Castles in Cornwall

How many castles are there in Cornwall? How many could you name? I was shocked to discover I didn't know all the castles as some of them are hidden away, as nice private castles ....

There are 15 castles in Cornwall, some castles are owned by the National Trust and some castles are owned by English Heritage - a few are private castles.

The definition of Castle is fairly loose - sometimes it means where a King has lived, at other times where a member of nobility has lived. Other places are called castles just from a sense of grandeur, or colloquial naming.

Four Norman Castles:

Personally, for me, the name of "castle" really only ever means these ancient structures.

In Cornwall the four main Norman castles were at Restormel, Trematon, Tintagel and Launceston. King Henry VIII, however, built a line of castles along the coast of England in an effort to protect against invasion by the French and Spanish, from about 1540 onwards.

Whether you're looking for a medieval castle, one of King Henry VIIIs castles, or a more whimsical castle-style building, there are many in Cornwall to explore.


The Ancient Chapel at Caerhayes

Castles in Cornwall: Ancient Chapel at Caerhayes Castle, Cornwall.    CC BY-SA 2.0
Castles in Cornwall: Ancient Chapel at Caerhayes Castle, Cornwall. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Caerhays Castle Facts:

  • Parts of the ancient chapel remain.
  • Current castle was completed in 1810.
  • Grade I Listed status attained in 1988.

Address:

Caerhays Estate, PL26 6LY

Caerhayes Castle

Caerhayes Castle is a semi-castellated manor house, built by John Bettesworth-Trevanion and built in 1808-1810 by John Nash, the architect who designed Buckingham Palace when it was remodelled from Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace in 1825-1830. It was the redesign of Buckingham Palace that finished Nash's career as his over-spend made him fall out of favour and he was never again awarded any official commissions and he was denied a Knighthood that other architects had come to expect.

Caerhayes Castle overlooks Porthluny Beach - the land had been passed through the family for centuries, first being mentioned in 1259. When John Bettesworth-Trevanion inherited the old manor house from his uncle, in 1801, he decided to build the new Caerhayes Castle close by.. However, things didn't go to plan and he had to flee the country to escape his mounting debts. The castle was then sold in 1854 after bailiffs had seized it.

Parts of the original estate remain, including an ancient chapel as well as an old walkway to the sea - this retains the name of the Watchhouse Walk.

The Castle was granted Grade I listing in 1988.

Gardens

Caerhayes Castle is open to the public and there are some popular gardens on the site to visit. The castle garden covers almost 120 acres, traversed by four routes and navigated by trails, grassy paths, and steps. The garden is home to 600 varieties of plants, including trees and shrubs.

Caerhays Castle gardens have an international reputation for their camellias, rhododendrons and the National Magnolia Collection, which is the largest collection of magnolicas in England.

Castle an Dinas Facts:

Site of an ancient hill fort, over 2000 years old.

Free to visit.

Castle an Dinas (earthworks)

Although not a castle, Castle an Dinas is worth a mention. Castle an Dinas is an iron age Celtic fort that dates back over 2,000 years, from about 2-3 B.C. Consisting of three concentric circles, of ditch and rampart, it's in a field, 700 feet above sea level, at the roadside. The circles measure 850 feet in diameter.

This is allegedly the hunting lodge of King Arthur, who lived at Tintagel Castle.

Free to visit, if you're passing it'll take just 5-10 minutes of your time. Castle an Dinas is well signposted from the road and you'll probably find you're the only person there when you visit.

Castle an Dinas is probably the finest and most important hill-fort in Cornwall, occupying a very prominent and central position in the county and commanding an extended view across a very large tract of land. The diameter of the circle here is 500-600'.

The fort was the subject of a paper read at Castle-an-Dinas, on 5 July 1921 by Henry Jenner, MA, FSA,

Carn Brea Castle (Restaurant)

Casltes in Cornwall: Carn Brea Castle.    CC BY-SA 3.0
Casltes in Cornwall: Carn Brea Castle. CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

Address:

Carn Brea Castle,

Carn Lane, Carnkie, Redruth,

Cornwall, TR16 6SL

Carn Brea Castle

Originally built in 1379 as a chapel, Carn Brea Castle is very intriguing. It was extensively remodelled in the 18th century by the Basset family, who used it as a hunting lodge. In 1898 the lease stipulated that a light must be left burning at all times, as a beacon to aid shipping.

Carn Brea Castle is quite a tiny castle, measuring just 60'x10' in size and consisting of just 4 rectangular turrets round a core of the same height and an embattled parapet, all built and perched on a huge stone outcrop, falling away steeply on one side.

Over the years, the building fell into disuse and disrepair, until it was listed as Grade II and then bought in 1975 and renoved over the next 5 years. By the 1980s it had been further changed and was operating as a restaurant.With a limited electricity supply, it was very common for meals to be served by candlelight.

The restaurant is owned by Mr Mounir Sawalha, the uncle of Nadia Sawalha who is a popular TV presenter. Food is Middle Eastern cuisine.

Satnav: TR16 6SL

Castle Dore (Fort)

Castle Dore is an iron age hill fort, near Fowey on the South Coast of Cornwall. Dating from 4-1 BC it was occupied and developed until at least the 700 AD when a large, timber, hall was built.


Castle Dore is the seat of dark ages King of Cornwall, King Mark - often mentioned in the King Arthur stories.

There is a plaque on the site, erected in 1964 by the Tywardreath Old Cornwall Society, which reads:

These earthworks, 225ft in diameter, enclosed a village dating from the 3rd to 1st centuries BC.
In the 6th century AD they surrounded the wooden hall of King Mark of Cornwall, who figures in the history of Tristan and Isbult and who is named on the stone found near here and now at the four turnings, Fowey.
On 31st August 1644 the site was held by Parliamentary forces and taken by the Royalists.
Erected by Tywardreath Old Cornwall Society, 1864

Chûn Castle (Fort)

Chûn Castle is a large hill fort near Penzance, Cornwall. Originally built about 500 BC, it fell into disuse until about 600 AD when it was probably re-used to help protect the valuable tin mines that were starting to export tin around the world.

There have been a number of studies and excavations of this fort, which produced a lot of pottery. Adjacent to Chûn Castle is a much older fort, dating back to 2,500 BC.

Ince Castle (private manor house)

Built in 1642, this isn't a proper castle, but is a brick built manor house, three miles inland of Saltash.

It is in private ownership and so the house and gardens are only occasionally open to the public.

Launceston Castle, Cornwall

Csstles in Cornwall: Launceston Castle, Launceston, Cornwall.    CC BY-SA 2.0
Csstles in Cornwall: Launceston Castle, Launceston, Cornwall. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Launceston Castle Facts:

  • Launceston Castle is one of four Normal castles in Cornwall.
  • In 1973 Prince Charles was officially proclaimed Duke of Cornwall here.
  • Launceston Castle is now maintained by English Heritage.


Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle was built in the years after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, so is now over 900 years old. Originally a Norman motte and bailey type, today it's just ruins.

In the past Launceston Castle has been used as administrative headquarters for the county and was also where people were known to have been hanged, giving it the name of Castle Terrible in its history. Used on and off across the centuries, it was never consistently particularly significant during this time.

The Castle is an unusual keep, consisting of a 13th century round tower that was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, inside an earlier circular shell-keep. The tower top can be reached via a dark internal staircase

In 1973 Prince Charles was officially proclaimed Duke of Cornwall at Launceston Castle.

The public can visit Launceston Castle, which is operated by English Heritage. English Heritage members gain free entry, tickets for an adult are approximately £4.

Maen Castle (Earthworks)

Maen Castle is a hill fort near Land's End, Cornwall and is one of only two ancient fortified sites where pottery has been found.

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth

Castles in Cornwall: Pendennis Castle, Falmouth.
Castles in Cornwall: Pendennis Castle, Falmouth. | Source

Blockhouse at Pendennis Castle, Falmouth

Castles in Cornwall: Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall.      CC BY-SA 2.0
Castles in Cornwall: Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Pendennis Castle Location

Address:

Castle Close, Falmouth, Cornwall - TR11 4LP

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle, at Falmouth, is one of the more significant castles in Cornwall. Pendennis was built in 1539 for King Henry VIII to guard the entrance to the River Fal to prevent invasion. It was built as a pair of castles, the other one being St Mawes Castle on the opposite side of the river. Both of the castles are maintained and operated by English Heritage.

Pendennis Castle is a simple round tower and gate enclosed by a lower curtain wall.

During the Civil War Pendennis Castle was under siege for five months in 1646 when it was the last Royalist position in the West of England, It became the last castle to fall in England. 1000 men, women and children survived the siege, but were starved out.

Outside of the castle grounds there are some blockhouses down by the water's edge. You can visit the blockhouses for free - and a free car park alongside the road that circumvents the castle grounds, where you can often usually buy an ice-cream. There are entry fees to visit Pendennis Castle and grounds.

Run by English Heritage, members get free entry. The adult ticket price for non-members is £6.70.

Pengersick Castle, Cornwall

Castles in Cornwall: Pengersick Castle, probably the most haunted place in Cornwall.
Castles in Cornwall: Pengersick Castle, probably the most haunted place in Cornwall. | Source
Dark Lord of Pengersick
Dark Lord of Pengersick

This book is perfect for kids if you plan to visit Pengersick Castle. Ideal for fans of fantasy and adventure, this is the book for you! Follow the adventures of Mabby and Jago as they quest for magic to forever free their home land from the dark lord.

 

Pengersick Castle

Pengersick Castle is privately owned and probably the most haunted place in Cornwall, possibly the most haunted house in England - and maybe in Europe.

Pengersick Castle was built in the reign of King Henry VIII when he built a string of castles along vulnerable coastlines and estuaries - he wanted to protect against the French or the Spanish armies invading.

In 1980 a children's fantasy book was published, called "The Dark Lord of Pengersick" that author apparently based his fiction on myths and legends surrounding Pengersick Castle.

Although closed for refurbishment, the public can visit Pengersick Castle, with adult tickets costing £10. The Castle will re-open in 2014.

Pentillie Castle (private B&B)

I've included a mention of Pentillie Castle purely because of its name. Built in 1689, it is a private house that was converted to be castle-like in its past. It's not the usual type of castle that you think about when the word Castle is mentioned, which is one of ancient wars and kings.

Pentillie Castle was featured on a television programme as it was brought back into use and is now a B&B/Hotel.

Restormel Castle, Cornwall

Castles in Cornwall: Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel.
Castles in Cornwall: Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel. | Source

Restormel Castle Facts:

  • Restormel Castle is one of Cornwall's four Norman castles.
  • It hasn't been lived in since the end of the Civil War (approximately 1644).
  • Restormel Castle is perfectly round - and at one time had running water piped in from a nearby spring.
  • Restormel Castle is maintained by English Heritage

Restormel Castle

Restormel Castle is a few miles north of Lostwithiel and is one of the more important castles in Cornwall - it's one of the four chief Normal castles, with the others being Tintagel, Trematon and Launceston.

Restormel castle is unusual as it is perfectly round.

Built after the Battle of Hastings (1066), Restormel Castle was ruined in the English Civil War (1644) and deteriorated thereafter. In the 450-500 years of its life it was used only occasionally as a residence or admin offices and was never a location of legends. The 2nd Earl of Cornwall refurbished the castle as his home, in about 1290-1300, to a very high standard, including running water which was piped in from a natural spring nearby. After his death (~1300) all his estates went to the Crown.

In 1925 the castle was handed over to the state and is now maintained by English Heritage and it is open to the public. Postcode: PL22 0EE

St Catherine's Castle

Castles in Cornwall: St Catherine's Castle.    CC BY-SA 3.0
Castles in Cornwall: St Catherine's Castle. CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

St Catherine's Castle Facts:

St Catherine's Castle is a free visitor attraction in Cornwall.

Address:

Fowey, Cornwall

It has no formal address as it's on a rocky outcrop above Readymoney Cove.

St Catherine's Castle

St Catherine's Castle at Fowey isn't what I'd call a proper castle, so it's listed here simply because it has the word castle in its name.

St Catherine’s Castle is one of a number of small harbour defence castles built by Henry VIII when he was defending the coast of England against foreign invasion in the late 1530s, although it is mentioned in a book about Fowey in 1540 as being "half made".

Sitting on St Catherine's Point, Thomas Treffry supervised the building of this small fort, before going on to build Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle. Although this castle was used for 100 years, by 1684 it was described as being just a ruin. Since that date it has been used and abandoned on a few occasions, including housing two naval guns during the second world war..

English Heritage now manage and maintain the site.

St Mawes Castle

Castles of Cornwall: St Mawes Castle, Built by King Henry VIII.      CC BY 3.0
Castles of Cornwall: St Mawes Castle, Built by King Henry VIII. CC BY 3.0 | Source

St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle was built by King Henry VIII as part of his coastal defences against invading French and Spanish armies. Built at the beginning of the Fal Estuary in Cornwall, across the water is its, larger, twin castle of Pendennis.

Owned and operated by English Heritage, St Mawes Castle is open to the public and has quite a large car park adjacent. English Heritage members get free entry, an adult ticket costs £4.50.

The main part of St Mawes Castle consists of a round central keep, or gun tower, with three bastions attached to it. The castle design was flawed as it would not have been able to defend an attack from the water as it is set too high up - for this reason, there was a smaller blockhouse built at the lower shore level at a later date.

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

Casltes in Cornwall: St Michael's Mount, Marazion.
Casltes in Cornwall: St Michael's Mount, Marazion. | Source

St Michael's Mount

St Michael's Mount isn't actually a castle, it started life as a monastery and was used for a lot of religious groups over the centuries. Various buildings have existed on the Mount, including a priory church that was destroyed in an earthquake of 1269; this priory church was rebuilt about 100 years later and is still in use today 700 years later.

St Michael's Mount was under siege for 23 weeks in 1473, with 6000 troops waiting for them to surrender.

In 1755 there was a tsunami round the Mount.

During the second world war, the Mount was fortified against German invasion.

It is free to visit the island of the Mount, but there is an entrance fee for the Castle itself.

Tintagel Castle (ruins)

Castles in Cornwall: Tintagel Castle, the ruins of King Arthur's Castle.
Castles in Cornwall: Tintagel Castle, the ruins of King Arthur's Castle. | Source

Tintagel Castle (Ruins)

Castles of Cornwall: Tintagel Castle, the Legend of King Arthur.  Tintagel, Cornwall.      CC BY-SA 2.0
Castles of Cornwall: Tintagel Castle, the Legend of King Arthur. Tintagel, Cornwall. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is where King Arthur is alleged to have lived. Perched on the edge of a cliff in North Cornwall, the castle originally spanned a rock arch, which collapsed one day, leaving this as a castle of two halves.

Although in ruins, Tintagel Castle is open to the public.

Trematon Castle

Casltes in Cornwall: Trematon Castle, owned by Prince Charles
Casltes in Cornwall: Trematon Castle, owned by Prince Charles | Source

Trematon Castle Facts:

  • Since 1270 Trematon Castle has remained the property of the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall without interruption.
  • Trematon is one of four Norman castles in Cornwall.
  • The Castle is currently owned by Prince Charles.
  • There is no public access or admission.

Trematon Castle

The ruins of Trematon Castle are owned by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, Trematon Castle is never open to the public. The Castle has remained the property of the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall since 1270 without interruption.

This is one of the four Normal castles in Cornwall, situated near Saltash on the Devon/Cornwall border. Although it is in ruins, most of the original Norman walls still remain. the keep has walls 10' thick (3 metres) - and they are 30' high (9 metres).

Inside, the diameter is 21 metres/69 feet. There is a portcullis on the keep, that is still in good condition.

In about 1808 a house was built inside the castle's walls and some of the original castle walls were demolished so the house had a good view of the surrounding countryside.

Acton Castle, Perranuthnoe

At Perranuthnoe you'll find Acton Castle, a grade II* listed building with panoramic views across Mounts Bay. Built in the 1770s, for John Stackhouse, marine biologist. He built it so he could carry out research into seaweeds - and you can even still see the remains of the channel cut to bring seaweed up to the Castle from the cove below. The Castle was named after his wife, Susanna née Acton, who he had married on 21 April 1773. Susanna was the daughter of Edward Acton of Acton Scott in Shropshire. John Stackhouse was a fairly local man, having been born ~1742 at Trehane, Probus, near Truro. He was the son of Rev William Stackhouse.

Originally it was just the central 4-storey part, but the castle was extended in the 19th/20th century, with a new wing on either side of the original square building.

Acton Castle has always been a private residence. In 1797 John Stackhouse was living at Acton Castle, having published his book illustrated work on marine algae, known as Nereis Britannica. John was often away from the Castle a lot, so had as his tenant, caretaker and keyholder, John Carter, the famous smuggler, who is more popularly known as the King of Prussia. There has always even been a local rumour that there is a hidden smuggling tunnel from the Castle to the beach, although no evidence of this has ever been seen.

John Stackhouse died on 22 November 1819.

The Castle had been sold in 1802 to Vice-Admiral Bulkeley Mackworth Praed, who made the Castle his home.

In 1856 Thomas Field was living at the Castle; in 1861 it was home to Richard Lanyon.

The Castle was run as a hotel for most of the 1900s, until the late 1980s, when Acton Castle was converted into spacious flats - and two adjacent flats were for sale at £825,000 in 2016, with a suggestion they could be knocked together to form one much larger flat.

Address: Trevean Ln, Penzance TR20 9PF

Castles and Places Called Castles in Cornwall:

Castle
Type
Built
Owned by
Caerhays Castle
Manor House
1808
Private House
Castle an Dinas
Hill fort
Prehistoric
---
Carn Brea
Complete, restaurant
pre 1379
Privately owned restaurant
Castle Dore
Hill fort
Prehistoric
---
Chûn Castle
Hill fort
500 BC
---
Ince Castle
Manor House
1642
---
Launceston Castle
Ruins
~1100
Duchy of Cornwall, run by English Heritage
Maen Castle
Earthworks
500BC
National Trust
Pendennis Castle
Complete
1539
English Heritage
Pergersick Castle
Tower
1500
Private House
Pentillie Castle
B&B/Hotel
1698
Private business
Restormel Castle
Ruins
~1100
English Heritage
St Catherine's Castle
Ruins
1536
English Heritage
St Mawes Castle
Complete
1539
English Heritage
St Michael's Mount
Complete
1135
National Trust
Tintagel Castle
Ruins
1233
English Heritage
Trematon Castle
Ruins
~1200
Prince of Wales

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Comments 1 comment

norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 6 months ago from California

Very good Hub with a lot of great information. I love reading about Castles. I have written articles about them for other sites but nothing as detailed and this Hub of yours. The pictures are also great. Looking forward to reading more of your Hubs. I just started with Hub Pages and only have e 8 Hubs so far.

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