By Mary Day
So many people love getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and going off into the wilderness to be one with nature and also rub shoulders with the past and a friend has sent me many pictures of Buffavento Castle and prepared a brief description of his walking experience.
Just looking at these amazing pictures, which we have tried to string together in the order of the walk, we hope you will get a sense of the majesty of this North Cyprus Castle and you also will one day take the walk of discovery up to Buffavento Castle
Buffavento (Italian: Defier of the Winds) is located on a rocky hilltop 950 metres above sea level, one of three castles along the Kyrenia, Beşparmak mountain range the others being St Hilarion and Kantara, probably built by the Byzantines and captured by Richard the Lionheart in 1191. It was then enlarged by the Lusignans as defence against Arab raids, to control an important mountain pass and used as a prison in the 14th century. It fell into disuse during the Venetian period, when coastal castles such as Kyrenia and Famagusta were deemed more important. The castle survived the catastrophic North Cyprus fire of 1995, although 16,000 acres of surrounding forest were destroyed.
Castle opening hours vary, and if the metal barrier is across the road opposite the Buffavento Restaurant, the castle is closed. The 50 minute walk up to Buffavento Castle is suitable for the reasonably fit to able walker wearing a good stout pair of shoes and armed with water, but is well worth the effort with amazing views from the summit.
To start the walk, you will need to drive along the Girne to Famagusta road eastward (through Catalkoy) passing through the mountains, and before the road starts dropping down the other side, take the sharp turning on the right by the Buffavento Restaurant (also worth a visit). This road twists and turns, is very narrow in places with a few blind spots and caution is needed as there are some steep drops, although with beautiful views across the plains to Lefkosa. The car park for the castle is about 6km along this road, and contains a partially destroyed memorial to the Turksh Airline crash that claimed the lives of 15 passengers in 1988. At the start of the walk there is a sign giving details of the castle and its history. To read more of the Turkish Airline crash click here and here.
At a rough count, there are approximately 600 steps leading to the castle, rough and rugged in places, some are uneven with rough edges and many have been repaired. However, they are within the capability of most walkers, and there are regular rest areas on the route. There is a large boulder blocking the path about one third of the way to the summit, although it is passable. Once on the north side of the mountain at about two thirds of the elevation, there are wonderful views along the coast of North Cyprus – a definite photo opportunity. Continuing on, the castle gate is soon reached, although this is not the summit of the castle.
There are steps to both left and right – the left set lead through an arched gate into the castle with store rooms and barracks opposite and a water cistern beneath. Taking the steps on the right, you continue up the very steep and winding path for another 10 minutes before reaching the summit of the castle – with a ruined chapel and other buildings which, unfortunately have suffered from grafitti. From here there are breath-taking views of North Cyprus to Lefkosa and Gazimagusa, the Troodos mountain range and across the Mediterranean to Turkey on a clear day.
There is a tale of the Empress Helena who is said to have stayed in solitude in the castle with just the company of her dog during the time of the Knights Templar. Both she and the dog developed leprosy, but over time she noticed that the dog’s condition improved. When she followed the animal she discovered that it was bathing in a spring below the castle, and decided to copy it. She too was cured and built the monastery of Ayios Ioannis Chrysostomos on the site in gratitude.
The experience leaves you with a sense of achievement and wondering at the skill and tenacity of the people of the Middle Ages who undertook such a feat of construction and perhaps you will come here with other travellers to enjoy the wonder of the views and dwell on the memory of the people who once lived and defended this wonderful castle throughout the centuries.