Kantara is one of the most important castles by which the natural defence of the Kyrenia range was reinforced. The word "Kantara" in Arabic means bridge or arch. Since this castle bridges the range and commands all the area surrounding it, the name is more that appropriate. It is planted on a group of steep cliffs. The origins of the Kantara castle go back to the 10th century when it was built as a lookout post. The first reference to the castle in the records is in 1191 when Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus and Isaac Comnenos, the rebel Byzantine prince from Trapezus (Trabzon) who had captured the island and proclaiming himself King of Cyprus, after having ruled for seven years as a despot, sheltered in Kantara. In the 12th century it was remodeled by the Lusignans. Throughout the island's history Kantara often served as a shelter for defeated barons and kings. When the Genoese conquered Famagusta and Nicosia in 1373, Kantara remained in the hands of John of Antioch, the brother of King Peter I of Cyprus till he moved to St. Hilarion. Later his brother, King James I (1382-1398) of Cyprus refortified Kantara. Most of the surviving parts belong to his restorations. It continued to be used as late as 1525 when Venetians having relied on the coastal fortresses such as Kyrenia and Famagusta for the defence of the island neglected it as they had done with the other inland castles of Saint Hilarion and Buffavento. This impregnable castle begins with a barbican on this eastern side. It is inaccessible from the other three steep directions. The door of the barbican is flanked by a pair of square towers, and opens into a large bailey. A second opening, again protected by two towers, is the entrance into the actual castle. The tower in the direction of the sea is a two storey structure of passages and vaulted rooms with shooting slits. On the land side its equivalent has a vaulted basement which was used as prison. This tower is succeeded by a single room and a group of three vaulted rooms with shooting slits and a toilet. These were the rooms where the knights stayed. In the southern section of the walls the remains of a lookout tower and some rooms and cisterns have survived. On the peak of the cliff there are the ruins of the tower from which flares were used to signal Nicosia and Buffavento during the night.
Northern Cyprus Department of Antiquities and Museums Directorate