Zafra Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Zafra Castle

Castellar de la Muela, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

Built in the 12th century by the Moors, Zafra Castle is a remote, virtually impregnable castle in the northeastern corner of the Guadalajara province in the Sierra de Caldereros. In Game of Thrones it appears as the Tower of Joy where Ned Stark clashes with Ser Arthur Dayne.

Peta Stamper

20 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Zafra Castle

Located 1,400 metres high up the Sierra de Caldereros in Spain, Zafra Castle has stood on its own on a sandstone outcrop for 1,000 years. Originally built in the 11th century by the Moors, Zafra Castle sits 5 kilometres from the village of Campillo de Dueñas, although the castle you see today is mostly from the 13th century.

Zafra Castle history

Local excavations uncovered Bronze and Iron Age remains as well as those of Celtiberians, Romans and Visigoths. The whole region was conquered (including the first incarnation of the castle) by the Christians from the north in around 1129 as part of the ‘Reconquista’ of the Iberian peninsula.

The castle’s defensive capabilities were seriously tested from the 12th century when Castilian King Fernando III unsuccessfully tried to take the castle all the way through to the civil wars of the 14th and 15th centuries. At the start of the 16th century it started to fall into ruin, not before ownership had been passed to various royals, conquerors, religious groups and local dignitaries.

Zafra Castle was owned by the state until 1971 when it was bought for 30,000 pesetas by Don Antonio Sanz Polo, a descendent of the 15th century owner Don Juan de Hombrados Malo and he spent the next 30 years and most of his fortune painstakingly restoring the ruined castle.

Zafra Castle today

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, Zafra Castle appears in season six as the Tower of Joy where a young Ned Stark clashes with Ser Arthur Dayne and according to current owner Daniel Sanz, the producers were ‘looking for a remote site away from any building’.

Visitors to Zafra Castle can only admire the castle from outside while it undergoes significant restorations. However, even the base of the castle provides a spectacular view both of the tower on its rocky outcrop and out over the hills.

Getting to Zafra Castle

Getting to Zafra Castle, by nature of its lonely location, is a little difficult and renting/driving is advisable. The drive from Madrid Airport takes around 2 and a half hours. Take a left at Hombrados and follow signs towards Zafra, eventually reaching a dirt track road which takes you up towards the castle. You will have to walk a short way up the hill to the castle.