The Best Castles in Cornwall

Cornwall, the magnificent English gem that attracts a plethora of visitors every year, offers breath-taking and unbeatable views, awe-inspiring natural scenery, authentic and traditional hospitality, as well as an array of quaint and picturesque towns and villages.

On top of all of this, Cornwall also offers a multitude of fascinating, historical, and well-preserved castles, that entice and attract so many visitors each and every year. This list will highlight the best, and most unmissable castles to visit in both Devon and Cornwall, their key points of interest, as well as practical information, such as location, and opening and closing times.

16 Castles to visit in Cornwall

1. St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle – Originally constructed by King Henry VIII between the years 1540 and 1542 is the beautiful St Mawes Castle, which is an artillery fort located in Falmouth, Cornwall; its original function was the to serve as part of the King’s Device programme, as a protection against invasion.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle was still used as a fort, though in the 1850s, after the conflict with France, it was forced to redevelop. Today, the castle is open to the public and offers visitors a vivid and exciting insight into the past.

Where: Falmouth
When: 16th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

2. St Catherine’s Castle  

Built by Thomas Treffry, who was a prominent English businessman, between the years 1538 and 1540, is the historical St Catherine’s Castle, which is a Henrician Castle in Fowey, in Cornwall.

The castle was originally built as a reaction to invasion fears of England by France and the Holy Roman Empire; it thus has many critical military functions that remain present today, including five gun-ports for cannons, and its important D-shape structure.

Where: Treffry
When: 16th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

3. Pendennis Castle 

Situated in Falmouth in Cornwall, lies the Pendennis Castle, which was built by King Henry VIII between the years 1540 and 1542; like St Mawes Castle, Pendennis Castle was constructed as part of the King’s Device programme.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is used primarily as a tourist attraction, that attracts thousands of tourists annually; it is also a Grade I listed building and a scheduled monument.

Where: Falmouth
When: 16th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:00pm

4. Restormel Castle 

Scenically located upon the River Fowey, near to Lostwithiel in Cornwall, lies the gorgeous and historic Restormel Castle.

The castle’s history dates back to the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, whereby the early castle was constructed as a motte and bailey structure by Baldwin Fitz Turstin, the local sheriff.

Throughout the following centuries, the castle was fortified and modernised, and also renovated and expanded over the centuries, and is today open to the public.

Where: Lostwithiel
When: 11th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 10:00am – 15:00pm

5. Tintagel Castle  

Tintagel Castle, which is a large medieval fortification is situated upon the peninsula of Tintagel Island, which is in the North of Cornwall. It is believed that this site was occupied during the Romano-British period, as there is evidence to suggest this, though not large Roman-era structure existed; it was later settled during the Early Middle Ages, and a castle was constructed in the 13th century by Richard 1st Earl of Cornwall, before falling to ruin and disrepair.

Where: Tintagel Island
When: 13th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

Check out: Famous English castles you should visit. 

6. St Michael’s Mount

St Michael’s Mount is one of Cornwall’s most iconic and easily recognisable castles, for its distinct and dramatic appearance. The castle is located on a tidal island in Mount’s Bay, and is historically the Cornish equivalent and counterpart of the famous Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, in France.

The site of the castle dates back to the Neolithic era, though structures on it were not constructed until between the 8th and 11th centuries. Today, the castle is open to the public and it attracts a plethora of visitors annually, for its impressive history and stunning exterior; the surrounding area of the castle is also a great destination to visit, for its beautiful, winding streets, adorable shops, restaurants and cafes, as well as its impressive natural surroundings.

Where: Mount’s Bay
When: 8th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:00pm

7. Launceston Castle

Situated in the Cornish town of Launceston, is the impressive and ruined Launceston Castle; it is believed to have been built by Robert the Count of Mortain, who was a Norman nobleman, and it is likely to have been built after the year 1068.

The early castle was built from earthwork and timber, with an enormous motte, and was not rebuilt in stone until the 12th century, whereby it was developed by Richard of Cornwall. Today, Launceston Castle is open to the public, and it attracts a large number of visitors every year, due to its fascinating, layered, and diverse heritage.

Where: Launceston
When: 11th-century origins
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:30am – 16:00pm

8. Chun Castle

Situated near to the hustle and bustle of Penzance in Cornwall, lies Chun Castle, which is an enormous Iron Age hillfort, that is believed to have been constructed over 2,500 years ago.

Throughout the following centuries, the fort was excavated on several different occasions, each time many artefacts were uncovered, such as potter that dates back to the 4th century BC. Today, Chun Castle is open to the public, and many people are captivated by its expansive and layered past.

Where: Penzance
When: Iron Age
Style: Prehistoric
Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

9. Caerhays Castle

Situated in the scenic Cornish village of St Michael Caerhays lies the stunning Caerhays Castle, which translates to ‘enclosed castle’; the history of this castle dates back to the Early Middle Ages, where it belonged to the prominent and noble Arundell family, with the earliest records dating back to the year 1259.

The castle began life as a Norman castle, though over the centuries, it has changed shape and style, with each rebuild bringing with it new features and additions.

Where: St Michael Caerhays
When: 13th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

10. Doyden Castle

Doyden Castle is a stunning fortress that is perched nearly upon the edge of the cliffs on the gorgeous headland of Port Quin and offers stunning and unbeatable sea and cliff views.

The castle was initially constructed in approximately the year 1830, whereby it was owned by Samuel Symons, and it was primarily used as a location to entertain his social circle and host parties, Today, this castle is not open to the public, but is instead a holiday home that can be rented.

Where: Port Quin
When: 1830
Style: Neo-Gothic
Open for visit: Not open to the general public

11. Acton castle

Located in the village of Perranuthnoe in Cornwall lies the small but nonetheless stunning Acton Castle, which is a beautiful Grade II listed building.

It was initially constructed in the year 1775, though there is some disagreement, as many think it was 1790 instead. It was constructed by John Stackhouse of Pendarves, with the intention of studying the surrounding marine algae that were prominent in the area.

Today, the castle has been renovated into luxury apartments and is unfortunately not open to the general public.

Where: Perranuthnoe
When: 18th century
Style: Baroque
Open for visit: Not open to the public

12. Lydford Castle

Lydford Castle is an impressive medieval castle that is located in the town of Lydford in Devon, which is next to Cornwall.

This castle was constructed during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, with the primary function of controlling Devon, after the revolt against the Norman rule, in the year 1068.

This original castle was eventually abandoned and was rebuilt again in the 12th century, during a time of political, social and legal issues in England.

Where: Lydford
When: 11th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

13. Okehampton castle

Situated in Okehampton in Devon, which is just a stone’s throw away from Cornwall, lies the Okehampton Castle, which is a historic medieval motte and bailey castle that was constructed in the 11th century.

It was originally built between the years 1068 and 1086 by Baldwin Fitz Gilbert, who was a Norman Magnate; the castle was built as a result of a revolt in Devon, that rallied against Norman rule. Today, the castle is open to the public, and it is a great way of exploring local history.

Where: Okehampton
When: 11th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:00pm

14. Castle Drogo

Best Castles in England Castle Drogo

Situated near to the Devonshire village of Drewsteignton lies the beautiful and fascinating Castle Drogo, which is a large country house, that combines an array of architectural styles, both internally and externally, in the mixed-revivalist castle style.

The castle was originally built between the years 1911 and 1930 and is famous for being the last castle ever constructed in England. Since 1974, the castle has been part of the National Trust and is open to the public.

Where: Drewsteignton
When: 20th century
Style: Mixed-revivalist
Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

15. Totnes castle

Best English Castles Totnes-Castle

Located in the scenic Devonshire town of Totness, and towering above the River Dart, lies the beautiful and historic Totnes Castle, which is an incredibly well-preserved Norman motte and bailey style castle.

The castle that exists today was predominantly built during the 14th century, and an impressive stone keep and curtain wall remain from that period today. This castle is owned by the English Heritage and is a popular tourist destination for those visiting the area.

Where: Totness
When: 14th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 10:00am – 16:30pm

16. Dartmouth castle

Dartmouth castle - best castles in Devon
Dartmouth castle

Dartmouth Castle is a large and impressive artillery fort, located in Dartmouth in Devon; its original purpose was to protect Dartmouth harbour, and some of the earliest existing parts of the castle date way back to around the 1380s.

The castle has played a critical military role throughout the centuries that it has stood, including during the English Civil War of the 17th century. It has also been demolished and rebuilt on several occasions, and many visitors today are drawn in by its multi-layered history.

Where: Dartmouth
When: 1380s
Style: Medieval
Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

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