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CASTLES IN DEVON AND CORNWALL TO VISIT FOR VACATION

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  • Post last modified:February 18, 2024
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With nearly 700 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that Devon and Cornwall have a plethora of castles. When it came to protecting an island, the English nobles of the past recognized there was no such thing as being too cautious.

A network of castles may be found inland, in addition to a number of powerful fortifications guarding vital commerce ports.

Only a few are still owned by families that have been associated with them for centuries. Most of them are now retired, and some are only a shell of their former selves. There are, nevertheless, some locations where castle life continues to this day.

Whatever happens to them, the castles of Devon and Cornwall remain extremely evocative and intriguing locations to visit. Every soaring turret and stately stone archway has a tale to tell.

Visit these castles in Devon and Cornwall to follow in the footsteps of West County nobility and defenders.

OKEHAMPTON CASTLE IN MID-DEVON

OKEHAMPTON CASTLE IN MID-DEVON


Many of England’s castles can be attributed to William the Conquerer. Okehampton is no different.

The construction of the castle began in 1068 to put down an uprising in Mid-Devon. Under the tenure of the Courtney family – the Earls of Devon – the castle grew to become the county’s largest fortress.

After Henry Courtney was executed for treason in the 16th century, it met its demise at the hands of Henry VIII. This was the start of the Devon castle’s descent into oblivion.

Stories of Tudor ghosts and the picturesque outline of its decaying walls, on the other hand, have made it a famous tourist destination ever since. Notable artist JMW Turner depicted the ruin in works such as ‘Okehampton, on the Okement’ (1824), which is housed in the National Gallery.

TOTNES CASTLE IN DEVON

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This castle, which dates from the 11th century, is located above the bohemian South Devon town of Totnes. It was erected out of wood by William the Conqueror. At the turn of the 14th century, this was replaced with the stone Bailey that we see today.

It is presently one of England’s most well-preserved Norman motte and bailey castles.

Totnes Castle is a fantastic addition to roaming about the town’s independent shops and riverbank, and it doesn’t take long to visit. Climb the motte, take in the views of the Dart River, and have a picnic within the castle walls.

DARTMOUTH CASTLE IN SOUTH DEVON

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Dartmouth Castle’s salty ruins cling to the cliffs above the Dart River’s mouth in South Devon. It has never been home to kings or courtiers, unlike many English castles. However, from the 14th century, it has played a significant role in defending the adjacent port of Dartmouth.

Towers and cannons were added to the defences over time. To prevent undesired vessels from entering, a chain might be strung across the river mouth between Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear.

Today, visitors may see the castle’s battery, casemates, and gun tower, where troops were stationed on a regular basis until World War II.

The magnificent views over the sea and along the River are one of this castle’s outstanding attractions. Take a seat.

TINTAGEL CASTLE IN CORNWALL


A visit to Cornwall would be incomplete without a visit to the home of one of the country’s most renowned legends: King Arthur. He is supposed to have been born in Tintagel Castle, which today stands in ruins on Tintagel Island’s cliffs.

The castle was actually erected in the 13th century, well after King Arthur’s purported reign, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a nice fairy tale.

The ruins of buildings going back to the 5th century, when Cornwall’s monarchs maintained strongholds here, can still be seen.

A photo with the somber bronze monument that protects the headland is a must for every admirer of the Arthur stories.

There are two ways to get to the island: a footbridge or a series of stairs.

CAERHAYS CASTLE IN CORNWALL

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When it comes to Cornish castles, Caerhays is a relative newbie. It was built in 1805 by well-known architect John Nash. The Trevanion family, who commissioned it, ran out of money before it was completed due to the project’s high cost.

Thankfully, it was saved 150 years ago by the Williams family. It was passed down through the generations and is currently a private residence open from mid-February to mid-June.

On the south coast, the castle and its 140-acre wooded gardens overlook Porthluney Cove. Horticulturists will delight in the collection of Chinese plants purchased here as early as the 1870s.

POWDERHAM CASTLE NEAR EXETER, DEVON

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Powderham Castle is another occupied South Devon castle. After the Earls of Devon left Okehampton, they built this 600-year-old family residence.

The castle, which has a rich history dating back to the 1300s and enjoys spectacular views of the Exe Estuary, can be seen from the Exeter to Plymouth railway line.

Secret entrances, beautiful marbled corridors, twisting staircases, and opulent sitting rooms remain despite efforts to adapt this antique mansion for modern living.

Powderham Castle is also a great place for families to visit during the school holidays, with a small animal farm, a play fort, a deer safari, and falconry shows.

ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT, MARAZION IN CORNWALL

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Along with Lands End and the Eden Project, St Michael’s Mount has to be one of Cornwall’s most iconic sites. It’s also the scene for Jack and the Beanstalk, or Jack the Giant Killer, a well-known fable that everyone remembers from their infancy.

According to legend, a giant erected the Mount and would wade ashore to feast on the flocks of nearby farmers. Jack from Marazion, the settlement directly over from St Michael’s Mount, ventured out one day to sleigh the giant. Halfway up the mount, he dug a pit and sounded his horn. The mammoth dashed forward and landed in the hole, which Jack swiftly filled.

A heart-shaped stone can be found if you cross the causeway and go up the cobbled slope towards the castle.

PENDENNIS CASTLE IN FALMOUTH, CORNWALL

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The next prolific builder of fortresses to safeguard his dominion was Henry VIII. At response to invasion threats from the continent, he built Pendennis Castle in Falmouth. It was built at the mouth of the River Fal, and together with its twin, St Mawes Castle, formed a strong coastal defense.

Pendennis’ defenses were put to the test for the first time during the English Civil War in 1646, rather than against foreign enemies. It was one of the last strongholds of King Charles’ loyalists. Over the years, new military challenges prompted the construction of layer upon layer of defenses.

Pendennis’ tunnels and cannon, dug into the cliffs of the headland, were renovated until the Second World War. The barracks were used for training until 1956.