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The History Behind Cornwall’s Castles image header

27th March 2017 | Regional News

The History Behind Cornwall’s Castles

Cornwall is renowned for its beautiful beaches, sparkling seas and traditional cuisine, such as the Cornish pasty and clotted cream. However, what many people don’t know is the region is also home to many historic castles, where you can take a step back in time and learn about Cornwall’s mysterious past.

Many castle ruins in Cornwall still stand, and their distinct features give you the chance to imagine how people used to live thousands of years ago. You’ll get to learn all about Cornwall’s cherished heritage, taking in fascinating facts about how the castles survived battles and the conditions in which those battles took place.

The region is rife with historic castles that are just waiting to be explored. From coastal strongholds to country fortresses, here are a few of our favourite castles that you can visit for a magical, family day out on your next holiday in Cornwall.

Launceston Castle, Launceston

Set on top of a large hill dominating the town’s skyline, you can discover thousands of years’ worth of fascinating history. Built after the Norman Conquest, Launceston Castle was constructed in a strategic location in 1068. Previously known as Dunhevet, the castle controlled most of the area between Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor, and the access over the Polson Ford into Cornwall. This historic landmark became the administrative centre for the Earls of Cornwall, and in the late 12th century, a circular stone structure was constructed on the castle’s motte, along with two stone gatehouses and towers along the walls.


Video sourced from Cornishlivingtv

Just 45 minutes from Looe Bay Holiday Park and St Minver Holiday Park, Launceston Castle makes a fantastic day out for the whole family. You can learn all about the castle’s history at an exciting exhibition, climb up the battlements to see panoramic views of the town, picnic in the picturesque grounds and visit the North Gatehouse which once served as a prison. You’ll also get the opportunity to get dressed up in historic costumes, making the perfect family photo!

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth

If you’re holidaying in Cornwall, why not take a trip to discover one of Henry VIII’s finest coastal fortresses; Pendennis Castle. Just 45 minutes away from Mullion Holiday Park and Sea Acres Holiday Park, you can explore the castle which has defended Cornwall against invasion since Tudor times. You’ll get the chance to see how the castle has evolved over time, and experience the real-life sounds and sights of battle.


Video sourced from graham New

Dominating the high rocky headland overlooking the English Channel, the castle was built in the 16th century by Henry VIII. Over the next 400 years, the castle provided a coastal defence against many attacks, including both World Wars.

One of the highlights of visiting Pendennis Castle is the ‘Fortress Falmouth and the First World War’ exhibition. Packed with displays of letters, photos, and artefacts from this period, you can truly immerse yourself in how Pendennis and Falmouth played a role in the conflict. You’ll also get the opportunity to visit the Victorian War Shelter, which shows you what it would have looked like when it was used as a gunpowder store. Here you will get to see how the gunners would have left the room, after being called out to man the guns, with meals left out on the tables to really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Don’t forget to listen out for the Noonday Gun, which is fired every day during the summer season.

Tintagel Castle, Tintagel

Just 30 minutes from St Minver Holiday Park is Tintagel Castle; a magical fortress filled with history and surrounded by stunning scenery. Half built on the rugged headland of the Cornish sea, and half on the mainland, it’s one of the most historic sites in the UK.


Video sourced from Paul Dinning

The castle was built in 1233, and after a period as a Roman settlement and military outpost, it became a trading settlement for the Celtic kings of Cornwall. It’s also well-known in Britain for its association with King Arthur. This began in the 12th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth alleged that Tintagel was the place of Arthur’s conception.

A day trip to Tintagel Castle will give you the chance to step into legend and mystery, and there’s plenty of interesting activities to do, and spectacular sights to see along the way. You can start your discovery with the exhibition ‘Where History Meets Legend’, where you can see artefacts on display for the first time, as well as a 3D model of the headland, demonstrating how the site has developed through time.

You can also climb the 148 steps to what was once the Great Hall, and explore the remains of the Dark Age settlement, before taking a stroll along one of Tintagel’s best-kept secrets; the beach below the castle.

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel

Sitting peacefully beside the River Fowey is Restormel Castle, well-known for its unique, perfectly circular design. Once believed to be the luxurious home of the Earl of Cornwall, the castle hosts spectacular panoramic views and is a popular walking spot amongst tourists.

Built during the 12th and early 13th centuries, this rare type of fortification is in remarkably good condition, and you can still make out the ruins of the tower, gate, Great Hall, kitchens, and private rooms. The castle was built behind a 17-meter moat, on slopes that were artificially steepened, making it a strong defence against enemies. This meant that Restormel only saw action once during its long history, where parts were ruined during the Civil War in 1644.

This historic castle is only 30 minutes away from Looe Bay Holiday Park, White Acres Holiday Park, and Newquay Holiday Park, so if you’re holidaying in Cornwall you can see this magical place for yourself. When you stand inside the grounds you can picture how the castle’s rooms would have looked, with its large fireplaces and high windows.

The site is a haven for wildlife lovers, and you should keep an eye out for the ‘Tetraphasis Obscurus’, also known as the ‘Black Pheasant’, which can be spotted in the grounds and nearby woodland. This is also a perfect picnic spot, where you can sit back and take in the panoramic views of the peaceful countryside, the beautiful flowers which bloom in Spring, and the flow of the River Fowey.


Video sourced from Nigel Moran

Have you visited any castles in Cornwall? If so, we’d love to hear about it on our Twitter or Facebook page.

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