There are many incredible castles in Cornwall to explore. From windswept ruins to beautifully preserved sea forts and fairy-tale citadels. The county has a rich history from Celtic and Arthurian legends to pirates, smugglers, and a long connection with the ocean.
Cornwall is one of the UK’s top holiday destinations known for its great beaches, surfing, coast paths and quaint fishing villages. But the Cornish castles are another of the Westcountry’s gems and make for a fascinating day out.
I’ve visited many of the Castles in Cornwall, UK over the years as I’m a huge fan of history and the associated myths and legends. You’ll also find that many of the Cornwall castles are set in dramatic locations often on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
10 Best Castles in Cornwall
Below you’ll find a selection of the best castles in Cornwall from the famous Tintagel castle (thought to be the legendary home of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table) to Henry VIII’s maritime forts and even a castle to stay in Cornwall.
There are castle ruins to explore, renovated castles with museums and tea rooms, and even a castle on a tidal island that has a replica in France (St Michael’s Mount and Mont Saint Michelle respectively).
I love exploring the beautiful castles across Cornwall. These make great excursions for history lovers, families and those looking for a change from a day at the beach.
1. Tintagel Castle
Tintagel castle is arguably Cornwall’s most famous ancient ruin for its association with the legend of King Arthur. This impressive stone structure sits perched on a towering clifftop high above the north Atlantic ocean and Merlin’s Cave and is one of my favorite places in to visit in Cornwall.
There is a new footbridge connecting parts of the castle on the mainland to those on a large, rocky outcrop and the views are incredible. From here you can spot sea birds and marine life such as seals, dolphins and basking sharks.
The castle is an easy walk from Tintagel village, itself easily reachable from Cornwall’s main towns and villages by road. Buses between Bude and Newquay pass through Tintagel so it can be visited by public transport (though to get the best out of Cornwall hiring a car is recommended).
I was lucky enough to first visit Tintagel Castle before the new bridge was built and it was free to enter so things have changed a little since then. I can’t wait to get back and walk across the bridge, even with my fear of heights.
Tintagel Castle Details and Information
2. Pendennis Castle
The gorgeous Pendennis Castle was built by King Henry VIII to protect England from invasion. It’s one of the best places to visit in Falmouth thanks to its acres of land with sweeping views out across the south coast, the Fal Estuary and the town harbor.
There are many guns and cannons dotted around Pendennis and the cliffs overlooking the town. On certain days of the year, these are fired in commemoration of different battles and historic events. Check the English Heritage website for more info on when you can see this.
This is one of the places I love to spend a day on my rare visits to the south coast (sorry Falmouth, but the north coast has better surfing beaches).
Pendennis Castle is one mile from the harbor so easily walkable, or you can jump on the 67 bus. Falmouth itself is connected to the rest of the UK by road and rail.
Pendennis Castle Details and Information
3. St Michael’s Mount
Visiting historic St Michael’s Mount in Marazion near Penzance is one of the best things to do in Cornwall for families as there is so much to see and do. This epic castle is situated on a tidal island and is completely cut off from the mainland during high tide.
I’ve been to both St Michael’s Mount and its French counterpart Mont Saint Michelle, and of course, I can confirm that the Cornish castle is better, if a little smaller (not that I am biased of course).
You can get lost in the myriad little lanes around the castle, visit the small village or swim at the beach. At low tide you can walk across the causeway to the castle, but at high tide, you’ll need to take one of the three boats that cross back and forth between the island and the mainland.
There are regular buses between Penzance and Marazion (Service U4) taking just 15 minutes.
St Michael’s Mount Details and Information
4. Launceston Castle
Cornwall’s county-town (regional capital) of Launceston is worth a visit for its magnificent 13th-century castle ruins. The castle’s 600-year-old keep is still intact and you can wander around the castle, walls and grounds which have been well-preserved by English Heritage.
The castle dates to just after the Norman conquest of Britain and served as Cornwall’s seat of government until the 16th Century. The castle has also been used as a residence for Cornwall’s aristocrats, a prison and a courthouse before becoming an open-air museum.
Launceston is located close to the border between Devon and Cornwall and easily reached by road from the rest of the country. There are also regular bus services to other large towns across Cornwall, Devon and the rest of the UK.
Launceston Castle Details and Information
5. Restormel Castle
The beautiful ruins of Restormel Castle sit on a hilltop overlooking the Fow valley and is the perfect place for walking and picnics. Throughout the summer the castle and grounds play host to various events such as theater and music performances (See the website to see what’s currently on).
The castle dates to the late 13th century and fell into decline from the 16th century onwards. Restormel was once part of the estate of the infamous Black Prince (son of Edward III and Duke of Cornwall) and is one of the best castles in Cornwall for families.
Restormel is located out in the sticks around 5 miles from Bodmin. You’ll need your own transport to get there, or you can book a taxi/Uber from Bodmin to take you and arrange pickup or waiting time. You can also walk to the castle from Bodmin which takes around two hours.
Restormel Castle Details and Information
6. Caerhays Castle
Caerhays Castle near St Austell (home of my favorite Cornish beer) is not one of the oldest in the county at 200 years old, however, it is considered the most beautiful castle in Cornwall by many thanks to its perfect location overlooking the south coast of England.
Although the castle is still home to the Williams family who has lived here for over 140 years, it is opened to the public each year between March and June (the gardens and tea rooms are open from February). There is also a small beach and cafe nearby that can be visited year-round.
Caerhays is also one the castles to stay in Cornwall and one wing is open for guests. There is also a selection of cottages, barns and holiday apartments on the estate that can be booked. I’ve stayed in castles in France before, but this is something I need to add to my Cornwall list.
Caerhays Castle Details and Information
Address: Gorran Churchtown, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6LY
Phone: +44 (0)1872 500026
Operating Hours: 10am-5pm, Mon-Fri
Entrance Fees: castle £14.00/£7.0,0 gardens £10.00/£5.00, combined £20.00/£8.00
Websites: visit.caerhays.co.uk (castle) caerhaysholidays.co.uk (accommodation)
7. St Mawes Castle
Historic St Mawes is one of the best-preserved castles in Cornwall, and like Pendennis across the water, is a Tudor-era fortification built during the reign of Henry VIII.
This is one of the most popular castles in Cornwall thanks to its location near Falmouth with stunning sea views.
The castle is open to visitors to explore and there are many interesting things to see from the old cannons to the prison tower, rooftop bastion and more. This is a great place to blow away the cobwebs and explore the coastal area around St Mawes.
One of the best ways to reach St Mawes Castle is to take the ferry from nearby Falmouth which gives stunning views of the Fal Estuary and nearby coastline. The ferry runs every day apart from Christmas Day and takes just 20 minutes.
St Mawes Castle Details and Information
8. St Catherine’s Castle
This small artillery fort near the village of Fowey is set upon a dramatic clifftop overlooking the ocean and rocky shoreline far below. The castle is reached via the south west coast path and is completely free to visit, and is open 24 hours a day year-round.
St Catherine’s is another of Henry VIII’s defensive forts dating back to the 1530s. During WWII the castle was redesigned to hold anti-aircraft guns and munitions to fight off any German attempt at invasion.
Its desolate location makes this one of the most atmospheric of Cornwall’s castles. You can only reach St Catherine’s Castle by foot.
Start at Readymoney Cove car park (there is a lovely little beach there too, perfect for swimming in summer) and follow the coast path for 3/4 of a mile until you reach the castle.
St Catherine’s Castle Details and Information
9. Chun Castle
The ancient ruins at Chun represent the oldest castle in Cornwall, with this fortification dating back a staggering 2,500 years. The ruins are located in a field (with full public access) in the far southwest of Cornwall between St Ives and Land’s End.
This iron age hill fort is a must-visit for history lovers and budding archaeologists. The site forms part of the Chun Downs Nature Reserve overlooking the rugged north Atlantic coastline, making it a great place for walkers and hikers.
The ruins are reachable only on foot via a footpath from the nearby villages of Morvah or Pendeen. The area is also home to some of Cornwall’s other relics like the Morvah Standing Stones which can be visited at the same time.
Chun Castle Details and Information
Address: Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8PX
Operating Hours: 24/7
Entrance Fee: free
10. Tregenna Castle Resort
The Treganna Castle Resort is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a little bit of luxury in stunning surroundings. The castle overlooks Carbis Bay and the gorgeous harbor town of St Ives, a hugely popular Cornwall vacation destination.
The castle is set within a whopping 72 acres of land on the north Cornish coast with manicured gardens, an indoor and outdoor pool, a gym, a spa, a golf course and a restaurant serving the freshest local produce and locally caught fish.
Treganna is within walking distance of the galleries, beaches and restaurants of St Ives, itself easily reachable by road and rail from the rest of Cornwall and the UK, and one of my favorite places to visit in Cornwall.
Tregenna Castle Details and Information
Address: Trelyon Avenue, Carbis Bay, Saint Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2DE
Phone: +44 (0)1736 795254
Operating Hours: 24/7
Entrance Fee: from £80.00 per night
Castles in Cornwall: FAQs
Below are some FAQs about the best castles in Cornwall.
Caerhays Castle is the most beautiful castle in Cornwall thanks to its stunning location overlooking the south coast.
Chun Castle is the oldest castle in Cornwall with iron age ruins dating back over 2,500 years. Although there is not much left, this wild and windswept archaeological site is well worth a visit.
There are over 15 castles and forts in Cornwall, with even more ruins varying in size scattered around the county. The south coast is home to more castles as it directly faces mainland Europe.
Pendennis and Tintagel castles are the most popular castles in Cornwall for their historic associations with King Henry VIII and King Arthur.
You can sleep in Tregenna castle, which although not a historic building, is a beautiful place to stay complete with ramparts and acres of grounds.
The best castle to visit in Cornwall is Tintagel castle thanks to its amazing location on the north Cornish coast and many myths and legends surrounding it.
King Arthur’s castle is in the small village of Tintagel on the north Cornish coast between Bude and Padstow.
Now you know about the best castles in Cornwall from my favorites and popular tourist attractions of Tintagel, Pendennis and St Michael’s Mount to the lesser known, but no less spectacular St Catherine’s, Caerhays and Chun castles.
Cornwall is a part of the UK steeped in history, myths and legends and nosing around some of these ancient ruins is a must-do for anyone visiting. You’ll notice that many of Cornwall’s castles are on the south coast, as this was the most exposed area to England’s enemies of old.
Whether you want to live your own fairytale dream staying at Treganna or Caerhays, or picnic on dramatic clifftops with the echoes of kings carrying on the wind, the castles of Cornwall will not disappoint.