English Heritage: 5 castles in Cornwall

St Mawes Castle Cornwall English Heritage

Pendennis Castle - Falmouth
Take a trip to Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, one of the finest of the mighty fortresses built by Henry VIII to defend the country against invasion. The castle has seen action in many conflicts and was one of the last royalist strongholds to fall during the English Civil War. You can witness a Tudor gun deck in action here and see how the Guardhouse was equipped during the First World War. This award-winning visitor attraction also boasts an exciting interactive exhibition where you can experience the sights and sounds of battle and relive an enemy attack on a Second World War observation post.

Don't miss

  • The recreated Tudor gun room
  • Getting hands-on in the Discovery Centre
  • Exciting interactive exhibitions
  • Seeing the Butterworth wartime cartoons on display
  • A visit to the tearoom

Tintagel Castle - Tintagel
For a magical day out in Cornwall, take the family to Tintagel Castle. Its wonderful location, set high on the rugged North Cornwall coast, offers dramatic views, and its fascinating ruins and stunning beach cafe make it a perfect day trip. Tintagel Castle is steeped in legend and mystery; said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, you can still visit the nearby Merlin's Cave. The castle also features in the tale of Tristan and Isolde. With a history stretching as far back as the Romans, Tintagel Castle is one of the most iconic visitor attractions in the south west.

Don't miss

  • The introductory video 'Searching for Arthur'
  • The rugged trail to the 'island'
  • A visit to the stunning beach cafe
  • The 'tunnel' on the 'island' what was it used for?

St Mawes Castle - St Mawes
St Mawes Castle is among the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses, and the most elaborately decorated of them all. One of a chain of forts built between 1539 and 1545 to counter an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain, it guarded the important anchorage of Carrick Roads, sharing the task with Pendennis Castle on the other side of the Fal estuary.

A charming clover-leaf shape originally surrounded by octagonal outer defences, St Mawes was designed to mount heavy 'ship-sinking' guns. But particular care was also taken with its embellishment, and it is still bedecked with carved Latin inscriptions in praise of King Henry VIII and his son Edward VI. It owes its fine preservation to the fact that unlike Pendennis Castle, it was little developed after its completion.

Easily falling to a landward attack by Civil War Parliamentarian forces in 1646, it remained neglected until partial re-arming during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Other coastal forts built by Henry VIII include Portland, Deal and Walmer Castles.

Don't miss

  • The 'gunners' at rest in the gun room
  • Browsing in the the shop for that special souvenir or unusual gift
  • Taking the audio tour that brings the castle to life
  • Seeing the only Civil War cannonball ever found at St. Mawes

Launceston Castle - Launceston
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.

Don't miss

  • The exhibition tracing 1000 years of history
  • Browsing in the shop for that special souvenir
  • Climbing to the battlements for impressive views

Restormel Castle - Lostwithiel
The great 13th century circular shell-keep of Restormel still encloses the principal rooms of the castle in remarkably good condition. It stands on an earlier Norman mound surrounded by a deep dry ditch, atop a high spur beside the River Fowey. Twice visited by the Black Prince, it finally saw action during the Civil War in 1644. It commands fantastic views and is a favourite picnic spot.

Don't miss

  • The Bluebells and Daffodils in the spring
  • The panoramic views of the peaceful countryside

Visit the English Heritage website for more properties in Cornwall. 

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