The ancient Andalucian town of Ronda is built over the dramatic limestone gorge of the Rio Guadalevin.
The first bridge to link the two halves, the Puente de San Miguel or “Roman bridge”, was built in the 9th century by the Moors; there is little evidence of Roman involvement. It is a good bridge, but it required a 120 metre descent and ascent just to cross the 20-metre gorge.
The Puente Viejo, old bridge, or Moorish bridge, built in 1616 was better. At 30 metres higher it saved at least part of the descent and ascent.
But the Puente Nuevo was the winner.
The first effort to cross at the level of the lip of the gorge had ended in disaster in 1740 when the bridge collapsed with about 50 deaths.
So the builder of the new bridge, José Martin de Aldehuela, an early proponent of redundancy in bridge design, took no chances; he built four huge stone arches. Construction took 42 years from 1751-1793. This one was not going to fall down.
You have to descend a steep path from the Gate of the Windmills (iGreens love windmills - click here) to take a decent photograph.
Tourists flock to Ronda to see this famous bridge. The local limestone complements the surroundings and the gorge is spectacular, but the bridge was never the latest thing in engineering terms. For example Abraham Darby's iron bridge over the river Severn in Shropshire built in 1779, was a much lighter and more efficient construction.
The valley provides good views of the adjacent cliffs, from which, according to Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls, some of the town's fascists were hurled early in the civil war.
Look out also for the aqueduct cut in the cliff face to the south of the gorge.
Were any of these three bridges ever tolled?
They must have been but I've been unable to find any positive confirmation. Please let me know if you know.
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