And what I really loved is how it has a massive olive tree growing right in the middle of it. Every time I passed by I would think “I really need to go there” and then, of course, 10 seconds later once we’ve sped by I would totally forget about it - until the next time. I feel like I can’t be the only one, and so hopefully this will count at least, as a ‘place people know about - but may have never been’.

Well, I finally went and I hope this will encourage you to as well.

First off I should tell you that this mysterious place is indeed a castle. It’s Paderne Castle, and it’s actually quite an important landmark. In fact, it’s one of the 7 castles represented in the coat of arms on the Portuguese national flag.

The Castle Ruins of Paderne - HD

To get there is a little bit of a mission and instead of listening to me I’m sure you have a smartphone or GPS that will be a lot better with directions. However, the gist is that before you get into Paderne (coming from Boliqueime) you take a sharp left and follow the signs for the ‘Castelo de Paderne’, you go over the A22 and then down a track to the bottom and before you go below the motorway you take a curvy left and head up to the top where the castle is perched. Once you get up there you will quickly see why they might have decided to build a castle here.

First off, it is nice and high up so you have a great view, which is helpful for seeing if anybody is coming to invade, which lets face it, is the problem with having a castle. The Moors originally built it in the late 12th century out of ‘Taipa’, which is a mix of mud and sandstone, which doesn’t sound very strong, but it’s actually as hard as rock. Nevertheless, they went to the trouble of painting it with lime as well to make it look like stone so that their enemies didn’t get the wrong idea and think - it would be easy to raid a ‘sandcastle’.

The castle is situated in a curve in the Quarteira River which, as well as providing the great advantage of being near a water source, also added an extra level of security as it means the castle was surrounded on 3 sides by water and a deep valley. These natural defenses meant they were only open for attack from the eastern side, and so as you arrive at the top you will see a particularly high wall designed to dispel invaders. Alas, castles are calling to be conquered and even with all these ‘high’ tech walls and natural security measures it was still seized by the Portuguese in 1248.

Inside the castle there’s not an awful lot to see, except the ruins of a 16th century church and, of course, that beautiful olive tree. The rest was largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1755, after which the people of Paderne moved to, well.. Paderne.

But the castle isn’t all there is to see. Another reason this was such a great spot for a castle is the fertile land that surrounds it, and if you take a walk down to the bottom of the hill you can enjoy the abundant flora and fauna that lives along the walking paths. If you go south you will find a beautiful old Roman Bridge that you can still walk across (not bad), and on the north side, before you get to the motorway bridge, you can hopefully see some ducks floating and quacking happily on the river.

I can’t pretend this is a very well ‘hidden’ gem, as with the motorway passing right by the castle it is the first thing people see of the Algarve as they join the A22 coming down from the North. It’s even lit up at night. However, have you ever actually been there? If not, I’d say it’s high time you went and conquered it for yourself, and once you’ve been once you will see that it really is a ‘Moorish’ castle - as you won’t be able to resist going there more and more.