Cornwall is a magnificent coastal gem in England that attracts visitors wanting to explore its diverse beauty and history. You’ll be captivated by the many castles in Cornwall that make for enchanted trips for everyone; families, solo travellers and couples.
Now, we know that a large part of why people visit Cornwall is the sandy white beaches which are a rare find in the UK. But you don’t have to be a total beach bum to enjoy Cornwall.
With so many fun things to do and beautiful Cornwall boutique hotels to stay in, you won’t be left wondering how to fill your days on this trip.
The magical castles listed below will blow your mind with their grandeur, beauty and history. Try and see them all, but if you can’t fit it all in, you just have a great excuse to head back to Cornwall.
If you are planning your whole trip around finding the best Castles in Europe then your trip to Cornwall will be very satisfying.
9 Magical Castles in Cornwall
1. St. Michael’s Mount
This iconic Cornwall castle is easily recognized for its grand and dramatic appearance. Situated on an island in Mount’s Bay, you can’t miss a visit to this architectural masterpiece.
It is estimated that the first structure was built on the site in the 12th Century. The impressive structure has since been built up over time to be the size that it is today.
The castle is open to the public and you’ll be in awe as you learn about its history. It has endured and survived military action in a number of wars, including two sieges.
The castle isn’t the only thing you’ll enjoy about visiting the tidal island. It is also home to charming winding streets, quaint shops and wonderful restaurants. A trip to St Michael’s Mount makes for a magical day of sightseeing.
2. Launceston Castle
Launceston is the ancient capital of Cornwall and home to the Launceston Castle. It is believed to have been built by a Norman Nobleman, Robert the Count of Mortain, and is one of the first places the Norman conquerors built a castle.
The castle was also once the administrative building for the Earl of Cornwall and was an important location in assisting in keeping control of the surrounding areas.
It confined famous prisoners and was the base for the Cornish Royalist defence. Learn about this and the castle’s colourful past with the exhibition on site that traces 1000 years of the Launceston Castle history.
Be sure to climb the stairs to the top of the structure to enjoy views of the city. You can also picnic in the beautiful gardens around the castle at the end of your charming day of exploring.
3. St Catherine’s Castle
St Catherine’s Castle was built in the 1530s by Henry VIII as a small artillery fort to defend Fowey Harbour. The fortress is a two-storey, D shaped tower with two rows of gunports that face towards the estuary and harbour.
This is one of the smallest castles in Cornwall and was modified during the Crimean War in the 19th Century and again during the Second World War.
The entrance to St Catherine’s Castle is free and it’s just a short walk from the South West Coastal path. Plan your visit to incorporate a scenic walk along the coastal paths, they won’t disappoint.
4. Restormel Castle
The Restormel Castle is now standing in ruins in the stunning countryside on a hill near Lostwithiel. The circular structure was built in the late 13th Century as a luxurious retreat for its medieval owners.
The castle is mainly in ruins but as you explore the structure you will be able to see clues and hints of the grandeur that was once alive in this building. Large fireplaces, high windows and an opulent Great Hall will set the scene of what once was.
As you walk through the inside of the keep you’ll envision what it must have been like living in the castle during the bustle of its heyday. From the courtyard, you will spot a stone staircase.
Climb to the top and you will be treated to views over the stunning countryside that surrounds the castle.
5. Caerhays Castle and Gardens
This lavish castle and its gardens are exceptionally beautiful. This impressive building was built as a private residence and is not a royal castle with ancient history. Dating back to the early middle ages the home was owned by the noble Arundell family.
It was later inherited by the Trevanion family who commissioned famous architect John Nash to add to the castellated mansion. The debt incurred by the Trevanion family caused them to flee to Paris and the castle was bought by a local member of Parliament, Micheal Williams.
The castle is tucked within a Cornish Cove surrounded by beautiful wooded land and never-ending views of Porthluney beach. The gardens and castle are open to the public during the summer months and also make for a dreamy wedding venue.
6. Tintagel Castle
The ruins of Tintagel Castle are some of the most famous in Cornwall as the clifftop ruins are believed to have been the fortress for King Arthur and other legends. This medieval fortification is situated in the North of Cornwall on Tintagel Island.
Get lost in a world of myths, history and stunning scenery when you visit these castle ruins. The coastal paths on the island ensure stunning views of the rocky cliffs and sea.
Recently the Tintagel Castle Bridge has been built to unite the two halves of the Tintagel Castle, a landmark project for this Cornwall heritage site.
This site has inspired many artists and writers and you’ll understand why once you have visited this wondrous area.
7. Chun Castle
Chun Castle is a large iron age fort near Penzance, thought to date back 2500 years. The circular fortress has two walls a few metres high and encloses the ruins of several roundhouses.
The history of the castle is largely ambiguous. But its elevated positioning with views over the Atlantic, Mount’s Bay and the land route to Penwith Peninsula suggest that this castle was used for defensive purposes.
Excavations of the area in the 1920s and 1930s brought about the discovery of a large amount of pottery. Historians suggest that this points out that the main phase of occupation was between the 3rd Century BC and the 1st Century AD.
Exploring these ruins will be an interesting contrast to the other grand and dramatic castles that are found in Cornwall. You’re sure to enjoy the unique history and experience.
8. St Mawes Castle
St Mawes Castle is a well-preserved coastal fortress that was built between 1539 and 1545 by Henry VIII. It was built as part of a chain of forts to counter any attacks.
In addition to being extremely functional from a military point of view, the castle also boasts creative architecture. The clover-leaf shaped building shows off elaborately carved decorations of sea monsters and gargoyles.
Wander around this charming building as you learn about the history and take in the expansive sea views from the top of the castle. Be sure to check out the ‘oubliette’ where prisoners were held captive and explore the exquisite grounds surrounding the castle.
Also built by Henry VIII to defend the country from attack and invasion, Pendennis Castle has successfully defended Cornwall and played a significant role in both World Wars. This castle is in Falmouth, situated on the opposite headland to its twin, St Mawes Castle.
Both fortresses were built for the same reason but St Mawes has more elaborate architectural grandeur while Pendennis was more functional. The original building consisted of a simple round keep, enclosed with a curtain wall.
Over the years this was developed and expanded and improvements were going on until the end of World War II.
From the top of the keep, you’ll be able to experience what it felt like to scan the horizon for enemies (as well as have your breath taken away by the beautiful views of the sea and city).
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Final Thoughts on Discovering Cornwall Castles
Cornwall is filled with charm and awe-inspiring architecture. Ancient history is evident in so many aspects of this gorgeous region of England.
There is no better way to experience this magic than exploring the grand castles, basking in the beauty and history. Be sure to also check out some of the spas in Cornwall to relax after a long day of exploring.
You’ll be delighted by every castle adventure from the list above. Whether you want to delve deep into the history of each castle, or just enjoy the diverse buildings and fortresses that protected the coastal town of Cornwall, you are in for a treat.
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