Castillo del Romeral: where the salt is gold!

Castillo del Romeral is a very characteristic and populous town located on the south-east coast of Gran Canaria, between El Matorral and South Juncalillo. It is easy to get there just following the GC-501 road, which starts at Juan Grande.
– If you’re coming from the north (for ex. Las Palmas, or the Airport Area) then you’ll have to take the exit 31 to El Doctoral/Juan Grande.
– If you’re coming from the south (for ex. Maspalomas) then my suggestion is to take directly the GC-500 road, that the locals know as “the old road”, and you will arrive directly to Juan Grande, where you have the signals for Castillo de Romeral.
Here’s a little map (click on the left for the options)!

All its ancient history is related to the salt mines: the first settlements occurred in 1537 when the salineros were established in the area for the exploitation of this artisanal industry, that in its time became the most important in the entire Canary Islands.

Its location was strategic for the Spanish kings, because it’s just next to the coast of Africa, where the ships were going to capture slaves, and later for fishing purposes, always sailing in parallel to both coasts. It’s important to notice that not all the ships in that area belonged to the Castilian crown: the good position attracted also a lot of pirates of all nationalities, in search of slaves and, above all, to hunt and capture the fishing boats that, necessarily, passed through the area to load salt or on their way back.

During the centuries, there have been reports of many attacks by English, French, Dutch and Berbers, and on the coast, next to the salinas, there are still some remains of these battles. It’s for these reasons that in 1677 king Carlos II gave to Don Antonio Lorenzo the title of alcalde (means “major”) and the license for the construction of the Fort House of Santa Cruz del Romeral, in order to protect the salt pans. The construction started only in 1681 but still was so important to become the name of the entire place.

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The name Romeral (that literally means “Rosemary”) can be originated by two different reasons: the first and most logical is that maybe, in the past, there was plenty of rosemary plants in the area. Rosemary was considered an aromatic and medicinal plant, very appreciated in all the Mediterranean area, but that grows preferably in the arid, dry and permeable soils. The second reason, more “local”, regards a ugly fish (Centrolabrus Trutta) that is also called Romero by the citizens, and that is very common in the island on the rocky bottoms of the ocean, where the brown algae abound. Don’t forget that this was also a fishermen town!

Talking about this… here’s some tips for restaurants! Just when you enter in the town (from the GC-501) you will find a good parking lot on the first street on the right. You can’t mistake, is the first (and only one) than goes in the direction of the sea! There is the restaurant called Cofradia that is very special for the fish plates: the entire name is Cofradia de Pescadores del Castillo del Romeral and means… fishermen’s brotherhood!
The other suggestion is for a more quiet place, Las Salinas, with a great view on the ocean. The advantage is that is covered also in the external terrace, so you won’t burn like pimiento during the lunch! Remember that the sun is very strong here, always and especially in the southern regions…

The castle in Castillo del Romeral had a terrible ending, by the way! 😦

As said, the construction and maintenance of the Casa Fuerte, which basically was built by the salineros, were carried out and paid for privately by the colonel Don Antonio Lorenzo de La Rocha Bethencourt, owner of the salinas and competitor of Francisco Amoreto Manrique who also had other salt mines. In his testament of 19 March 1696 he claims to own Las Salinas, with the Castle and houses, because he had purchased them.

In any case, the fortress was rebuilt during the 18th century and after that, up to three or four hundred men would be able to live inside. The services provided by this castle were very important in terms of the defense of the island, and also to protect the same salt industry and the coastal and fishing vessels by the numerous attacks of the pirates.

In 1779 the captain Miguel Hermosilla was sent to the island as a military engineer, with the mission to make a report on the military defenses, and writing about the capacity and conditions of the Castle, he declared it as the “only one that is in disposition to do an honorable defense on the Island”. In this historical moment, once again it became a very important point for the defense of the Spanish army, in war against England during 1797-1798. It’s sad to notice that actually there are just three rooms left from the fortress, of which walls and roof are preserved. Two are located inside private homes and one has access to the street.

Also on this official page of the Government, the Castle of Romeral is declared as abandoned and in disuse, without any specification regarding a possible recovery plan or restoration of the place. This is amazing if you think that it was declared an Artistic Historic Monument on 22 April 1949…  → Read the article

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So… what to do in Castillo del Romeral nowadays!?

You can try all the excellent restaurants of the town (very specialized in fish food!) and relax after this with a long path on the ocean side; if you’d like to have a bath don’t worry for the waves or the currents because the natural swimming pools make everybody feel safe! It’s an excellent place for families, ESPECIALLY if you’re having your holiday in a motor home (maybe one of ours? 😉 ) because there’s a huge parking lot where the Cofradia is located (south side of the town).

There is absolutely allowed to stay, on the contrary of most of the places on the southern side of the island. You will also notice this by the long-life standing caravans and campervans without wheels that are placed there, with no intention to move. It’s also important to say that is a very quiet ambient, despite the common imagination about fishermen places, so nothing is loud and noisy here… the things are completely different! Seeing is believing! 🙂