Cornwall has many castles to visit and admire. From Celtic battlements to Tudor edifices, this maritime county has a variety of fortified buildings to explore, learn about and admire.
Falmouth, TR11 4LP
Having defended the anchorage of the Carrick Roads for more than four centuries, Pendennis Castle offers a taste of history coupled with spectacular views of the water and surrounding coastline.
An on-site museum and discovery centre present all the information you could wish to learn about the castle’s history via interactive displays and activities, while displays of costal defence armament give visitors a glimpse of what went into protecting Pendennis all those years ago.
Launceston, PL15 7DR
Set on a large natural mound, Launceston Castle dominates the surrounding landscape. Begun soon after the Norman Conquest, its focus is an unusual keep consisting of a 13th-century round tower built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, inside an earlier circular shell-keep. The tower top is now reached via a dark internal staircase. The castle long remained a prison and George Fox, founder of the Quakers, suffered harsh confinement here in 1656. A display traces 1,000 years of history, with finds from site excavations.
Caerhays, PL26 6LY
1979’s TV adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ was filmed here, and the book’s ‘Manderley’ is actually a private house called ‘Menabilly’, a little way up the valley from the cove. Cornwall hosts an extremely popular Du Maurier Festival every year in the middle of May. The gardens are the result of the generations of hard work and expertise of the Williams family, who helped fund some of the original plant-hunters’ expeditions. The privately-owned beaches are fantastic, there’s ample parking, safe waters and starting points for some lovely clifftop walks, too.
Lostwithiel, PL22 0EE
The castle, originally built by the Normans on a spur, overlooking the river valley, stands proudly one mile upriver from Lostwithiel. You can still make out the ruins of Restormel’s keep, gate and Great Hall, and even the kitchens and private rooms. They were built around 1100, making Restormel one of the oldest and best preserved Norman motte-and-bailey castles in Cornwall. The Castle still belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall. The views over the valley from the top of the castle wall are magnificent.
Tintagel, PL34 OHE
Tintagel Castle is famous for its association with the legend of King Arthur, who was said to be born on Tintagel Island where the remains of the 13th century Castle stand today. With its spectacular location on one of England’s most dramatic coastlines, it is an awe-inspiring place to visit and soak up the atmosphere generated by the dramatic views and wonderful legends. Tintagel Castle is set on a dramatic and picturesque headland that is virtually an island, connected to the mainland by a slim finger of land. Over the centuries much of Tintagel castle has fallen into the sea and very little remains today.
St Mawes Castle
St Mawes, TR2 5DE
If you were a fan of the 1970s BBC drama Poldark, you’re sure to recognise the dramatic coastline surrounding the castle, which featured prominently in the series. St Mawes Castle, which dates back to 1539, sits in these spectacular surroundings.
The castle, originally built as a fortress to defend the south coast of Cornwall, offers stunning views across the estuary towards Falmouth and Pendennis Castle. Visitors can take the opportunity to experience an audio tour of the castle to help bring its history to life – a popular exhibit is a Civil war cannonball found at St Mawes.
St Michael’s Mount
Marazion, TR17 0EF
This scenic tidal island off the coast of Marizion can be reached by foot via a granite causeway at low tide or by boat when the water is high.
The island enjoys a rich history, having been a thriving port for the tin industry around two thousand years ago. The real star here is the castle that tops the island, which offers a fascinating look back at the history of the island.
With beautiful gardens as well as shopping and dining options, St Michael’s Mount offers a wide range of activities that are sure to fill a fun-packed day for any visitor.