Abrantes - Portugal

Well sited above the River Tagus and always of strategic importance over the centuries, Abrantes provides an excellent base from which to explore the lower central regions of Portugal.

Abrantes is a pretty town standing on the traditional route for armies invading from neighbouring Spain, hence the fact that it played a vital role in the reconquest of Portugal after 300 years of Moorish rule.

As evidence of this, Napoleon made his Marshall Junot the grand Duke of Abrantes for his capture of the town and Duke of Wellington also made it his base during the Peninsular War of 1808-14.

Near the hill top, visitors can see the 15th-century church of Santa Maria do Castelo and within the castle walls lie the tombs of the Almeida family (Counts of Abrantes). Besides a fine collection of early Sevillian tiles, a castle museum has sculptures and paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries, respectively.

Just 10 km from Abrantes stands the magnificent Castelo de Almourol (Almourol Castle) dramatically set on a tiny island in the middle of the River Tagus. Built over a Roman fortress in 1171, the castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a princess sighing for the love of her Moorish slave.