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Standing sentinel above the town of Kyrenia is the mountain castle of St. Hilarion. Built as a look-out tower by the Byzantines on watch for sea borne invaders, it was further enlarged in the early 13th Century.


The castle is constructed on three levels, with the lower level or ward being used primarily for livestock. There were large cisterns to store the water, vitally important for the horses, sheep and cattle that would have provided the castle inhabitants with a means of transport, fresh meat and milk. The ramparts that encircle the lower level are interspersed with guardrooms and there is a narrow walkway along the entire perimeter wall. Entry into the middle ward is made through a fortified gateway into an enclosed passage, from which steps lead up to the rooms above the gateway and also into the remains of the Byzantine period church. Either by staying in the passage or descending a flight of stone steps from the church, access is made into the Great Hall, the Belvedere and the kitchen area. The view from the Belvedere looks out across the royal jousting ground, (now used by the military as a shooting range) and it is easy to imagine medieval ladies, their silken headdresses blowing in the breeze, watching armoured knights ts astride gaily caparisoned horses as they jousted during summer festivities. There is a lot to see on the middle level and a walk through the castle should not be hurried, before attempting to scale the final long flights of stone steps to the very top. With the end in sight there is a junction in the path, to the left is Prince John’s tower which though totally ruined retains a slight atmosphere of sinister menace, for it was from the window of this tower that the deranged Prince John threw his Bulgarian bodyguard one by one to their certain deaths on the rocks below. Turning right at the junction, the path leads through the doorway into the upper ward and royal quarters. There is another great hall and what is allegedly Queen Eleanor’s boudoir. More look-out towers and a splendid view along the north coast eastwards and the mountain village of Karaman. Springtime at St. Hilarion is good for flower seekers, as many different wild flowers adorn the mountain crags and grow in damp patches on the castle walls. It is usually possible to spot two Cyprus endemics during March and April, there are clumps of Arabis cypria and the slightly shyer Brassica hilarionis otherwise known as the St. Hilarion cabbage. Also to be seen are cyclamen, salvias, anemones, narcissi, giant fennel and mandrake. 



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