What if we told you that deep in the heart of Cornwall lies a castle that looks as if it jumped off the pages of a fairytale book? One so unusual that the Brothers Grimm would have struggled to imagine such a place? You would probably want us to prove it, yeah? Well, look at the photograph above. Carn Brea Castle is real. Go and see this imposing and historical fairytale structure for yourself.
Carn Brea Castle rests in the heart of Cornwall’s gritty mining country that surrounds the towns of Redruth and Camborne. And it’s pretty high up too, sitting atop Carn Brea, which is a hill that’s 738 feet above sea level and can be seen from miles around. By our reckoning, this castle is one of the county’s best as it conjures up so many colourful images once you’ve climbed the hill or, at least, driven up the little road that takes you to its door.
The castle actually sits on the so-called ‘Giant’s Seat’, which, according to legend, was used by John of Gaunt, a giant that is said to have once lived on Carn Brea. Legend says that he met his demise in battle with Bolster, the giant of St Agnes, who was said to be so big that he could stand with one foot on St Agnes Beacon and the other on Carn Brea. Poor ol’ John never stood a chance but his legend lives on up on Carn Brea, as there are several rock formations that are named after him, including his ‘cradle’ and his ‘coffin’.
Right, let’s get to the brass tacks. If you go to Carn Brea Castle and expect an old knightly interior to explore with perhaps a museum and some guides in period dress then you’re sadly out of luck because this is now actually a Middle Eastern restaurant. But it’s been quite the journey to get here. It’s believed that the first stones were laid in the early 14th century and that the original structure was a chapel that was dedicated to St Michael and was built in 1379. A hundred years later, it was described as a ‘tower’ and in the 18th century it was given a much more castle-like look as it was being used as a hunting lodge by the Bassets, a local mine-owning dynasty that lorded over the region for some 700 years. It fell into disrepair between the 1950s and 80s before being renovated as the building we see today.
It’s quite fitting that this grade II castle is a restaurant today as it was once used by the Bassets as a house to throw grand feasts. On your visit here be sure to also wander over the the towering Basset Monument, a mere stone’s throw to the east. And, of course, take in the panoramas across Cornwall on all sides. And take in this grand castle on all sides too as the angles thrown up by this fusion of natural and man-made building blocks are quite mesmerising. It’s easy to imagine a thousand legends and fairytales here, thanks to the invention of whoever designed this place and the frivolity of the Bassets that funded it.