The woman in front of me on the bus is beginning to get stressed about her travel arrangements. “This looks like the old town,” she tells her companion. “We don’t want to the old town. We want the beach.” He peers through the window. “We could get off here,” he suggests, “and walk.”
She isn’t having it. “No, didn’t you hear me? We want the beach, not the old town”.
They stay on the bus. Well, more fool them, because they’ve missed out on a gem. The town of Alcúdia isn’t spectacular, but it’s the historic face of this part of the long-settled island, a couple of kilometres behind the highly-developed beachside resort of Port d’Alcúdia.
Walking the Walls
Adrift in the eastern Mediterranean, Majorca was destined to be a strategic target for invaders. Occupying a prominent location, Alcúdia came in for its fair share of trouble and its long-suffering residents spent thousands of years repelling (or failing to repel) wave after wave of enemies – Romans, Phoenicians, Moors, Christians and good old-fashioned pirates. A key part of its defense was its walls.
In Your Bucket Because…
- You’re bored with the beach.
- Someone told you there’s more to Majorca than modern hotels – and you want to see if it’s true.
- Great for holiday gifts to take home.
Impressed by the honey-coloured stone façade that confronts us, built out of the very bedrock of the place, we head inside the town and turn immediately left. We’re here to walk the walls, or what you can of them. Though you can’t make a complete circuit along the top, we follow the narrow lane until we come to the first set of steps.
As we make our way round, up this flight of steps and down that, along this narrow stretch of wall and along the parapet of that tower, the views reward us. To the north you can see across the bay towards Port de Pollensa and the long limestone ridge of Formentor; to the south, the port. To the west lies the inner plain of the island; to the east is the sea. Yes, you can quite understand why Alcúdia was so very tempting for all these generations of seafaring soldiers.
Where we have to come down we aren’t short of things to see. Alcúdia is a pretty place, its narrow streets populated with brightly-flowered climbing plants, glimpses into enchanting courtyards, and a multitude of tiny shops displaying a bewildering range of gifts – shell jewellery, Majorcan pearls, pottery — alongside the sunglasses, hats and sun cream which are the staple of every Spanish tourist town.
The walls have been recently restored, though the town retains its original cramped street plan and many of its sixteenth century buildings are the real thing. But I like old stones and there are some even older ones just outside the walls – the remains of the Roman settlement of Pollentia. So once we’ve completed our circuit we cross the road to the ruins.
Pollentia is signposted and hard to overlook, but there’s hardly anyone around when we visit. We inspect the ruins of the forum with due solemnity, trace the outline of a house or two and head down to the theatre. This is my favourite part. It’s small but it’s just a bit different. Hewn out of the limestone bedrock, it’s surrounded by fig trees and a mixture of lemon and olives. And, so the guidebook tells us, once the Romans got tired of using it for entertainment they found another use – they excavated graves and used it as a necropolis.
Once we’ve exhausted the possibilities of the excavations, we drift back. Another busload of visitors is disembarking and gazing in surprise at the fortifications in front of them. We watch them turn up exactly where we turned up, and we head back through the narrow streets to the centre, in search of a cup of coffee.
- Alcúdia is in the north-west of Majorca, close to the tourist resorts of Port d’ Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa.
- It’s readily accessible by bus and the summer service is frequent – but check the times, especially in the off-season. If you’ve got limited mobility you won’t be able to walk the walls themselves, but you can still wander round inside – or outside – them.
- If you want to see more there’s a small museum in the town and the church is worth a visit. Failing that, you certainly won’t go short of somewhere to get a cup of coffee and a piece of almond cake.