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St Mawes Castle

st mawes castle

Exploring St Mawes Castle in Cornwall!

Are you looking for a family day out that combines history, breathtaking views, and a touch of pirate adventure? Look no further than St Mawes Castle, a captivating artillery fort perched on a cliff overlooking the picturesque Carrick Roads. This magnificent Tudor fortress promises an unforgettable experience for children and adults alike, transporting you back to a time of cannons, kings, and daring raids.

st mawes

Getting there

St Mawes Castle stands proudly on Castle Drive in St Mawes, Cornwall, TR2 5DE.

Whether you’re arriving by car or public transport, there are several options:

  • By Car: The castle is easily accessible from Falmouth. Follow the A39 towards Truro, then turn off onto the B3289 towards St Mawes. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes. Parking is available in the village car park (charges apply).
  • By Bus: Regular bus services operate from Falmouth to St Mawes, with a stop near the castle entrance. Check timetables and routes beforehand.
  • By Ferry: Take a scenic ferry ride from Falmouth across the Carrick Roads to St Mawes. This is a fun and relaxing way to arrive, particularly during the summer months.

Opening times and prices

  • Opening Times: The castle is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with extended opening hours during peak season (check the English Heritage website for exact dates).
  • Admission: Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. Prices are:
    • Adults: £7.50
    • Children (5-16 years): £4
    • Seniors: £6.50
    • Family (2 adults + up to 3 children): £19.00
    • English Heritage members: Free
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The Castle History

Commissioned by King Henry VIII in the early 16th century, St. Mawes Castle was part of his ambitious program to fortify the English coastline against potential invasion. Construction began in 1539 under the supervision of Thomas Treffry, a local landowner and military engineer. The castle was strategically positioned to complement the defenses of Pendennis Castle on the opposite side of the estuary, forming a formidable barrier to any hostile ships seeking to enter the protected waters of the Fal.

Designed in the distinctive style of Henry VIII’s coastal forts, St. Mawes Castle boasts a circular shape with thick stone walls and robust gun platforms, housing artillery capable of repelling any naval threat. Its strategic significance was further enhanced by its location, offering commanding views of the surrounding coastline and estuary, allowing defenders to spot and engage enemy vessels from afar.

st mawes castle

Throughout its history, St. Mawes Castle played a vital role in England’s defense, particularly during periods of international tension and conflict. During the English Civil War in the 17th century, the castle saw action as part of the Royalist defenses in Cornwall, although it ultimately fell to Parliamentarian forces in 1646 after a prolonged siege.

Following the end of active hostilities, St. Mawes Castle transitioned from a military stronghold to a symbol of England’s maritime heritage. Over the centuries, it underwent various modifications and adaptations to accommodate changing military technologies and strategic needs. However, by the 19th century, advancements in artillery and the evolution of naval warfare rendered traditional coastal forts like St. Mawes obsolete for defensive purposes.

Nevertheless, the castle remained a prominent landmark and tourist attraction, admired for its historical significance and architectural beauty. In 1920, the castle was designated as a scheduled monument, ensuring its preservation for future generations to appreciate and explore.

Today, St. Mawes Castle stands as a testament to England’s rich military history and enduring maritime legacy. Visitors can wander its battlements, explore its inner chambers, and soak in panoramic views of the Cornish coastline, all while reflecting on the centuries of history that have shaped this formidable fortress by the sea.

st mawes

What to see at St Mawes Castle

  • Step Back in Time: Immerse yourselves in the rich history of St Mawes Castle, built by King Henry VIII in the 1540s as part of his coastal defense program. Explore the imposing four-story tower and three bastions, each offering unique vantage points and historical narratives.
  • Interactive Exhibits: Spark your children’s imaginations with engaging exhibits like the “Soldier’s Life” display, where they can dress up in Tudor costumes and handle replica weaponry.
  • Stunning Views: Soak in the breathtaking panoramic views of the Carrick Roads and the surrounding coastline from the castle ramparts. Spot passing boats, admire the picturesque village of St Mawes, and imagine the bustling maritime activity of centuries past.
  • Guided Tours: Enhance your experience by joining a guided tour led by knowledgeable staff. These tours delve deeper into the castle’s history, revealing fascinating stories of battles, sieges, and everyday life within the fortress walls.
  • Family Activities: Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a relaxing break in the castle grounds. Children can participate in scavenger hunts, explore the interactive “Junior Explorer” activity trail, and engage in storytelling sessions led by costumed characters.
  • The Keep: Climb the winding staircase to the top of the four-story keep and be rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views. Imagine yourself as a lookout, scanning the horizon for approaching ships.
  • Gun Deck: Discover the power of Tudor weaponry on the gun deck, where cannons once roared to defend the coastline. Children can pretend to fire the cannons (though only with their imaginations!) and learn about the different types of ammunition used.
cannons in st mawes
  • Interactive Exhibits: Take part in the “Gunner’s Challenge” and test your skills at loading and aiming a replica cannon. Dress up in Tudor costumes and pose for photos in the themed photo booth. Younger children can enjoy age-appropriate activities like building their own miniature castles with wooden blocks.
  • Hidden Corners: Explore the hidden nooks and crannies of St Mawes Castle, including the magazine where gunpowder was stored and the bakery where soldiers received their daily bread. Let your children’s imaginations run wild as they envision secret passages and hidden chambers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my dog to the castle? – Yes, well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds of St. Mawes Castle. However, they are not allowed inside the castle buildings.

Are there guided tours available? – Yes, guided tours are available at St. Mawes Castle. Check at the visitor centre for tour times.

Is St. Mawes Castle wheelchair accessible? – Yes, the castle is partially wheelchair accessible. There are ramps and accessible routes to certain areas of the castle grounds and exhibitions.

Can I bring food and drinks into St Mawes Castle? Yes, you are welcome to bring your own food and drinks to enjoy in the designated picnic areas outside the castle.

Is there a cafe or restaurant at St. Mawes Castle? Yes, there is a cafe on-site where you can purchase refreshments and light snacks.

st mawes turret

Beyond the Castle Walls: Exploring St Mawes and Beyond:

Think about some of these other great places when you have been to St Mawes Castle:

  • St Mawes Village – After your castle visit, stroll through the narrow streets of St Mawes, lined with charming shops, galleries, and cafes. Treat yourselves to delicious ice cream or indulge in a traditional Cornish cream tea with freshly baked scones and clotted cream.
  • Pendennis Castle – Overlooking the Carrick Roads and Falmouth harbour, the impressive fortified walls of nearby Pendennis Castle date from the time of Henry VIII offering scenic coastal walks with stunning panoramic views.
  • St Just-in-Roseland – Catch a small ferry across the Percuil River to explore the tiny 13th century Church of St Just, set amidst sub-tropical gardens with colourful floral displays leading down to a secluded creek.
  • Trebah Gardens – Enjoy a relaxing stroll around 26 acres of scenic gardens containing exotic sub-tropical plants from around the world, with highlights including the vibrant Hydrolea bed and Giant rhubarb plants.
  • Falmouth – A short ferry ride across the estuary brings you into the bustling port town of Falmouth with its iconic Events Square hosting entertainment and markets plus historic narrow streets lined with restaurants.
  • National Maritime Museum – Located in Falmouth Docks, this museum celebrates Cornwall’s maritime heritage through hands-on exhibits about boat building, sailing and local seafaring traditions like gig rowing and piloting ships.
  • Glendurgan Gardens – Near Falmouth down the Helford Passage lies Glendurgan Garden owned by the National Trust, which specialises in exotic plants from the Southern Hemisphere arranged in a beautiful coastal valley.
  • Trelissick House & Garden – Just 10 minutes drive from St Mawes, walk around the scenic woodland garden and orchard surrounding this Georgian country mansion, with lovely estuary views across to St Mawes from scenic trails.
  • Boat Trips: Embark on a scenic boat trip around the Carrick Roads and admire the stunning coastline from a different perspective. Spot seals basking on the rocks, watch playful dolphins frolicking in the waves, and learn about the maritime history of the area.
  • Hidden Coves and Beaches: Discover secluded coves like Carne Beach or Porthcurnick Beach, perfect for building sandcastles, rockpooling, or simply relaxing on the golden sand. Pack a bucket and spade, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and create lasting memories on the Cornish coast.

St Mawes Castle offers more than just a historical glimpse into the past; it provides an opportunity for families to create lasting memories together. With its engaging activities, stunning scenery, and captivating history, this island fortress is sure to spark your children’s imaginations and ignite their curiosity. So, pack your sense of adventure, grab your camera, and embark on a journey to St Mawes Castle – an unforgettable family adventure awaits!

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