The Castle of Lousã holds several distinctions. It is, perhaps the smallest, and one of the most breathtaking in Portugal. It is also veiled in mystery and myth. In reality, the castle is called “Lousã” because it is a few kilometers outside of the prosperous town of that name. But, it is really the castle of Arouce, the name of a lost village that it once protected. But, like so many tiny villages that once decorated the Serra da Lousã, the Village of Arouce is nothing more than a few ruined houses and overgrown by trees at the foot of the castle that once defended them. The castle is nothing more than a small keep and a circle of wall built of brown tiles of slate. It dominates a hill surrounded by mountains in the valley of the River Arouce. It predates Portugal.
A twisting and narrow road leads to the spot, and the first sight of the castle reveals its rare and natural beauty. It is hard to imagine the valley without the tiny castle. So much so, that the exact date and builder of the fortress are unknown. The spot was inhabited in prehistoric times, and the castle may very well predate the Romans. A local legend tells of a King Arounce who fled the Roman city of Conimbriga to the hidden castle with a horde of treasure and his daughter.
It later formed part of the lines of the Mondego, a series of castles that defended a newborn Portugal against the Moors to the south. Its last reconstruction dates from that period, for shortly thereafter the border moved south to the River Tejo, and the castle lost its defense importance. By 1513, Arouce had ceased to exist, and the more accessible town of Lousã emerged. People only came to the site to visit the 16th century chapels on the hillside in front of the castle, where mothers still travel to pray for their sons who are overseas in the military. Some in Lousã still talk of the ghost of a vigilant sentinel whose shadowy form may be seen on the ancient keep guarding the borders of new nation.