Alaro castle - the perfect Mallorcan walk with the best lunch in the world

The town of Alaro is one of the last outposts of the flatlands north of Palma, the island’s capital city. It sits directly before the Tramuntana mountains which rise abruptly from the central plain. The landscape is dominated by a twin pair of rocky outcrops: bare vertical cliffs more than 800 metres high that stand as Tolkienesque sentinels guarding the lush valley that leads through Orient to Bunyola. Perched atop the southern outcrop is the mountain fortress of the Castell of Alaro. Reaching the top of this peak is a popular Sunday jaunt that combines a challenging, but not epic walk, a bit of history, and quite possibly the best Sunday lunch you are ever going to taste. It's the perfect excursion during your Majorca villa holidays.

Starting the ascent to Alaro Castle

The Castell is clearly marked from the centre of the town, and you can walk it from here, in around 2-3 hours, but most plump to drive the first part, a challenge in itself. Again follow the signs for the Castell and Es Verger restaurant. Shortly after leaving town you take a surfaced, but bumpy road that slowly rises above the almond groves. As you progress into the hills the road steepens, deteriorates and narrows markedly. Ruts, rocks and vertiginous drops focus the mind on the task ahead. This is no place for a low slung sports car, but most vehicles should be able to traverse with care. The best type of car for the trip however is somebody else's. Mercifully after around half an hour, you will arrive at a large assemblage of agricultural buildings with a car park, this is the restaurant, and more or less as far as you can drive. 

Girl on the top of Alaro

You've got to earn it first! 

But no sneaking in just yet, first you have to earn your lunch. The first couple of kilometres to the castle follows a vehicle track, before turning to cross the contours to the mountaintop via a cobbled donkey track well marked, and with steps along much of the way. The castle itself is the history of Mallorca in microcosm. The current ruins, that you will enter through a fortified gate and portcullis, date from the 15th century, but initially it was the final island stronghold of the Moorish occupants of Mallorca. Later it became the last stand of Guillem Cabrit and Guillem Bassa in 1285, as the two heroic figures fighting for King Jaume II of Mallorca eventually they were overcome by the troops of King Alfonse II of Aragon, and executed on the spot. 

Alaro hostel

Hurrah, the top! 

As you rise into the ruins of the castle compound, the views back towards Palma begin to open up and on a clear day, you can see across the bay of Palma towards Andratx, and towards the islands of Cabrera over to the East. On the summit, views extend to the North allowing a bird’s eye vista down into the Orient valley, and the highest peak on Mallorca Puig Mayor, easy to spot with its radar station on the summit. Take time to visit the small chapel of Mare de Déu, and have a glass of wine and a pa amb oli, a traditional snack of bread, tomato, cheese and ham, from the recently restored cafe and overnight hostel. The renovations were finally completed in 2012 after more than a decade of work transferring building materials via helicopter and donkey. It sleeps 30 people and is very reasonably priced. It forms one of the many overnight refuges in the Tramuntana range for those looking to link together a walking expedition, one of the many sports activities you can enjoy in Majorca.

Time for lunch ... 

Rested, and hopefully with a bit of space remaining for lunch, it is back down the same route to the restaurant. Es Verger is famous for one thing, paletilla de cordero, shoulder of lamb to you and me. British TV chef Rick Stein described it in raptures as ‘the best lamb I have ever tasted’ in one of his Mediterranean travelogues, and who am I to disagree with his professional opinion? The restaurant itself is rustic in the extreme. The main part is basically a barn, with a concrete floor, and bench tables with plastic tablecloths. In the corner sits a vast wooden oven that wouldn't look out of place in the engine room of the Titanic. 

Es Verger Restaurant, Alaro

If you weren’t hungry when you came in, the aroma of wood smoke and roasting lamb will soon see to that. The service could be charitably described as rustic itself, but it somehow seems to fit right in. There is a wide variety of local specialities on the menu, snails, fish, Frito Mallorquin, a delicious fry up of lamb and pig offal with garlic fennel and peppers, but the lamb is the main event, accompanied by very rustic wine that will certainly warm the cockles of your heart, before it wins any prizes, but again it all fits perfectly. 

If you are not driving back down the hill, try a punchbowl of cremat. An earthenware pot full of brandy, rum, cinnamon, whole coffee beans and lemon peel, served on fire,.......and cancel whatever you were planning for the rest of the day. 

Restaurante Es Verger is open every day of the year, and closes at 8 pm and doesn’t take reservations.