VILA FLÔR – the Town of Flowers – is 24km south of Mirandela and worth a quick stop if you’re on your way into deep eastern Trás-os-Montes. It was given its name in the thirteenth century by Dom Dinis who, on his way to meet Isabel of Aragon, was clearly in a romantic frame of mind. Flowers are not so evident today, though handsome tree-lined squares and a striking twin-towered tiled church provide focus for a stroll. There’s also a rather eccentric municipal museum, the Museu Municipal de Berta Cabral (not always open), and a few cafés in the old-town streets. Weekday buses call here on the run between Torre de Moncorvo and Mirandela, but you’d hardly want to stay the night in town – and in any case you need a car to see the more enticing surroundings, which primarily means the ruins of Ansiães, a twenty-minute drive southwest.
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Castelo de Ansiães
Castelo de Ansiães
Twenty-one kilometres southwest of Vila Flôr – follow signs initially for Carrazeda de Ansiães – lie the intriguing ruins of an abandoned, medieval walled town. It’s barely recognizable as such until you’re almost upon it, winding up the 900m-high hillside to a craggy outcrop signposted simply as Castelo de Ansiães. You park by the outer gateway and make your way up a stone track, flanked by bramble-covered ruins, to a twelfth-century chapel with a carved Romanesque doorway. Beyond is the main gate and a complete circuit of partially ruined walls, which provides a breezy walk with beautiful views – otherwise, all that remains are fallen boulders and broken stones. It’s hard to believe that five different kings, over a period of 500 years, made this their strategic base in the north – the last inhabitants of old Ansiães left in the mid-eighteenth century, when the nearby new town of Carrazeda de Ansiães was established.