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Compton Castle

compton castle north

Step Back in Time at Compton Castle Near Paignton

Rising from lush green fields near Paignton, the imposing silhouette of Compton Castle looks like something from a fairytale. With parts dating back an incredible 650 years to the 1300s, this well-preserved fortified manor house provides families with a magical day out discovering medieval majesty.

With its winding stone staircases, historic rooms boasting coats of arms and a spooky dungeon, Compton Castle brings history to vivid life. Here’s all you need to know for an exciting day out at this atmospheric Devon castle.

compton castle with daffodils

Getting There

By car

Compton Castle is located just outside Marldon village, approximately 4 miles inland from the seaside town of Paignton in South Devon. It’s well signposted just off the A381.

Free parking is provided on site for visitors travelling by car.

By Bus

If travelling by bus, the local village Marldon has bus services connecting with Paignton and Torquay.

Opening Times

Compton Castle opens from Tuesday to Thursday inclusive between April and October each year. Opening times are:

  • Castle: 10.30am – 4pm
  • Grounds: 10am – 6pm

Make sure to double check open days on the website before visiting.

Ticket Prices

Entry prices are:

  • Adults – £9.50
  • Children – £4.75
  • Family (2A, 2C) – £23.75
  • Under 5s – free
  • National Trust members – free
compton castle side

Castle Highlights

Compton Castle’s highlights that bring the Middle Ages to life include:

  • Imposing Norman gatehouse and towering turreted towers.
  • Ancient stone spiral staircases winding up inside the towers.
  • Intricately carved ceilings telling biblical tales in the Banqueting Hall.
  • Huge fireplaces bearing crests of families who once lived here.
  • The Priest’s Hole where Catholics hid in Elizabethan times.
  • Costumed guides explaining armoury and pointing out priest holes.

With so much heritage packed in, an audioguide (included in ticket) helps kids fully appreciate all there is to marvel at during the castle tour.

compton interior

The Grounds

After exploring the castle and taking in tales of knights and battles, children can burn off energy in the grounds:

  • Challenge kids to spot birds and wildlife from the riverside trails.
  • See horses and sheep grazing in the fields around the estate.
  • Enjoy your picnic in one of the many scenic spots.

With a maze, model fort and dressing up too, Compton Castle offers a fun-packed family day out. Travel back in time to the Middle Ages at this fairy tale-like slice of Devon history.

compton castle lounge

Castle History

Its origins trace back to the 12th century, when Sir Maurice de la Pole, a prominent figure in the court of King Henry II, established a manor house on the site. The estate, then known as Compton Pole, passed through various hands until the marriage of Joan de Compton to Geoffrey Gilbert in 1329 united the two families.

In the mid-14th century, the manor house underwent a significant transformation, evolving from a simple dwelling into a fortified structure. A grand hall, flanked by solar and service rooms, emerged, reflecting the family’s growing wealth and status. These medieval additions were later enhanced in the late 15th century by John Gilbert, who added imposing turrets and parapets, lending the house an air of impregnability.

The castle’s most renowned resident, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, half-brother to the legendary Sir Walter Raleigh, played a pivotal role in British maritime history. His ambitious endeavors to colonize Newfoundland, though ultimately unsuccessful, cemented his place as a pioneer of exploration. Legend has it that Raleigh, during a visit to Compton Castle, introduced Sir Humphrey to the practice of pipe smoking, a habit that would become synonymous with the explorer.

Over the centuries, Compton Castle witnessed the ebb and flow of fortunes. By the 18th century, the central hall had fallen into disrepair, and the Gilberts, drawn to the comforts of modern living, relocated to other family residences. The castle, left vacant, gradually declined into a state of ruin.

In 1931, a remarkable turn of events brought the castle back into the Gilbert family’s fold. Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert and his wife Joan, ardent admirers of their ancestral home, embarked on a mission to restore its former glory. With meticulous care and dedication, they painstakingly reconstructed the ruined Great Hall, utilizing fragments of the original stonework discovered amidst the debris. Their efforts breathed new life into the castle, preserving its rich heritage for future generations.

compton hall

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it accessible for wheelchairs? – There are a limited number of accessible parking spaces. The castle is also partially accessible to wheelchair users, with ramps and lifts in place. However, some areas of the castle are not accessible, including the Great Hall and the upper floors.

Are dogs allowed at Compton Castle? – Only assistance dogs are welcome.

How long should I allow for a visit? – Naturally, it all depends on how much you want to see when you come, but a couple of hours will be enough to give you a really good taste of the castle and grounds – bear in mind that there are in fact only 5 rooms visitors can see alongside two smaller garden areas

Other places near Compton Castle

When you are in this area, there are loads of great places to visit, including;

  • Berry Pomeroy Castle – Atmospheric 15th century castle ruins surrounded by woodlands. Tales of ghostly apparitions add to the intrigue.
  • Dartmouth Castle – Striking coastal fortification with medieval roots offering wonderful views over the estuary. Guided tours available.
  • Buckfast Abbey – Working Benedictine monastery with medieval church, monk’s herb garden and grounds. Shop sells homemade produce.
  • South Devon Railway – Heritage steam railway with scenic journeys along the Dart Valley between Totnes and Buckfastleigh.
  • Occombe Farm – Traditional farm where visitors can feed and interact with chickens, goats, pigs and more. Nature trails through the woods.
  • Stover Country Park – Scenic nature reserve with woodlands, lakes and trails to explore. Spot local wildlife and enjoy the cafe.
  • Canonteign Falls – England’s highest waterfall set within a lush wooded gorge. Viewing platforms provide scenic vantage points.
  • Babbacombe Model Village – Charming model village recreating 1940s England in miniature. Incredible attention to detail throughout.

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