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Restormel Castle

restormel castle

Immerse Yourself in History at Restormel Castle

Looking to find out more about Restormel Castle? You are in the right place. Rising from a bowl of green countryside cradled by the meandering River Fowey lies one of Cornwall’s most handsome heritage attractions, Restormel Castle. Encircling families with tales of medieval knights and Arthurian romance, this impressive circular fortress makes history excitingly tangible through costumed performances and interactive events across various holiday periods.

Our guide describes how to discover Cornwall’s Norman roots and frontline royal role via this extraordinary Lostwithiel landmark promising a thrilling family day out.

entrance to restormel castle

Getting to Restormel Castle

Restormel Castle lies just north of Lostwithiel town itself, approximately 10 miles from both Bodmin and St Austell. Use postcode PL22 0EE then follow brown heritage signs from the main roads.

By Car – 0.5 miles north of Lostwithiel on the A390. Well signposted.

Restormel Castle Car Park – The on-site car park, with 25 spaces, is conveniently located about 70 meters from the entrance. Two coach spaces are available. Free parking in Lostwithiel, over a mile away and uphill, may be strenuous for some visitors.

By Train – Lostwithiel Railway Station sits two miles away with connecting taxi services to Restormel Castle costing approx £5.

By Bus – Several routes connect Lostwithiel town to the castle including the 529, X81 and hourly 95 bus services. The walk uphill takes 15 minutes.

Opening Times and Entry Prices

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As an English Heritage property, standard opening times are:

1st April – 31st October Daily 10am – 5pm | 1st – 30th November Sat & Sun 10am – 4pm Closed across winter except occasional event days – check website.

Entry fees:
Adults £6.50 | Child £3.50 | Concessions £5.50 | Family (2 adults + 3 kids) £16.50 | English Heritage members Free

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History of Restormel Castle

The castle was constructed following the Norman conquest of England, with its strategic location by the River Fowey making it a key defensive structure. Initially, it was a ringwork castle with an adjacent bailey and a wooden gatehouse, probably built by either Turstin, the sheriff of Cornwall, or his son Baldwin Fitz Turstin, after 1086.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Cardinham family played a significant role in the castle’s history. Robert de Cardinham, who controlled the castle between 1192–1225, strengthened its defenses by building up the inner curtain walls and converting the gatehouse to stone. The castle became integral to the tin-mining industry in the late 13th century, serving as the administrative center for the region. Edmund, the Earl of Cornwall, transformed Restormel Castle into a luxurious residence during this time, adding a shell keep around the ringwork, inner chambers, and amenities that prioritized comfort over military defense.

restormel courtyard

The castle changed hands several times in the 14th century, including a period of ownership by Edward “the Black Prince,” who repaired and utilized it for occasional visits. However, after Edward’s death in 1376, the castle fell into neglect. The stewardship of the castle became sought after, and by the 16th century, it had fallen into ruin, with its stones repurposed for other constructions.

During the English Civil War in the 17th century, Restormel Castle briefly saw military activity. Parliamentary forces occupied it in 1644, but it was later stormed by Royalist forces led by Sir Richard Grenville. The castle suffered further deterioration, and by 1649, it was recorded as utterly ruined, with only the outer walls standing.

In the 18th century, the castle became part of a picturesque landscape when Thomas Jones invested in the ruins to enhance the beauty of his new home and its gardens. By the 19th century, it had become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from the royal family and beyond.

In the 20th century, efforts were made to preserve and restore Restormel Castle. In 1925, it was transferred to the guardianship of the state, and conservation work was carried out on the walls. The castle is now under the care of English Heritage and remains open to the public as a fascinating historical site, offering a glimpse into its medieval past and the subsequent centuries of neglect and restoration.

restormel interior

Top Things To See and Do

While little physically remains inside Restormel’s outer shell, imaginative displays and regular special events easily transport families back to the castle’s medieval prime.

The castle’s extensive ruins invite exploration, allowing visitors to wander through the remnants of its rich history. One notable feature is the 13th-century shell keep, a testament to the luxurious residence created by Edmund, the Earl of Cornwall. The inner chambers, though now open to the sky, provide a glimpse into the castle’s former opulence, hinting at the grandeur it once possessed.

A highlight of a visit to Restormel Castle is the walled walk that encircles the site. This elevated path offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, providing visitors with a chance to appreciate the strategic location chosen by the castle’s builders. As you stroll along the walk, the peaceful ambiance of the castle grounds becomes apparent, transporting you back in time to an era when this fortress played a crucial role in regional administration and the tin-mining industry.

Nature has claimed parts of the castle, turning it into a haven for flora and fauna. The ruins are adorned with vibrant flowers that bloom amid the ancient stones, adding a touch of color to the weathered landscape. This juxtaposition of historical remnants and natural beauty creates a serene atmosphere, making Restormel Castle a picturesque destination for those seeking both history and tranquility.

The castle’s grounds are also home to diverse wildlife, thriving amidst the ancient ruins. The juxtaposition of medieval architecture and modern-day biodiversity adds a layer of charm to the visitor experience. Birdwatchers may catch glimpses of various avian species, while the castle’s nooks and crannies provide shelter for smaller creatures.

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Restormel Through the Ages Exhibition

Pop into the excellent exhibition housed within the 14th century gatehouse to uncover more of Restormel’s pivotal frontline role safeguarding Cornwall for over 800 years. Imaginative dioramas utilise sound effects, video projections, replica chainmail and other sensory props detailing major events like fierce Welsh raids, the spreading Black Death orCivil War sieges which both shaped and shook the castle over time.

Don’t Miss Panoramic Views from the Towertop Climb the spiral stair to the gatehouse roof for spectacular 360 degree sightlines encompassing rolling mid-Cornwall countryside with the River Fowey meandering through the heart of the landscape. Kids will get a fresh appreciation of this strategic fort’s clifftop position selected for commanding views during potential attacks – with added opportunities to test the acoustics mimicking trumpets!

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Picnic Amongst the Ruins

Restormel’s spacious grass lawns dotted amongst evocative castle walls allow families to refuel on scenic picnics inside the very keep its garrison once defended. Watch birdlife wheeling over the ramparts from this tranquil spot seemingly unchanged since those turbulent times centuries ago. Do check website for any upgrade works before visiting and bring blankets to sit on.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much time should I allocate for a visit to Restormel Castle?

Plan for at least a couple of hours to thoroughly explore the castle and its surroundings

Are dogs allowed at Restormel Castle?

Yes, well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome at the castle.

Are there facilities for disabled visitors?

The castle is partially accessible, but some areas may be challenging for those with mobility issues. Check with English Heritage for specific accessibility details.

Can I bring a picnic to the Castle?

Yes, visitors are welcome to bring picnics. The castle grounds offer a picturesque setting for outdoor dining.

Is there a cafe and a shop?

There is no cafe at the castle, although there is a vending machine for hot drinks. They have a well stocked shop with lots of Engligh Heritage souvenirs to buy.

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Other Nearby Attractions

When you are in this area, there are many other great places to explore, including:

  • Tintagel Castle: A short drive from Restormel Castle, Tintagel Castle is steeped in Arthurian legend. Perched on the rugged cliffs of North Cornwall, it provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic coastline. The castle ruins and the legendary Tintagel Castle Bridge make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and those captivated by tales of King Arthur.
  • Lost Gardens of Heligan: A horticultural paradise, the Lost Gardens of Heligan are just a stone’s throw away. Once lost to time and overgrowth, these gardens have been lovingly restored, offering visitors a chance to wander through enchanting landscapes, Victorian greenhouses, and exotic plant collections.
  • Eden Project: A world-renowned ecological attraction, the Eden Project is a short drive from Restormel Castle. Housed within colossal biomes, this educational center showcases diverse plant life and ecosystems from around the globe, providing an immersive and educational experience for all ages.
  • St. Catherine’s Castle: Located near Fowey, St. Catherine’s Castle is a coastal fortress with a commanding view of the estuary. Built in the 16th century, it stands as a testament to Cornwall’s maritime history and offers a glimpse into the region’s defensive heritage.
  • Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre: For maritime enthusiasts, the Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre provides a fascinating journey into Cornwall’s maritime past. Explore shipwreck artifacts, maritime memorabilia, and learn about the captivating stories of vessels that met their fate along Cornwall’s rugged coastline.
  • Polperro: A quintessential Cornish fishing village, Polperro beckons with its narrow winding streets, charming cottages, and a historic harbor. This idyllic destination offers a glimpse into traditional Cornish life, complete with coastal walks and a thriving arts scene.
  • Bodmin Moor: Nature lovers will find solace in Bodmin Moor, a rugged and wild expanse featuring granite tors, ancient stone circles, and breathtaking landscapes. Ideal for hiking and exploring, this area is rich in both natural beauty and historical significance.
  • Pendennis Castle: Situated in Falmouth, Pendennis Castle is a Tudor fortress with a rich history. Explore its well-preserved ramparts, artillery fortifications, and discover its role in defending Cornwall against foreign invasion.

From epic tales of knighthood to majestic views over the Cornish countryside, a day spent immersed within Restormel Castle’s sturdy Norman walls makes schoolbook history truly leap to vivid life.

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