitors centre is the starting point for six signposted walks.
In the Sierra Seca area of the park is the Cueva del Muerto, with superb stalagmites and stalagtites and the impressive Cueva de Don Fernando. 2.5 kilometres long and 240m below sea level at its deepest point, the Cueva de Don Fernando is Granada’s largest cave and the second biggest in Andalucia.
Paper used to be made from the esparto grass that grows in the Sierra.
Aromatic plants include lavender, rosemary and thyme. A locally produced honey (miel de la Sierra) is made from bee pollen derived from these plants.
The park is a designated bird protection area (ZEPA) and there are Griffon and Egyptian vultures as well as Peregrine falcons. Others inhabitants of the pine and woodland areas are golden and booted eagles.
If you are lucky you’ll also see grey herons, wagtails and kingfishers in the trees that line the banks of the river. In the rivers there are otters and trout.
Mountain goats, wild boar and deer are the main mammalsand there are many butterflies endemic to the Iberian peninsula. Because of the number of watercourses the area is also rich with reptiles. Painted frogs, vipers, grass snakes and salamanders can be found and it’s only one of three provinces in Spain where the Valverdes lizard has been found.