However, there are many ancient ruins and historical castles – some destroyed, some that still exist – in the area too, many of which are protected by the National Trust, and you can visit today! Some castles in Cornwall you can actually stay in.
There are even castles in Cornwall for weddings! If you are looking to visit some castles in Cornwall or simply wanting to know how many castles are there in Cornwall, read on to find out where they are and if you can visit them.
Many myths and legends find a home in the beautiful surroundings of Cornwall, and visiting some of the castles in this list is an excellent way to learn about and gain an appreciation for English myth and history.
How many castles are there in Cornwall that are now ruins?
There are around 20 castles in total. Unfortunately, there are seven castles in Cornwall of which very little or absolutely nothing remains:
Bossiney Castle – excavations in the 1800s discovered the remains of ringwork and a bailey, but no castle. It is thought one stood there around about 600 years previous until it was somehow destroyed.
Bottreaux Castle – another motte and bailey fortress from the 1200s of which little survives and ancestral home of Baron Botreaux, an English Peer created in the mid-1300s.
Cardinham Castle – belonged to an Anglo-Norman landowner in the 14th Century.
Helston Castle – today a bowling green, the site was previously home to a crude motte and bailey castle in the 1000s, before it was upgraded with stone in the 1200s and subsequently fell into ruin a few hundred years later.
Liskeard Castle – A castle built by the Norman’s after their conquest of England, that fell into disrepair in the Middle-Ages, all but gone by the mid-1500s.
Penstowe Castle – probably built during the English civil war in the 1200s, Penstowe Castle is yet another ruined motte and bailed castle, but British Law protects this one as a Scheduled Monument.
Upton Castle – situated by the sea like Penstowe Castle, Upton Castle lies in the valley of the river Inny and unfortunately exists only in the form of fragmentary remains.
How many castles are there in Cornwall that are still standing?
The good news is that there are many Castles still standing in Cornwall, and you can see the Cornwall castles map here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maps_of_castles_in_England_by_county:_B%E2%80%93K#Cornwall
English Heritage, the National Trust, and other organisations do an excellent job of restoring, repairing and maintaining these castles so that we can benefit from visiting and learning about them.
How many castles are there in Cornwall? No less than thirteen castles are intact, and these monuments to English heritage are breathtaking chances to learn about our history.
Caerhays Castle – A Neo-Romantic style castle, built later than the others in Cornwall, Caerhays Castle is visually beautiful and impressive, but not a castle in a true sense: it was built for show rather than defending England from invading Frenchmen or Vikings.
At this castle is one of the four largest collections of Magnolia flowers in the UK, which is protected by the National Council for the Conservation of Flowers and Gardens.
Made from local stone, Caerhays recently (in the 90s) became a grade one listed building and is therefore protected by law, along with its impressive gardens which are open to the public for visitation.
More recently, Poldark novels have featured the castle, and the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was filmed there.
Carn Brea Castle – a sham castle that was possibly a Medieval hunting lodge, Carn Brea castle is a granite stone grade two listed building that is currently in private use as a restaurant.
Ince Castle – Ince Castle was not originally a castle at all but an English Manor House that was built at the start of the English Civil War and subsequently captured and fortified. It was burned down in 1988 but later rebuilt. Its house and gardens are sometimes open to the public, and the current owners are the Viscount and Viscountess of Merton.
Launceston Castle – a castle with an unusual round tower – and built by the Earl of Cornwall – Launceston is where the Norman invaders first began to build castles.
It spent a few hundred years acting as a prison, before becoming public gardens in the 1800s. You can still visit the gardens and climb the tower today. Launceston was the former capital of Cornwall, and thus deserved its own castle.
Pendennis Castle – one of several Artillery Forts on this list, Pendennis castle was a 16oos gun emplacement constructed by Henry the Eighth and saw a long siege during the English Civil War, in which it was taken by parliament.
As a coastal fortress, Pendennis was later fortified and used again in later wars, including both World Wars.
The Falmouth castle is today operated by English Heritage, who bring the castle’s long history to life. It is open for visits from the public and widely considered one of the best-preserved castles in Cornwall.
Pengersick Castle – another fortified Manor House and grade two listed building, Pengersick Castle is subject of various rumours about ghosts and devil-worship. It is said that the spirit of John Milton resides here.
The British television show Most Haunted has visited it, and the rumours about a large, roaming black dog are thought to have been created by locals to scare off visitors.
Place house – not originally a castle but a defensive tower to protect against the French, Place House has been added to and expanded several times, now resembling the type of castle we would expect.
It is subject to some history; due to its close proximity to the sea, there were reports of a wreck in which the local preacher and his congregation sprinted to the shore to share in the spoils.
Restormel Castle – a thirteen-century shell-keep, so called due to its round shape, Restormel Castle stands atop a hill and is in remarkable condition to this day. It is currently managed by English Heritage and open for visits to its peaceful, quiet, nature-filled location. It is now a Scheduled Monument and popular picnic location.
St Catherine’s Castle – an early example of an Artillery Fortress protecting the river Fowley, St Catherine’s Castle is another of Henry the Eighth’s defences against the French. It saw later service in the Crimean and Second World Wars. Now managed by English Heritage, you can visit the castle for tours.
St Mawes Castle – sitting opposite the larger Pendennis Castle, St Mawes Castle shares the task of protecting the Fal estuary. Compensating for its smaller size, it is richly and elaborately decorated including decorations of sea monsters and gargoyles.
St Mawes is the epitome of a Henrician castle; a castle built by Henry the eighth for military purposes. There is a ferry tour situated near this castle, and both offer excellent sea views. English Heritage maintains the castle and allows visits.
St Michael’s Mount – an unusual combination of both church and castle, St Michael’s Mount is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Cornwall (no small task) and resides on a small island, steeped in myth, legend and over a thousand years of history.
This castle is unique in the many uses it has had, from monastery to family home to military installation used in the War of the Roses.
It is named after Saint Michael because as early as 500AD the saint was rumoured to have arrived and warned fisherman of coming peril. It is also the originating point of the myth of Jack the Giantkiller (from Jack and the Beanstalk).
St Michael’s Mount served as the setting for John Milton’s poem Lycidas. Despite its location a few hundred meters off the coast of Marazion, in low tide, it is possible to walk over to this island and take in its views and history.
It is now managed by a combination of the National Trust and the St Aubyn Family. If you are planning to visit this magnificent castle, please note that it is not open to the public on Saturdays.
Tintagel Castle – supposedly the birthplace of legendary King Arthur, Tintagel Castle is situated right near Merlin’s cave atop the rugged cliff-faces, offering spectacular views.
The more modern ruins we can see today were built around the Thirteenth Century by the Earl of Cornwall. Excavations have found materials from as early as the fifth and sixth centuries, suggesting that the historical connections may have some founding in reality.
Tintagel Castle is thought to be one of the most fantastic castles in all of Great Britain – not just Cornwall – and English Heritage still offers tours. It is currently owned by Charles, The Prince of Wales and more than two hundred thousand people visit it every year to enjoy the history and views.
Trematon Castle – A shell keep much like Restormel Castle, Trematon Castle is currently open to the public and features an 1800s Georgian house in its grounds.
Trematon Castle was built shortly after the Norman conquest and temporarily served as home to some of Sir Francis Drake’s hoard of gold and treasure before it was moved to the Tower of London.
How many castles are there in Cornwall?
In total, there were around twenty castles in historic Cornwall. Today, there are thirteen castles you can and should visit in Cornwall.
We hope this answers your question on how many castles are there in Cornwall and has given you some ideas on which castle to visit, stay at or even hold your wedding at.