La Guardia de Jaen, Spain
11km/7mi southeast of Jaén on a minor road is the little town of La Guardia de Jaén, with the remains of ancient buildings which bear witness to its Roman origin. It also has a ruined castle, an interesting parish church and a courtyard (designed by Vandelvira) which is all that remains of a Dominican monastery founded in the 16th century.
Ruta de las Batallas
The Ruta de las Batallas ("Battle Trail") leaves Jaén on N 323, following a winding course northwards above the valley of the Río Guadalbuilón, and comes in 24km/15mi to Mengíbar (alt. 323m/1,060ft), the ancient Ossigi, once a Moorish stronghold, of which only the tower remains.
The Ruta de las Batallas crosses the Río Guadalquivir and continues north to Bailén (alt. 349m/1145ft), where the Roman consul Scipio the Elder defeated the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 208 B.C. Here too, in 1808, Spanish troops commanded by General Castaños defeated a French army for the first time. The general is buried in the church of La Encarnación (16th century), which also contains a sculpture by Alonso Cano.
15km/9mi east of Bailén is the mining town of Linares (alt. 418m/1,371ft). Features of interest in Linares are the church of Santa María la Mayor (12th-13th century) and a fine 16th century retablo in the church of San Francisco.
30km/19mi west of Bailén on N IV is Andújar (alt. 212m/696ft), on the right bank of the Guadalquivir, here spanned by a bridge which goes back to Roman times. The town, lying near the ancient Iberian settlement of Illiturgo (Los Villares), is a center of olive oil production and is also noted for its fine pottery (alcarrazas, jarras). The streets are lined with handsome old houses and churches. The Gothic church of Santa María has a painting by El Greco, ''Christ in the Garden of Olives'', housed in a chapel which is closed off by a finely wrought grille. The church of San Miguel has fine carved woodwork.
Virgen de la Cabeza
Just before Andújar, a winding mountain road branches off on the right and runs north to the Santuario de la Virgen de la Cabeza, a chapel founded in the 13th century, totally destroyed during the Civil War and subsequently rebuilt, from which there are tremendous panoramic views.
The Ruta de las Batallas continues north from Bailén on N IV, which passes a side road to Baños de la Encina (fine 10th century castle) and after going through Guarromán (alt. 349m/1145ft) reaches the little town of La Carolina (alt. 605m/1985ft). Like other places in this area, La Carolina was founded by French and German settlers whom Charles III had brought into the Sierra Morena between 1767 and 1769. The once rich lead-mines in the surrounding area are now in ruins. The town itself has a number of handsome old mansions.
Las Navas de Tolosa
Just north of La Carolina, 2.5km/1.5mi off N IV to the right, is Las Navas de Tolosa (alt. 694m/2,277ft), another attractive old settlers' village. Here on July 16, 1212, the united army of Castile, Aragon and Navarre inflicted an annihilating defeat on the Almohads - an event commemorated by a monument outside the town.
From Las Navas de Tolosa N IV climbs gradually to Santa Elena (alt. 742m/2435ft), a pretty little place situated on a hill from which there are extensive views, near the boundary between Andalusia and New Castile.