Pendennis Castle

Image courtesy of English Heritage

In Brief

Type: Historical attraction
Suitable for: History buffs
Address: Castle Drive, Falmouth
Price: Members free, adults £13.50, five to 17-year-olds £8.10, over-65s £12.20, under-fives free
Dog friendly?: Yes

Once upon a time, there were more than 20 castles in Cornwall. Today, only 13 are still standing. And each one of them is steeped in history. However, few come as iconic and impressive as Pendennis Castle in Falmouth.

The mighty Pendennis was built by King Henry VIII as an artillery fort between 1540 and 1542. Its purpose was to defend against any invasions from Catholic France and Spain and, if needed, it would work in tandem with St Mawes Castle, which lies just across the estuary at the mouth of the River Fal. Although it never saw action back then, the circular keep and gun platform at Pendennis were expanded and extensive stone ramparts and bastions were built around the older castle at the end of the 16th century due to the ongoing Spanish threat.

As with St Mawes, Pendennis was held by Royalists during the English Civil War, only being taken by Parliament’s army following a lengthy siege in 1646. King Charles II renovated the castle in 1660 and, over the following centuries, its defences were modernised due to a number of conflicts like the Napoleonic Wars. It was rearmed in both world wars and actually saw action against the German Luftwaffe in the Second World War but was eventually decommissioned in 1956. Soon after, the castle was opened to the public and, these days, English Heritage manages it as a tourist attraction. And what an attraction it is.

The views of Falmouth’s surrounding vistas are incredible from the castle. Plus, there’s a plethora of highlights here, like the big guns in the Field Train Shed, the Battery Observation Post that was key to Falmouth’s safety during the Second World War and the rock-cut tunnel between the One Gun Battery and the Half Moon Battery. Listen in to conversations onboard approaching ships in one interactive area of the castle. In another, see Tudor gunners in action in an immersive installation before you load an interactive cannon yourself. Also see and hear the noon day gun fired by a crew in Edwardian uniform at midday in season. Finish with a dish ‘with a historical Tudor twist’ at the castle’s café. This really is one of Cornwall’s greatest historical gems that spans, displays and celebrates more than 480 years of British history.