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Launceston Castle

launceston castle

Embark on a Knight’s Quest at Launceston Castle

Perched commandingly on a hilltop looking over Launceston, the striking Norman architecture of 13th century Launceston Castle fires kids’ imaginations as soon as its imposing round tower comes into view. This remarkably intact medieval fortress offers families a hands-on history day out patrolling battlements like knights of old as costumed guides vividly bring tales from its 800 year past alive.

Along with active fun riding its Essex Rocking Horse or completing quiz trails, Launceston Castle’s scenic site and captivating stories of siege make it a top family day out for junior history buffs visiting Cornwall.

launceston castle entrance

Getting There

Launceston Castle crowns the hilltop directly above the town, just off Castle Street (B3254). Well signed, it has a dedicated castle pay-and-display car park for visitors driving.

The castle is under a 10 minute uphill amble from Launceston town centre on foot making it accessible without a car. Alternatively take the #12 bus from Bodmin which drops in the town centre.

Opening Times

Open 7 days a week between April and October 10am–6pm.

Closed during winter.

Note it occasionally closes for private events so always check online before visiting.

Ticket Prices

cshow

Entry prices are:

  • Adult: £6.50
  • Child (5-18): £3.50
  • Family (2A, 3C): £16.50
  • Under 5s: free

English Heritage members enter for free. Gift aid tickets offer discounted rates.

launceston castle from a drone

Battlements and Sieges

Climb 80 winding steps atop the historic shell keep’s towering circular watchtower to enjoy majestic 360 views across West Devon and Dartmoor while imagining archers firing arrows at attackers.

Help staff load the giant trebuchet siege catapult with foam rocks before watching it spectacularly launch projectiles from the motte while hearing tales of Civil War sieges where Launceston held out under heavy cannon fire.

From its inception, Launceston Castle has played a pivotal role in the defense of Cornwall. Built by Robert of Mortain, a Norman nobleman, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, the castle was designed to command the strategic crossroads of the county. Its imposing motte-and-bailey structure, with a high conical mound and enclosed inner bailey, proved formidable against medieval attackers.

The castle’s strategic importance was soon put to the test. In 1138, during the Anarchy, a period of civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, Launceston Castle was besieged by Matilda’s forces. The castle held firm, withstanding the attacks and emerging victorious. This victory cemented Launceston Castle’s reputation as an impregnable stronghold.

Over the centuries, Launceston Castle has faced numerous sieges, each leaving its mark on the castle’s fortifications. In 1297, during the First Barons’ War, the castle was besieged by the rebel barons, but they were unable to breach its defenses. The castle’s resilience earned it the admiration of King Edward I, who visited the castle in 1298 and praised its strategic importance.

castle gate

Launceston Castle’s battlements 

The castle’s battlements, constructed from layers of shale, have stood the test of time, withstanding the battering of siege weapons and the ravages of the harsh Cornish climate. These formidable walls, punctuated by towers and gateways, have protected the castle from countless attacks, making it a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of medieval builders.

Today, Launceston Castle stands as a captivating relic of medieval warfare, offering a glimpse into the strategies and tactics employed by armies of the past. Its imposing battlements, strategic position, and rich history make it a popular destination for history enthusiasts and visitors alike.

Castle Grounds

Rolling parkland encircling Launceston’s turreted walls allows kids space to run free after exploring its fascinating keep interiors:

  • Try longbow or javelin target practice.
  • Explore the straw bale maze representing castle walls.
  • Bounce behind the castle controls of the vintage Essex Rocking Horse!

A winding path meanders through the grounds, leading to the castle’s outer bailey, once the heart of the castle’s administrative and military activities. Today, this open space provides a serene setting for picnics and leisurely strolls, while the ancient walls of the castle tower overhead, casting long shadows across the verdant grass.

Beyond the outer bailey, the grounds extend into a picturesque arboretum, a haven for diverse plant life. Mature trees, many of which were planted centuries ago, provide shade, while meandering pathways wind their way through the verdant expanse. The arboretum is a tranquil retreat, a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world and immerse oneself in the tranquility of nature.

launceston

Queen Guinevere

Interactive Princess Guinevere family trails add further family fun following the castle’s Arthurian links. Activities include:

  • Dressing up children in sparkly outfits/doing princess makeovers.
  • Seeking a magic amulet jewel negotiating obstacles like scuttles and mirrors representing castle secrets.
  • Completing the code cracking challenge to unlock a dragon’s layer protecting the treasure.

Richard of Cornwall: A Powerful Patron of Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, one of the most influential figures in medieval England. Richard’s patronage and extensive renovations transformed the castle into a formidable stronghold and a symbol of his power in Cornwall.

Richard, the younger brother of King Henry III, inherited the earldom of Cornwall in 1227. He saw Launceston Castle as a key strategic asset, strategically positioned to control the county’s main entry route. With a keen eye for military architecture, Richard embarked on a major restoration project, strengthening the castle’s fortifications and adding new features, including the imposing High Tower.

Under Richard’s patronage, Launceston Castle flourished as a seat of administration and a bustling commercial center. The earl’s extensive landholdings provided a steady stream of income, allowing him to further develop the castle’s infrastructure and improve the lives of the local populace.

richard earl of cornwall

Richard’s legacy at Launceston Castle extends beyond its physical transformation. He actively promoted the town’s growth and prosperity, attracting merchants and traders to the flourishing market. The castle’s role as a judicial center also contributed to the town’s development, making it a focal point for legal proceedings and administrative matters.

Richard’s patronage of Launceston Castle left an indelible mark on the town and its surrounding region. His vision and investment transformed the castle into a symbol of his power and a testament to his commitment to the development of Cornwall. Today, Launceston Castle stands as a reminder of Richard’s legacy, a tangible link to the medieval era and a symbol of the earl’s enduring impact on the Cornish landscape and its people.

launceston castle guidebook
Buy Launceston Castle Guidebook

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed? – Yes, well behaved dogs on leads are welcome.

Is it wheelchair accessible? – Yes, the paths are accessible for wheelchairs, but are steep in places.

Does the castle have parking? – No, there is no on site parking, but there is street parkng nearby and several pay and pay display car parks very near the castle.

Do I need to book before visiting? – No, you can siply turn up, but booking ahead may lead to some online discounts.

castle

Nearby Attractions

When you are visiting Launceston Castle, here are some other places worth taking a look at too:

  • Okehampton Castle – Medieval ruin set amidst Dartmoor’s scenic landscapes. Interactive exhibits bring history to life. Great for kids.
  • Lydford Gorge – Dramatic river gorge run by the National Trust with waterfalls and peaceful woodland trails to explore.
  • Morwellham Quay – Living history museum that recreates a Victorian port and copper mine. Take a train ride and explore the farm.
  • Golitha Falls – Picturesque walk through woodland leading to the stunning natural waterfall on the River Fowey. Perfect picnic spot.
  • Finch Foundry – Historic 19th century working water-powered forge where you can watch traditional blacksmiths demonstrate their skills.
  • Cotehele House & Quay – Medieval house and historic quay set above the River Tamar. Explore the scenic gardens, flour mill and warehouses.
  • Tavistock Pannier Market – Indoor market with over 90 stalls selling fresh local produce, Devon gifts and crafts. Open 6 days a week.

As you wander through the castle’s grounds, imagine the fierce battles that once raged here, the clang of swords against shields, the roar of catapults, and the triumphant cries of the victors. Launceston Castle stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of medieval warfare, a reminder of the power of fortification and the resilience of those who defended their homes against invaders.

With stunning vistas, interactive medieval mayhem and imagination-firing tales of knights, ladies and legends surrounding one of Britain’s finest surviving Norman strongholds, a family day discovering Launceston Castle hits the mark!

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