Despite the look of the buildings, the Castillotos Battery, near Cartagena, Murcia, Spain was constructed relatively recently with building starting in 1926 and finishing in 1936. The battery was probably begun as a response to the First World War. At the time, Cartagena was a major, and very strategic, port for Spain and its defence was considered paramount.
The enormous 381mm guns, purchased from the British company Vickers and still in place today, have barrels measuring 17 metres in length and were capable of firing 1 ton projectiles over 35 km. With the road to the battery being very narrow and winding, it was impossible to get the 17m barrels around the turns so the guns were hauled up the 800ft cliffs using steam power.
Although their firing capability was fearsome, the guns were only fired once in action and that was against Franco’s Nationalist forces during April 1937. At that time, Cartagena was a stronghold for the elected Republican government.
They were never fired again however and, with time, were rendered obsolete, finally being officially decommissioned in 1994.
Today, the entire site is open to the public and access is entirely free. The abandoned battery itself is a large site with the majority of buildings, and the guns themselves, open for the public to climb on and explore. Even if you aren’t the climbing type, the views from the battery, 800 feet above sea level, are stunning and well worth the visit.
You should be warned though that the site is entirely unmanned with no conveniences whatsoever so if you are going to make the journey, (which is a good hour from Cartagena by car and up a steep winding track) you will need to take all your supplies, including water, with you.
On the way back down from the battery itself, we did happen upon something else that we really loved. Approximately 10 minutes drive back down into the valley, the site of the Battery Captain’s house, and associated outbuildings, has recently opened as a sustainable holiday park complete with an assortment of restaurants. All of the food, which is excellent and we know because we sampled it, is cooked using wood and there are plans for an onsite farm to produce all the food the park requires.