Watchtowers and fortresses in the valleys of the Escalote and Torete rivers (Eng)

Berlanga de Duero

We start this second route in Berlanga de Duero, a town of about 800 inhabitants, in the southwest of this wonderful province of Soria.

Along more than 60 km, we will return to the 10th century.

It is the period of the Reconquest, with continuous fights between Muslims and Christians to control this border area next to the Duero River.

Medinaceli, about 50 km to the southeast, was the headquarter of the Al-Ándalus kingdom in this area at that time. With both defensive and offensive purposes, it was designed a network of fortresses and watchtowers, communicating each other, in order to grant protection to the accesses to Medinaceli from this area bordering the Duero River.

The Escalote River passes behind the castle of Berlanga de Duero forming a canyon. Close to Caltojar, about 11 km to the southeast, receives the waters of the Torete River.

The valleys of these two rivers, Torete and Escalote, were the main communication routes from Medinaceli and from Atienza to this area of ​​the Duero River.

After wandering through Berlanga, and visiting its most significant places, (castle, palace, collegiate church, Main Square, Aguilera entrance, roll of justice …), we leave the town thorough a nice walk along the Escalote river behind the castle.

La Veruela watchtower

We will continue the route 12 km towards southeast, and close to Caltojar, we will ride along the Torete River 3 km more until our first stop, which is La Veruela watchtower, halfway between Caltojar and Bordecorex .

It is located on a kind of plateau, at mid-slope level at the entrance to the Torete river valley.

Its 9 meters high, are distributed over three floors. The ground floor for storing supplies and firewood, the second for entry and exit, and for the soldiers’ quarters, and the third for vigilance.

It has direct visual communication with the castle of Berlanga de Duero and with La Ojaraca watchtower, in Caltojar, strategically located between the valleys of these two rivers Escalote and Torete.

Bordecorex

We ride now to Bordecorex. Bordecorex is a name with a Muslim origin. According to the legend, here died Almanzor, the Caliphate of Córdoba warlord, on the way to Medinaceli, after having been defeated in Calatañazor.

We enter in the town next to a beautiful fountain, and we go through its twisted and steep streets, between typical stone and adobe buildings, until we reach the church of San Miguel.

Its origin is Romanesque, and the most remarkable element is its apse, with a row of Lombard arches at the top, giving a very characteristic touch.

The church is located in the place called “El Castillo”, and its crenellated tower, probably was part of some fortification.

El Tiñón watchtower

We leave Bordecorex, and go in search of our next watchtower, El Tiñón.

We must first overcome a slope that has been visible from kilometres behind, and that from distance, imposes respect.

But once there, it is not that bad, and the views of the Torete River valley are spectacular.

After the effort during the ascent, the rest of the terrain to the watchtower is practically flat. But it will still take us a while to discover it on the horizon.

The most characteristic aspect of this Tiñón watchtower is its chimney shape. Its distribution is very similar to the Veruela watchtower, which we have seen a few kilometers behind.                  

Here we can also climb to the top of the watchtower and enjoy the views.

From here we can see to the west the Torre Melero, in the district of La Riba de Escalote, to the north, the watchtower of La Ojaraca, in Caltojar, and to the south, the Rello castle, where we are heading now.

Rello

We have a pleasant descent of 6 Km approximately from the Tiñón watchtower to the lower part of Rello, next to the Escalote river.

Before entering Rello’s walled enclosure, we continue southwest along the road for about 600m until we reach a path that goes up to the town and enjoy the amazing views.

We see the town on a huge limestone rock, and halfway up the hill, next to the southeast terminal of the wall, we can see the third watchtower of our journey today.

We know this watchtower as the Water Tower, and it is believed that it could have been attached to the castle wall.

Its main function could have been to collect water from the Escalote river to ensure supply in the event of a siege.

We can ride uphill to the town, either going back along the road, or along the path that starts from the road in the southwest.

In our tour through the interior of the walled enclosure, originally from the 12th century and with later touches from the early 16th century, we will find the wall and its battlements, towers, sentry boxes and gunboats, as well as its three access doors.

Just ruins of the homage tower and the rain tank are the elements still standing of the initial castle.

In the main square, we can also see the roll or justice, which proves the title of villa of this town of Rello in the Middle Ages. It is really curious as it was made of iron, using a cannon dated in the 15th century.

Melero tower

We start now the second half of our route today, and we are now pedaling towards the watchtower known as Torre Melero, in the municipality of La Riba de Escalote.

6km is the approximated distance between Rello and the Alto del Melero, at about 1,060m above sea level and which gives its name to this curious watchtower, also restored a few years ago.

Its appearance differs from the watchtower we´ve already seen by the battlements on its upper part, the rectangular shape of its interior, and the circular construction attached to it and which could have been a rain tank.

The Escalote river, which forms a beautiful canyon in this area, was watched from this tower. From here there´s also visual contact with El Tiñón and La Ojaraca watchtowers, to the east and to the northeast.

This is the last watchtower of the route, and we still have about 20km to Berlanga de Duero, but on the way, still two very interesting stops.

Caltojar

The first is Caltojar, about 9km by road and about 8km if we prefer on the rural track.

The most significant point in Caltojar is its church of San Miguel Arcángel, with a magnificent doorway, topped by Lombard arches in its upper part, and its apse. It is one of the most attractive Romanesque temples in the province of Soria.

Crossing the town on the road, we can see a series of wall paintings, imitating famous paintings by Picasso. The children of the town painted them in the summer of 1981, because of the centenary of Picasso´s birth.

The murals that we see are the restoration done in 2014, due to the deteriorarion of the initial paintings because of the weather conditions.

San Baudelio Pre-Romanesque hermitage

After enjoying this open-air museum, we continue our journey 4km more, to visit the hermitage of San Baudelio.

Declared a national monument, it is considered the pearl of the pre-Romanesque art in this country.

It is built on a cave, which may have been the shelter of a hermit.

Its external lines are very simple, and only a horseshoe arch at its access door gives us a clue of the Arab influence in this building.

Entering the hermitage, an impressive column with its nerves opening in the shape of a palm tree, welcomes us.

On the tour of its interior, which reminds a small mosque, we see how Christian and Arab cultures are mixed, both in the architectural elements and in what remains of the original frescoes.

This is the last stop on this route, and we have now very easy 10km to Berlanga de Duero.

We leave the road to look again for the Escalote river and we finally get back to Berlanga on its left bank.

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