Visit an Old Olive Mill in the Lecrín Valley, Granada
A Guided tour of the Almazara de las Laerillas
For many hundreds of years, inhabitants of the Lecrín Valley have been cultivating “gold”. Yes, but of the liquid kind—olive oil. It’s a well-known fact that Andalucía is one of the largest olive oil producing regions in the world and the Lecrín Valley boasts the right conditions for this production. Water in abundance and the right climate. The Valley’s situation to the southwest of the Sierra Nevada, protects it from the north winds. The aquifers flowing from Sierra Nevada, form a network of rivers and torrents, channelled into irrigation ditches crisscrossing the whole valley. Hence, the warm temperate microclimate of the area. Ideal for the cultivation of olive trees and citrus fruit, the two most important crops, even today.
A Short History of Settlements in the Lecrín Valley
Most of the Valley’s settlements date back to the Middle Ages, although there is evidence of human remains as far back as 12.000 BC. Archeological finds prove that the Romans settled in the Valley. Visible proof of this are the small remains of a Roman Villa in Mondujar or the other finds in Padul, Cónchar, Cozvijar and Murchas.
With the arrival of Islamic culture in the 8th century, the villages and towns in the Lecrín Valley began to emerge. Starting out as alquerias or open rural settlements, often set around a hsin or castle. Within the hsin’s domain there could also be minor fortifications, such as watchtowers. Under the protection of these towers and castles, the villages gradually became permanent. We can still see and visit the ruins of many of these castles and towers today.
The new settlements then needed irrigation ditches to enable the building of flour and oil mills amongst other infrastructures. The water mills are part of the network of hydraulic systems in the Lecrín Valley. This fact shows us that they date from the Middle Ages. An important part of everyday life, the flour and olive mills were also the source of other trades and crafts. The list of different mills once in working order in each of the Valley villages is too long to add here. Unfortunately, few have been conserved.
Visit and Old Olive Mill and its Museum in Nigüelas
Because so many mills are now in ruins, the Almazara de Las Laerillas in Nigüelas is unique. This Almazara is one of the best examples of late 15th century oil presses that still keeps its structure and machinery. They probably built this structure over the remains of an earlier Islamic mill, possibly dating from the 13th century. One of the seven oil mills that existed in Nigüelas in the mid-19th century, the Almazara’s main function was the production of olive oil.
When the oil production ended in 1942, the mill became a semi-ruinous storeroom. Fortunately, although the walls and roofs were badly damaged, the machinery was still in fairly good condition.
Originally owned by the Zayas family whose last member Maria Antonia Isabel Francisca de Paula de Zayas-Fernández de Córdova y Ossorio-Calvache (Spanish nobles just kept adding on names!) donated the mill to the municipality of Nigüelas in 1987 through her foundation, the Zayas Foundation (I won’t add the full title here, you can find that out when you visit the mill!)
In 1991 the Nigüelas town council ordered the first restoration work to ensure the mill’s conservation. In 2000 it opened as a museum based on information obtained from the last master miller to work there. In 2014, the Zayas Foundation promoted the restoration and updating of the museum’s contents, including the grinding and press areas. The results allow us to appreciate the full value and functions of this exceptional almazara.
The description of the actual process of olive oil production is far too long to explain here. The best way is to visit the mill itself. Suffice it to say that the process was a full-time job and the millers often slept in the mill while they carried out the grinding process. Oil production totally depended on the irrigation ditch, bringing water from the Sierra Nevada mountains to give power to the grinding machinery. The first thing you see when you visit is how this ditch works.
Find out more on their Facebook page.
Useful Information for Your Visit
When to visit: From Tuesday to Friday. Weekends: Only groups of a minimum of 30 people. Closed Mondays.
Times: Three visits a day: 10.30 to 11.30, 11.30 to 12.30 and 12.30 to 13.30.
Reservations: Reservation is necessary. Call: +34 958 280 928 – 649 223 415.
Entance fee: 3€
Or fill in the contact form on the website.
We bought a copy of the excellent souvenir guide book when we visited a year ago. It cost us 5€ but may have increased slightly since then. In Spanish and English.
The Zayas family were also the owners of the mansion that is now the Nigüelas Town Hall. The Romantic Garden there is a treasure. Do pop in and visit this when you’re in Nigüelas. Read our post here: Mansions and Palatial Houses
Nigëlas is just 20 minutes drive from Restábal. Park in the car park at the entrance to the village. The Town Hall is on the right as you walk up the main street. If it’s open pop in for a look and get a leaflet about the mill.