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Historic houses and castles in Cornwall

Cornwall has a fascinating, rich history, and one of the best ways to explore its past is by visiting some of the amazing historic houses and castles that call the county home. From Elizabethan manors to Arthurian legends, there’s lots to be excited by and it’s all easily discoverable when staying at a campsite in Cornwall. In this guide, we highlight some of the most majestic castles and brilliant historic houses in Cornwall, letting you know about just some of what is available.

St Michael’s Mount

St Michael's Mount

St Michael’s Mount is one of the most unique locations in Cornwall and a jewel in the county’s crown. Home to a castle, medieval church, and sub-tropical gardens, visitors can reach the island of St Michael’s Mount by boat or by walking across the causeway when the tide is low. A small community lives on St Michael’s Mount and this picturesque setting is made iconic by its castle and 12th-century buildings.

Starting life as a priory, the castle has been home to the St Aubyn family since the 1600s. Featuring ancient doorways, centuries-old corridors, and layers of history in every room you visit, endless fascination awaits. There are all sorts of oddities located within the castle walls, such as a piece of Napoleon’s coat, a sofa sat on by Queen Victoria, a mummified cat, and a samurai warrior given by the Emperor of Japan.

Frankie, from the Cornwall lifestyle blog, Meet Me by the Sea, has visited St Michael’s Mount and shared with us her thoughts: “St Michael’s Mount is easily one of the most magical places to see in Cornwall. The island garden is particularly incredible. I often find that gardens in Cornwall always look so tropical due to the nature of the Gulf Stream (a warm current that reaches Cornwall) – it is a photographer’s dream! If you’re visiting the island, then make sure to check the tide times beforehand. I would suggest allowing at least half a day, if not the whole day to explore the island.”

Antony House

Antony House in Cornwall

Image credit: Rod Allday

Located in Torpoint in southeast Cornwall, Antony is a grand yet comfortable family home with so much personality and history on display. The 18th-century house is surrounded by magnificent, landscaped gardens and is home to the Carew Pole family, who were caught up in the dramatic events of the English Civil War in the 1600s. Antony is thought of as one of the finest Queen Anne buildings in the West Country.

A beautiful house of silver-grey stone, Antony offers sweeping views, formal gardens, and modern sculptures, and it was used as a filming location for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Inside the house, you can look forward to enjoying a wonderful collection of portraits, furniture, textiles, and tapestries.

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is steeped in legend, being linked with the stories of King Arthur. While we don’t know if Arthur was actually born at Tintagel as the story goes, it’s a fantastic location in its own right. This medieval fortification is situated on the peninsula of Tintagel Island and has connections going all the way back to the Roman period. Located in a breathtaking clifftop environment, the remains of this 13th-century castle are well worth exploring. Visitors can look forward to crossing the spectacular bridge for unforgettable coastal views, walking among the ruins, and even paying a visit to Merlin’s Cave – named after the wizard from Arthurian legends.

Kitti and Jon, from the travel blog, Kitti Around the World, have been to Tintagel Castle and spoke to us about what they loved about the experience and offered a couple of tips: “What we enjoyed most was how incredible the landscape of the area was and we think Tintagel is well worth a visit for the views alone. However, the mixture of rich history and legends that surround the site gave us an extra feeling of mystery as we walked around, and it definitely made our visit even more unique.

“Our two main tips for visiting Tintagel Castle are first to make sure to visit the site on a dry day. The island can be very windy even on a sunny day, so you’d probably like to avoid walking around in the rain as well. Our second piece of advice is to visit the castle during low tide. This way you will have the chance to walk down into Merlin’s Cave under the castle and also enjoy the beach which would otherwise be covered with water.”

Trerice

Trerice in Cornwall

Located in Kestle Mill, near Newquay, Trerice is one of the finest historic houses in Cornwall. This beautiful Elizabethan manor house is a true Cornish gem and has hardly changed over the centuries. Trerice is beloved by visitors as a place of peace and tranquillity, thanks to its lovely garden and gorgeous interiors.

Built by the Arundell family in 1572 thanks to their positions at the Royal Court, Trerice was later restored two hundred years later by the Aclands of Killerton before coming into the hands of the National Trust in 1953. Sporting plenty of nooks and crannies to investigate, Trerice has a host of treasures waiting to wow its visitors. From the original 16th century glass in the Great Hall window to the fabulous 1000-piece National Trust collection of wonders such as a 300-year-old clock, there’s plenty to see during your exploration.

Rebecca Henderson, who writes the travel blog Bright Lights Big City, said: “Trerice House is small but mighty, with plenty of interesting history to delve into. With it only taking about an hour to explore it’s perfect to slot into a day’s adventure and the grounds offer a stunning setting for a picnic. I like to time a visit with the National Trust events that run there throughout the year.”

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle in Falmouth is a brilliant family day out, being a fascinating old fortress that young and old will love to explore. This military fort was constructed by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1542 in order to protect England from invasion by France and the Holy Roman Empire. This remarkable coastal fortress boasts unmissable views over Falmouth and provides a peaceful seaside setting to enjoy a spot of history.

Not only did Pendennis Castle defend Cornwall during Tudor times, but it also played a role during WW1 and WW2. With winding stone staircases, historic gun displays, a Tudor keep, 360-degree panoramic views, and the lovely castle café, there are plenty of reasons to add this particular castle to your Cornwall to-do list.

Claire, from the family travel blog, Tin Box Traveller, has been to Pendennis Castle and spoke to us about what she enjoyed about the visit while also offering some tips: “What we love about Pendennis Castle is that so much is open for you to explore. From the ramparts to the castle keep, you can step inside so many historic rooms and some have recreated scenes from when soldiers were stationed here during the wars. The castle is in a very exposed position above Falmouth, so dress for the weather when visiting! If it’s a sunny day, bring a picnic blanket and enjoy a packed lunch on the lawns.”

Prideaux Place

Prideaux Place

Prideaux Place is an Elizabethan manor in Padstow, a beautiful old house to discover on a tour or simply to stroll in its tranquil gardens overlooking the ancient deer park. This grade I listed country house has been the home of the Prideaux family for 400 years. The family have been here since 1592 and still live at the house today, opening up their home so visitors can experience its majesty.

People come to Prideaux Place for many reasons, whether for its sumptuous architecture – such as the remarkable plaster ceiling – the glorious views or even the engaging mix of different periods inside the house with exquisite Italian paintings and fascinating old antiques. Prideaux Place is also home to England’s oldest cast iron canon. All in all, it’s a lovely location to relax and take in stories of the past.

Corina, from the travel blog, Packed Again, has visited Prideaux Place and shared with us her thoughts about the attraction: “If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Padstow why not visit Prideaux Place? This Elizabethan grade 1 listed country house is nestled in a tranquil setting a short drive or walk from Padstow village and is still occupied by the Prideaux family. The house has featured in numerous film and TV productions so you may even recognise it.

“You can choose to take an interesting, guided tour of the historic interior or simply wander through the beautiful gardens. Prideaux Place also has its own herd of deer. Call ahead to check the feeding times to make sure you get to see these beautiful creatures up close and maybe even participate in the feeding. A highlight for the whole family. The tearoom offers delicious snacks and beverages, including the traditional cream tea.”

Castles and historic houses in Cornwall

  • St Michael’s Mount
  • Antony House
  • Tintagel Castle
  • Trerice
  • Pendennis Castle
  • Prideaux Place

Cornwall provides so many treasures for visitors to discover and the attractions listed in this guide certainly offer their fair share of delights. If you are looking for a bit of history and a fascinating day out in Cornwall, consider some of the above castles and historic houses – you won’t be disappointed.

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