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The historic castles of Cornwall

Cornwall has over 19 historic castles dating back over a thousand years making a great family day out
Travelling down the A30 it is hard to miss the ruins of Launceston Castle on their steep natural mound or “motte”. The castle has a circular keep within the well preserved curtain wall and and imposing castle gatehouse. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower via the internal staircase and get great views of the town. Dating back to 1067, the castle guarded the main route into Cornwall. Launceston was the main administrative centre of the Earls of Cornwall until 1272, when it was moved to Loswithiel.

Restormel Castle in Loswithiel was built in 1100 overlooking the River Fowey. You can understand how it survived with its massive eight feet thick walls which stand 25 feet high with battlements along the top. The living quarters, great hall and kitchens are still in good condition. The castle was part of the Duchy of Cornwall from 1337 but it became derelict and totally overgrown. It was finally uncovered in 1925 and English Heritage now manages it. Seven miles north is Cardinham Castle, an 11th century ringwork and bailey fortification.

Pendennis is an excellent attraction with its two storey castle guarding Falmouth Estuary. It was built in 1540 by Henry VIII to protect the coast from French and Spanish invasions. It has a keep, barracks and guardhouse in excellent condition with informative exhibits and guided tours. Follow the rock tunnels to the Half Moon Gun Battery where the Noon Day Gun is still fired in the summer. On the opposite side of the Fal Estuary is the delightful St Mawes Castle with its series of round towers. Well preserved, you can still see Latin inscriptions in the stonework and cannons positioned between the battlements.

The offshore castle at St Michael’s Mount is a National Trust treasure in Marazion Bay. Reached by boat or causeway at low tide, guided tours of the magnificent furnished interior and the beautiful gardens make this one of the most visited Cornish Castles. It was built as a monastery in the 8th century.

On the north coast of Cornwall is the 11th century Bossiney Castle, one mile east of Tintagel and three miles southwest of Bottreaux Castle, which is now just a few earthworks. Little remains of Tintagel Castle but its size, magnificent setting and connections with King Arthur make it a unique place to visit. The original fortress dates back to between 400 and 700AD. Just south of Redruth, Carn Brea Castle has twin towers and is a 15th century sham.

On the Scilly Isles, Cromwell’s Castle stands on the island of Tresco and is a three-storey tower with a gun platform. Nearby on St Mary’s, Star Castle was built in 1593 by Frances Godolphin and is in the shape of an eight-pointed star.

Other interesting castles in Cornwall include Maen Cliff Castle, Chun Castle, an iron Age hill fort, and Caerhays Castle, built as a private home by John Nash in 1807. Ince Castle and Trematon Castle with its oval keep, gatehouse and portcullis are both privately owned near Saltash. The fortified manor of Pengersick Castle and St Catherine’s Castle, which guards the mouth of the River Fowey, are both well-known landmarks.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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