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Caerhays Castle

caerhays castle

Caerhays Castle – Cornwall’s Fairytale Coastal Retreat

Rising romantically from a wooded hillside overlooking St Austell Bay sprawls Caerhays Castle, one of Cornwall’s most picturesque retreats. This turreted manor house wrapped in a 125-acre estate seems plucked from fairy tales with delightful woodland walking trails running to a stunning sandy shore blending undisclosed luxury living with a strong community ethos.

Our guide shows families what makes Caerhays such an enchanting spot to while away revitalising days on the Cornish coast, whether staying as a guest or simply visiting elements like their world-class gardens or interactive visitor centre for a flavour of the estate.

drive outside caerhays castle

Getting to Caerhays Castle and Gardens

Caerhays Estate lies two miles southeast of St Austell Bay reached only via narrow lanes. Approach from the A390 towards St Austell then follow the brown signs from Tregorrick and Gorran Haven through very tight, twisting roads. Use postcode PL26 6LY then onsite signage.

By Car:Visitor parking available in dedicated area a few minutes walk from the Visitor Centre. The cost is £7.50, but this is free if you book your ticket online. The cost of the ticket will be deducted from your entrance ticket to the gardens or castle. Numerous charging points encourage electric vehicles.

Helpful directions can be downloaded here.

Caerhays Castle Opening Times

The castle itself offers limited private tours for pre-booked groups only. See the website for the open days.

Caerhays Gardens are open all year around:
March – mid June: 10.30am-5pm | Mid June – September: 10.30am-6pm | Winter – check website as times vary

Burncoose Nurseries – Plant centre open year round see website

spring at caerhays gardens

Caerhays Castle Prices

Castle

Adult £15 | Child (5-16) £7 | Under 5 Free

Gardens Unguided

Adult £12 | Child (5-16) £5 | Under 5 Free

Combined castle and gardens

Adult £24 | Child (5-16) £10 | Under 5 Free

Season tickets are also available which offer good value

Caerhays Castle History

Caerhays was the brainchild of John Nash, a renowned Regency architect. He envisioned a romantic retreat, drawing inspiration from medieval fortifications and Gothic Revival style. The result is a masterpiece of turrets, crenellations, and arched windows, all harmonizing with the surrounding cliffs and lush greenery.

For over 600 years, the land belonged to the Trevanion family. They built a deer park on the estate, cherishing the natural bounty of the region. However, by the 18th century, financial woes forced them to sell, and Caerhays entered a new chapter with the arrival of the Williams family.

Charles Williams, a man of vision and passion for plants, embarked on a transformative journey. He revitalized the castle, infusing it with the warmth of family life and a deep appreciation for nature. But his true legacy lies in the breathtaking gardens that blossomed under his care.

Inspired by the daring plant-hunting expeditions of the time, Williams transformed the grounds into a vibrant tapestry of exotic flora. Rhododendrons and camellias burst forth in a riot of color, while magnolias, now a National Collection, reached towards the sky with fragrant blooms. The gardens became a sanctuary, a testament to the family’s dedication to preserving and nurturing the natural world.

Caerhays weathered the storms of time, facing challenges like the devastating fire of 1905 that ravaged the castle’s interior. The Williams family, with unwavering spirit, rebuilt and restored, ensuring the continuation of this cherished legacy.

Today, Caerhays Castle and Gardens stand as a beacon of Cornish heritage. The castle, lovingly restored to its former glory, offers glimpses into the lives of its past inhabitants. The gardens, a vibrant tapestry of over 600 plant varieties, continue to mesmerize visitors with their intoxicating beauty and serene ambiance.

view of caerhays castle

The Enchanting Gardens of Caerhays Castle

Spring, the season of awakening, paints the gardens in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues. Rhododendrons, the undisputed stars of the show, erupt in a riotous chorus of magenta, crimson, and ivory. Their blooms, sometimes reaching the size of dinner plates, create a canopy of color overhead, dappled sunlight dancing through their delicate petals.

Beneath this floral ceiling, a symphony of lesser-known gems unfolds. Delicate Japanese maples unfurl their scarlet leaves, while camellias, those elegant emblems of winter’s defiance, grace the pathways with their porcelain perfection. Enkianthus campanulatus, adorned with cascading bells of softest yellow, chimes alongside the gurgling stream, and the fiery blooms of Chilean bellflowers add a touch of exotic flair.

But Caerhays is not just a celebration of springtime exuberance. As the seasons turn, the gardens reveal their hidden depths. Summer’s warmth sees hydrangeas erupt in billowing globes of blue and lilac, their sturdy forms a counterpoint to the delicate ferns carpeting the woodland floor. Magnolias, titans of the arboreal world, unfurl their colossal blooms, each petal a fragrant beacon against the verdant backdrop.

Autumn whispers of change, painting the leaves in fiery shades of orange, gold, and russet. The air itself carries the sweet scent of ripening berries, and the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot adds a melancholic charm to the stroll. Yet, life persists even as the days shorten. Cyclamen carpets the forest floor with splashes of magenta, defying the encroaching chill, while witch hazel unfurls its spidery yellow blooms, a promise of warmth to come.

Winter slumbers softly at Caerhays, cloaking the gardens in a hushed reverence. The stark branches of ancient oaks reach skyward, etched against the leaden sky. Yet, even in this seeming repose, life stirs beneath the surface. Snowdrops push through the frosted ground, their tiny white bells heralding the promise of spring’s return.

The magic of Caerhays is not confined to its flora. The gardens flow seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, embracing the rugged Cornish coastline. Clifftop paths offer breathtaking vistas of the churning sea, while hidden nooks provide tranquil havens for quiet contemplation. Every turn reveals a new vista, a splash of color, a symphony of fragrance, weaving a spell that lingers long after leaving.

Coastal walks and the beach at Caerhays

The South Cornish Coastal Path borders around 2 miles of the Caerhays estate coastline, providing an excellent opportunity for walkers and summer holiday visitors to enjoy the picturesque surroundings throughout the year.

The restored Coastguard’s Hut on the estate offers a wonderful spot to view the coastline, and on clear days, one can see as far as Falmouth Docks and the Lizard Peninsular. The area also provides ample parking for coastal walkers in the car parks at Porthluney Beach as well as at East and West Portholland (car parking charges apply all year round.)

In addition to the coastal walks, there are circular walks available in the area, such as the walk from Caerhays Castle to Hemmick Beach, which offers a great excursion along the Cornish Coast, providing scenic views of the coastline.

caerhays castle grounds

Recharge Over Farm-Fresh Food at the Cafe

The light-filled onsite tea rooms serve wholesome lunches, Cornish cream teas and cakes baked using produce fresh from Caerhays’ own smallholding farm. Ingredients can’t get much fresher! Kids happily tuck into sturdy soups or melty mac’n’cheese seated indoors by the logburner or alfresco on sheltered decking under cosy blankets as sea winds whip.

Before leaving, the enticing farm shop stocks indulgent treats like just-churned ice cream and fudge to sustain your ongoing coastal wanderings.

There is also a small gift shop which sells some lovely souveniers and gifts for the home and garden.

caerhays castle cafe

Frequently Asked Questons

What are the highlights of the gardens?

  • The National Magnolia Collection, with over 600 varieties.
  • The champion trees, including the tallest Giant Redwood in Cornwall.
  • The woodland garden paths, offering stunning coastal views.

How long does it take to explore the gardens? – Allow at least 2-3 hours to explore the main part of the gardens. There are also longer walks available for more dedicated explorers.

Are the gardens suitable for children? – Yes, children are welcome in the gardens, but please be aware that there are steep paths and uneven surfaces. Children must be supervised at all times.

Are dogs allowed in the gardens? – Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the gardens.

Is the castle accessible for visitors with disabilities? – The castle itself is not accessible due to its historic layout. However, the gardens have some wheelchair-accessible paths.

caerhays castle with pink flowers

Nearby Attractions

Pair a visit to this dreamy coastal manor house estate with: ·

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Just a 10 minute drive from Caerhays Castle, explore these restored gardens containing exotic plants from the Southern Hemisphere & Asia, with features like the Giant’s Head, jungle area and Mud Maid sculpture.
  • Mevagissey – This charming traditional fishing village with narrow streets lined with galleries, shops and cafés clusters around a tiny colourful harbour filled with bobbing boats – just 4 miles from Caerhays.
  • Charlestown Harbour – Used as a backdrop for Poldark and Alice In Wonderland, this picturesque Grade II listed harbour lined with tall ships was built for the copper and china clay trade in the 19th century.
  • Pentewan Beach – Found 5 minutes drive from St Austell on the way to Caerhays Castle, this large Blue Flag beach has golden sands, seasonal cafes plus watersports equipment available for hire.
  • Polgoon Vineyard – This family-run vineyard offers award-winning English wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with vineyard tours, tastings and views across rolling Cornish hills.
  • Wheal Martyn – Discover Cornwall’s mining heritage at the museum and trails of this former clay works, depicting how china clay was produced from local granite in the area near St Austell and Caerhays.
  • Duporth Beach – Just outside Charlestown near Caerhays is this gently sloping sandy beach popular for swimming, with striking Kelsey Head cliffs behind and some facilities like seasonal cafes.
  • Carlyon Bay Beach – Also close to Caerhays Castle, this beautiful sweeping beach surrounded by low cliffs has rock pools, scenic coastal walks and the Carlyon Bay Golf Course nearby.
  • Trenarren Garden – An impressive formal Cornish garden near the castle containing rare trees & plants from the Southern Hemisphere, with highlights like the 60m Jubilee Walkway and spectacular Spring flower displays.

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