Restormel castle sits on a high hill above the river Fowey surrounded by a dry moat. The first castle on the site was probably built c1100 by the Normans. It was a wooden keep with a wooden palisade surrounded by a ditch. A stone gatehouse was added during the late 12th century.
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The stone castle with its keep and range of rooms and the curtain wall date from around the time of Edmund, earl of Cornwall in 1272. He probably used the castle as his administrative centre for the area. After his death in 1299, stewards lived in the castle as the earldom reverted to the Crown.
By 1337 the castle was in disrepair, and it came into the hands of the first duke of Cornwall, Edward, the Black Prince. He visited here in 1354 and 1365. The surrounding parkland was home to 300 deer during this time.
By the beginning of the 1500s the castle was empty and somewhat derelict, but the civil war caused the keep to be restored enough to be garrisoned by Parliamentary army troops. It was captured in 1644 by Sir Richard Grenville. The castle was a ruin by the 18th century.
The rectangular bailey lies on the west slope, but only traces remain—a few raised platforms. In the 1300s it contained a hall, cellars, chambers, and a chapel.
A drawbridge once crossed the moat beyond which was the two storey gatehouse. To the right of the gatehouse were the kitchen, buttery, and pantry.
The circular keep, rebuilt in stone, is on the highest part of the hill. The walls are eight feet thick. It was two storeys and well finished with fine architectural details. The wall is protected by a battlemented parapet.
The great hall had two large windows and a fireplace. The solar, a private living room for the lord of the castle, was adjacent to the great hall. The chapel projected from the eastern curtain wall. It measured 25 by 18 feet and had two-light windows in the north and south walls and a three-light window in the east wall. A principal bed chamber was reached from an ante chapel, while a guest chamber was near the gateway.
Restormel castle is located 1.5 miles north of the town of Lostwithiel, Cornwall, off the A390.
Open: April-end June and Sep, daily, 10am-5pm; July and Aug, 10am-6pm; Oct, daily, 10am-4pm
Under the care of English Heritage, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.
Car park; picnic area; shop
Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Cornwall Cam