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Although the resort of Playas de Fornells is still a relatively new development, the port and village of Fornells, some 3 or 4 kilometres to the east of the tourist development, can trace its origins back to the 17th Century, when the construction of the Castell de Sant Antoni at the entrance to the Bay of Fornells encouraged the first villagers to settle here.
Historic town records show that the castle was once a magnificent structure standing over 30 metres square x 12 metres high and was originally surrounded by a defensive moat. However, most of the castle was unfortunately destroyed at the end of the 19th Century and all that is visible today is part of one of the original walls.
A little to the north of the Fornells, and the remains of the Castell de Sant Antoni, visitors can however still visit the Torre de Fornells which was constructed in 1801 -1802 at the time when Menorca was under British rule.
At the time this was the largest defensive tower on the island and was constructed over four levels. The first two levels were underground and contained a large subterranean water tank along with accommodation for the soldiers based there.
The remaining two levels above ground then housed more accommodation and a platform for the cannons and other armaments. Originally the only access to the tower was via a stairway to the first floor, which in the event of an attack could be removed making the tower almost impenetrable.
If you want to escape the resort for the day, the municipal district of es Mercadal does offer visitors a wealth of attractions that are sadly missed by most visitors to the island. Every Sunday there is always a colourful flea market held in the actual town of es Mercadal, and is one of three weekly markets that were established way back in 1301 by Jaime II as part of the Christian conquest of the island.
A few kilometres to the east of Playas de Fornells is the resort of Son Parc, and it is here where you will find the only golf course on the island. First opened in 1977, the Son Parc Golf course is open 365 days per year and visitors are always welcome.
The course has recently been extended, to a full 18 holes, to the designs of Dave Thomas who is an ex Ryder Cup player, and architect of many other quality course worldwide, including The Belfry courses and the San Roque on the Costa del Sol.
The course is set among beautiful wooded hills and is of championship quality, and is ideal for both beginners and
experienced golfers alike. An additional hazard, or attraction of the course, is the flock of peacocks who live next to
the third green. Contact details for more information and bookings are:
Golf Son Parc Menorca
Urbanizacion Son Parc
Telephone: +34 971 188 875
Fax: +34 971 359 591
Web site: www.golfsonparc.com
As we mentioned very briefly on the general introduction page the highest point on Menorca is the 354m peak of Mount Toro, and this is clearly visible from most points on the island, including Arenal d'en Castell.
A trip to the Sanctuary of the Mare de Déu del Toro is always included in most of the tour operators "see Menorca in a day" type island tours, as it usually offers exceptional views over the island, and in particular the north coast.
Mount Toro is recognised as being the spiritual centre of Menorca, and legend has it that in 1288, a few months after Christianity was restored on the island, a group of monks found a statue of the Virgin with a small lit lamp in a cave here.
The monks built a small chapel in her honour, which was then rebuilt in the 17th Century as the Sanctuary of the Mare de Déu del Toro that we see today. The Sanctuary is now the home to a small community of nuns from the Franciscan order, although it is also used by various other spiritual groups from the local community as a meeting place.
Despite what many people may think, fiestas on Menorca are not held purely for the benefit of tourists, and many can be traced back to the 14th Century.
To the local residents, the word fiesta conjures up images of beautifully groomed horses, the drink “Pomada” which is a combination of gin and lemon, and the traditionally baked cake “Coca amb Xocolati”, which is served with a sweet chocolate drink.
A typical fiesta begins in the afternoon before the Saint's day with the horses and their riders meeting and parading through the streets before congregating at the church for Mass. In the evening there is often live music and traditional folk dancing, and then a magnificent firework display ends the celebrations at around midnight.
Although the holiday resort of Playas de Fornells cannot justify a fiesta in its own right, the more traditional towns in the area proudly celebrate two fiestas each year.
The first is held on the third Sunday of July each year in Es Mercadal in recognition of the towns patron saint Sant Martí. The highlight of the celebrations is always the parade through the town, where at pre-determined points riders encourage their horses to rear onto their hind legs to the cheers of the crowd.
The other principal fiesta in the area is also held in during July each year, this time in the port of Fornells on the forth weekend in July in honour Sant Antoni.
As we briefly mentioned above, horses have always played a central part in the fiestas and traditions of Menorca. The pure bred Menorcan horse is recognised and valued, throughout the world as a strong, slender and elegant breed, that is famous for its ability to rear up onto its hind legs.
The Menorcan Horse Fair is held in Es Mercadal during the first Sunday of May each year, where the the very best horses on Menorca are judged by a panel of experts from the Menorcan Breeders Association, which is then followed by displays of riding skills.
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