Cornwall

St Mawes Castle

Built between 1540 and 1542 for Henry VIII, St Mawes Castle is one of the most elaborately decorated and best-preserved coastal artillery fortresses in the UK. While at the time Henry was less concerned with its showstopping panoramas from an aesthetic standpoint and more in its ability to protect against invasion, these days you can’t help but let the views sweep you away.

One of a number of forts constructed between 1539 and 1545 to protect against invasion from Catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire, St Mawes Castle was built to defend the hugely important Carrick Roads waterway. Twinned with Pendennis Castle, which was built at the same time, the two castles guarded either side of the Fal estuary, ready to ward off any threat.

Designed in an attractive clover-leaf shape, the castle was originally surrounded by octagonal outer defences. Its main purpose was to house heavy artillery, capable of sinking approaching ships. While much thought went into its defensive strategy, St Mawes Castle was also decoratively embellished with carvings and includes a Latin inscription, honouring King Henry VIII and his son Edward VI.

If you find yourself in St Mawes, a trip to the castle is an absolute must. Sat at the mouth of the Fal River, its luscious grounds afford incredible views both out to sea and of the surrounding countryside and coast. Now in the capable hands of English Heritage, it is open every day and boasts plenty to see and do for visitors of all generations, including guided tours.

Enter the castle through the original guard house, cross the bridge and let the castle’s fascinating history take you on a journey through time. If you look closely as you go, you will still see handgun loops in the walls, gruesome murder holes under the castle’s arch and the castle’s "oubliette", a deep, black hole where naughty soldiers were punished for unruly behaviour!

Once you have finished exploring inside the castle, make your way up to the gun deck and see the parapet, home to four gun embrasures. Especially lovely on a summer’s day, you can breathe in the glorious scent of salty air and watch dreamy sailing boats drift by on the horizon, safe from Henry VIII’s brutal gaze!

For extra entertainment during your visit, keep an eye on the castle’s event listings. Hosting a variety of events throughout the summer, from dress-up days to live theatre, you may well find something that takes your fancy to make your day even more special.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in South Cornwall here.

St Mawes Castle, Castle Drive, St Mawes TR2 5DE | 01326 270526  | www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/st-mawes-castle/

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