Like a fantasy castle straight out of Middle-earth, the pride of the Vizcaya looms above the Butrón River, marking the spot of a key fortification that kept the Butrón clan in control. The original structure of Castle of Butron probably dated to the 11th century, though the earliest verifiable records refer to a stone tower that existed by 1250 AD. The castle was expanded as regional wars raged, and the Basque's ruling families spilled much blood in its shadow.
As peace fell across the beautiful countryside, the great families allowed their fortress to fall into utter disrepair. Finally, in 1878, new owners hired architect Francisco de Cuba to rebuild the ruins but this time with a romanticized silhouette for relaxing, rather than fighting.
Today, the old Castle of Butrón seems something from a fairy tale, with turreted towers and Bavarian style that will have you wondering when the next dragon will arrive. The gardens make a fine spot for a picnic, or wander around inside.
Most people visit the castle on a tour from nearby Bilbao (20km/13mi), but you can also do it using public transport. From Bilbao, take the metro to the city of Mungia. From there, several buses leave for Gatika. Ask the bus driver to drop you at the Castillo de Butrón; the stop is 300 meters (984 feet) downhill from the castle.
Every June, the castle hosts the Feria Medieval (Medieval Festival), with period costumes, traditional games, and other entertainment. Though there's not much tourist infrastructure in the nearby town of Gatika, several vacation rentals are scattered about the hills.