WHATEVER your take on Spain’s most controversial pastime, a visit to Spain’s oldest bullring is a fascinating and entertaining experience.

Having opened in 1785, the architecture of the ring is breathtaking and its accompanying museum takes visitors on a chronological journey taking in all the pomp and glory of bullfighting on the way.

Visit the pens where the beasts await their fate and marvel at artefacts, posters, photos and even original costumes – some frankly exquisite – donned by all the greatest matadors.

Horse-riding fans will love the spectacular saddles and livery worn by 19th-century French King Louis Philippe, and in the firearms room there are hundreds of pistols and rifles dating from the 16th century.

These days Ronda hosts one fight a year, the Goyesca, a fully traditional affair which attracts punters from all over Spain as well as politicians and celebrities.

Organised by the bullring’s owner Fran Rivera, a matador who normally also fights, it is one of the big photographic opportunitiwa.

The Goyesca was launched in 1954 to commemorate 200 years of the birth of Pedro Romero, a child of one of Ronda’s biggest bullfighting dynasties who despite killing over 5,000 bulls in his lifetime was never injured.

Regular visitors to the ring over the years have included American actor Orson Welles – who loved Ronda so much he chose to have his ashes taken there – and writer Ernest Hemingway.

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