May Day trip to
Devon and Cornwall
Over the May 1st (2004) holiday weekend, Peter and Debbie visited
7 castles in Devon and Cornwall.
On Day ONE, we visited 3 castles in Devon:
Dartmouth Castle, Totnes Castle, and Berry Pomeroy Castle.
That evening we stayed in a wonderful
B&B just outside Plymouth. On Day TWO, we visited 3
castles in Cornwall (Restormel, Tintagel, and Launceston).
- First, we visited Dartmouth castle. This brilliantly
positioned defensive castle juts out into the narrow entrance to the
Dart Estuary, with the sea lapping at its foot. Begun in the late 14th
century, the castle was intended to protect the warehouses and homes of
Dartmouth’s merchants. It was one of the earliest castles built with
the prospect of artillery attack in mind.
- From Dartmouth, we moved on to Totnes castle.
One of the best-preserved Norman shell keeps, this motte and bailey castle
offers splendid views over the River Dart.
- From Totnes, we drove to Berry Pomeroy castle,
a romantic ruined castle is situated in a picturesque Devon valley and
steeped in local folklore and legend. The gatehouse and defensive curtain
wall date from the late 15th century and behind them are the remains of an
Elizabethan country house built C.1560-1600 by the Seymour family. Edward
Seymour, first Duke of Somerset – also known as the uncle and governor of
the boy-king, Edward VI – acquired the castle in 1547. At the castle, the "Plantagent Company" was putting on a show...
- Surrounded by a deep moat and perched on a high mound, the huge circular
keep of Restormel castle was built at the turn of the 14th century. Built as a
symbol of wealth and status and once home to Edward, the Black Prince, it
offers splendid views over the surrounding countryside.
- Then we drove to the coast to see the
castle most often associated with "King Arthur" ... Tintagel
Castle. With its spectacular location on one of England’s most dramatic
coastlines, Tintagel is an awe-inspiring and romantic spot. It is also a
place of legends. Joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, Tintagel
Island faces the full force of the Atlantic. On the mainland itself, the
gaunt remains of the medieval castle represent only one phase in a long
history of occupation. Even before Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his
castle, Tintagel had come to be associated with the conception of King
Arthur. The connection was later renewed by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his
Idylls of the King. The remains of the 13th-century castle are breathtaking. Steep stone
steps, stout walls and rugged windswept cliff edges encircle the Great Hall,
where Richard, Earl of Cornwall, once feasted. The emphasis here is always
on the word ‘may’, as there are so many unanswered questions and legends
- Launceston Castle, our next stop, is
set on the high motte of a stronghold built soon after the Norman Conquest.
It was famously used as a jail for George Fox during the reign of Charles
II. As the venue for the county assizes and jail, the castle witnessed the
trials and hangings of numerous criminals. The last execution was in 1821. A
hands-on display at the castle traces 1,000 years of history, with finds
from site excavations.
On the way home, we stopped at
Okehampton Castle, the ruins of the largest castle in Devon, which includes
the Norman motte and the keep’s jagged remains.