By: Ayelet Bar Meir, qualified tour guide
The remains of the Montfort Castle arise atop a narrow extension above the Kziv River. Initially the castle was built by French Crusaders who managed an agricultural farm on its premises. They grew field crops, mainly sugar canes, and called the castle Montfort, meaning in French the Strong Mountain (Mont=Mountain, Fort= Strong).
During the end of the 12th century the French owners sold the castle to German Crusaders of the Teutonic Order. The Teutonic turned the castle into their center, and held the central archive of the order in the castle. In the 13th century the Mameluke Sultan Baibars visited and conquered the area and destroyed all Crusader castles. Baibars’ intention was that the Crusaders will flee for their lives back to Europe never to return.
At the Montfort Castle he encountered tough resistance and therefore endeavored to reach an agreement with the Teutonic Crusaders who made it their stronghold; according to which they will be permitted to leave unharmed with all their treasures and documents. For the lack of other alternatives the Teutonic took their belongings and their precious documents and returned to Europe. After they left the place, Baibars and his soldiers destroyed the castle. Consequently many of its walls stand in ruin; nevertheless, the remains of the castle are still beautiful and fascinating; the Keep, the ruins of a magnificent church, clay tubes that led water from the roofs to the cisterns and more, all remain here to tell us the story of the castle’s dwellers.
Drive towards the settlement of Mitzpe Hila. Do not enter the settlement; but rather continue a few dozen meters west to a large parking lot. Park your vehicles and begin descending following the marked trail. Most of the way to the castle is an exposed descent. After walking about 2 km (~1.2 miles) turn left until you reach a small surface surrounded by a rail. From this point the moat hewn in the rock for defense purposes and the castle are clearly seen. Proceed on the pathway leading to the castle. Once in the castle, it is recommended to climb to the keep and observe the captivating view seen from there. The return trip takes travelers upon the same route, only this time uphill…
Trail type: Loop
Trail Length: about 5 km (~3.1 miles)
Difficulty level: easy to moderate (the return trip is entirely uphill)
Recommended season: all year
Suitable for the entire family