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The Priorat Region | p.3

La Morera is pretty and self-possessed, and houses many of the cellars where the wines of Priorat are matured. The mountain of Monsant forms a spectacular backdrop to the town; it is reputed to be inhabited by angels who keep watch over the villages and vines beneath. Indeed all the mountains of the region are home to legends. The village of Siurana, nestling on the edge of a cliff a short distance from La Morera, is the site of several of these: it contains a ruined castle, which is said to be haunted by the Moors; the dizzying precipice on which it is perched is named the "The Leap of the Moor Queen" in honour of a Moorish princess who defended the castle against the Christian Knights and, rather than surrender, blindfolded her horse and rode it into the void. Siurana is surrounded by bare mountains, and seems to float in the clear blue air.

The region is home to a number of architectural prodigies. Travellers with an interest in Mediaeval high-rise should visit Vilella Baixa whose beautifully preserved centre contains early examples of multi-storey edifices, and like so much of the region, provides excellent views over the nearby mountains. Aficionados of Catalan modernism will be delighted by the co-operative wine cellars of Falset, which were designed by Cesar Martinell, a disciple of Gaudi. Falset also contains the best restaurant in the Priorat DO El Cairat, which is renowned for the inventiveness of its cuisine, and is the ideal location from which to muse on the existence of the angels that are said to guard the region. After lunch, and a glance at the 12th century castle of Albert de Castellvell (later the residence of the Earls of Prades),travellers may be tempted to take a stroll in the hills, equipping themselves for the trip with a bota, or wine skin. Whilst Catalunya is said to be responsible for the invention of the cork, and for packaging wine in bottles, it also maintains the production of older types of containers. The village of Gandesa, a little to the south of Priorat, is renowned for its kidskin botas, which are worn slung over the shoulders with a cord, and form the perfect companion for a meander over rough terrain. Read more...