VISIT  LAUNCESTON  CASTLE  WITH ENGLISH  HERITAGE  MEMBERSHIP

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TICKETS & PRICES

Adults: £5.90
Children 5-17 Years: £3.50
Families (2 adults, up to 3 Children): £16.90
Families (1 adult, up to 3 Children): £10.40

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Visiting Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle ruins still dominate the high natural ridge in Launceston, Cornwall. The mid 12th to 13th-century ruins stood on an 11th-century fort of earth and timber and controlled a vital trade route. Visitors may visit the ruins for a fee and climb the stone keep to admire the magnificent view.

Parking

Visitors may access several nearby pay and display areas around the castle, as three is no on-site parking at the castle proper. There’s an NCP-managed multi-storey parking facility opposite the castle.

Otherwise, visitors may opt for the short and long stay parking within a 10 to fifteen minutes walk of the castle site. If you plan a school visit, you may book the staff car park, but this area is not available for commercial coaches or minibuses.

Price

The castle site carries a charge that goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of this important historical monument. English Heritage advises that visitors book beforehand on their website. This ticket price does not include parking which carries a standard parking fee. The prices are as follows:

  • Members: Free
  • Adult Fee: £6.50 without donation, £5.90 with donation
  • Child Fee: 3-7 Years Old: £3.90 without donation, £3.50 with donation
  • Family Prices: 2 Adults and up to Three Children: £16.90 without donation, £15.30 with donation
  • Family Prices (1 Adult and up to Three Children): £10.40 without donation, £9.40 with donation

Opening

The English Heritage updates their opening hours weekly, and they’re usually open all week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including most bank holidays. They’re currently updating their Autumn visiting times and are pending as of 2021. Ensure that you check their opening times before you visit by checking the English Heritage Website

Location and Access

Visitors will find the Launceston Castle ruins in Launceston in Cornwall, England. Guests may walk around the motte on a grass pathway with seating areas to enjoy the ruins or a picnic when the weather is fine. 

The castle stands atop its protective mound, and visitors may reach by a bridge over the 13th-century ditch. You may view the original joist holes for the roof within the circular stone wall.

The tower still stands up to two stories high, with a fireplace and window intact. Those visiting the grounds may climb to the top of the tower via 64 steps with several places to rest. There are handrails for those with climbing difficulties. Once on top, you can enjoy the majestic views of the surrounding town and countryside.

Disabled visitors may access the outer bailey, exhibition room, and shop via a side gate which allows wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and double buggy pushchairs. 

The physical location of the castle is:

Launceston

Cornwall

England

PL15 7DR

Know Before You Go

  • There are no toilet facilities on the site, but there are public toilets in the nearby multi-storey car park adjacent to the castle.
  • There’s a small exhibition room with a cabinet display showing over 1000 years of the archaeological history of on-site excavations. 
  • Owners may bring their dogs provided they keep their pets leashed. English Heritage provides a water bowl and nearby the shop and dog waste bin on the castle green.
  • There’s a shop on the castle site that sells gifts, food, ice cream, and beverages.  
  • Children may make use of the dressing-up box located in the museum exhibition area. 
  • Visitors should note that no ball playing or kite/drone flying is permitted on the heritage site.
  • As the grass may become boggy in inclement weather, visitors should wear sensible walking shoes when visiting the site.

Places To Stay Nearby

The Eagle House Hotel

The Georgian Townhouse has stood since 1764 and offers a great historical venue from which to view Launceston Castle (a 7-minute walk.) Beautifully renovated, The Eagle House Hotel also provides a stunning distillery terrace with a 270-litre (71.32 gal) bespoke gin still. 

They offer an in-house restaurant with banqueting features for 20 guests and over as well as complimentary breakfast. Prices per night range from £84 ($115) to £119 ($164) for superior suites.

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The Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn dates back to the 1750s where it was a famous coach house between Launceston and Bodmin. The Jamaica Inn gained international fame after the young Daphne du Marier stayed for a night when lost horse riding. The hotel features a Daphne du Maurier Museum and smuggling artefacts from the chequered Cornwall past. 

The hotel offers an in-house restaurant and shop and 34 rooms to explore ghostly visitations or murder mystery nights. Prices per night range from £115 ($158) for a standard double to £140 ($193) for a luxury suite. The Jamaica Inn offers dog-friendly accommodation.

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Bodmin Premier Inn

Bodmin Premier Inn is just a twenty-minute drive from the castle and the perfect place to explore the many historical attractions of Cornwall. The hotel is close to Bodmin Gaol, the scene of 55 executions, or visitors may try the notorious Jamaica Inn for paranormal encounters. 

The hotel offers a restaurant, free wifi and competitively priced rooms starting at £67.50 ($93) to £102 ($140) depending on your package. 

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History of Launceston Castle 

Launceston Castle ruins still stand overlooking the strategic route between Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor and the Polson Ford crossing. The current ruins stand on top of an earlier castle replaced in stone in the 12th century. The castle served as a gaol (jail) from the 1300s and was stripped during the Civil War. 

Time Line


-1068 

After the Norman conquest of England, historians suggest that Robert the Count of Mortain bought Launceston Castle. William the Conqueror granted his half-brother, Robert, the Cornwall area to strengthen Norman's control of the area.

-1106 

Robert's son, William, rebelled against Henry I, and the King confiscated the castle.

-1141–1175

Reginald de Dusnstanville occupied the castle and then passed the ownership to Prince John and back into the crown when John rebelled against Richard I.

-1166

The importance of Launceston grew due to its central position at the Cornish Border on the River Tamar. The control over the trade route allowed the Norman earls to collect taxes on goods entering and leaving the area.  

-Late 12th Century

The castle underwent extensive rebuilding, including the circular keep, two stone gatehouses, and towers when the local authorities chose Launceston castle to house the local assise and court. The builders began replacing the wooden ramparts in stone and rebuilt the wooden homes to accommodate the feudal knights and guards.

-1227 

Henry IIIs younger sibling Richard was made the Earl Richard of Cornwall rebuilt the original motte and bailey structure of timber and earthwork in a more secure stone build. Funded by the burgeoning mining industry, Richard set about to make the defences of the castle able to withstand attack. 

However, the Richards extensive rebuild was more a show of power and wealth than a purely military undertaking as he visited Cornwall infrequently.

-1201– 1220s

The town borough grew and settled outside the castle gates, and Richard built a stone city wall linking the new borough of Launceston to his caste defences as a show of power. 

-1272

Richard's son Edmund moved the administrative centre of the earldom away from Launceston to Lostwithiel to be closed to the mining interests, and the castle began to fall into a state of disrepair. 

-1300

Edmund died without an heir, and the castle fell back into the Crown's hands. 

-1312

Edward II granted the castle to Piers de Gaveston, a trusted ally, but Graves fell under execution, and the castle passed to Walter de Bottreux.

Edward II gave the earldom, including Launceston Castle, to his royal favourite, Piers de Gaveston, but following Gaveston's execution in 1312, the castle passed to Walter de Bottreaux.

-1337

Edward the black Price was made the first to take the title of Duke of Cornwall bestowed on him by his father Edward III. However, historical records suggest the castle is in a ruinous state.

-The 1340s

Repair work began on the castle, as the castle gained importance as the holding of judicial courts (assizes) and gaol, and The Black prince attended council meetings at the site.

-15th Century

Castle occupants divided the bailey by a long wall and adapted the keep into an additional prison structure. Launceston Castle saw little military conflict in the War of the Roses but passed possession from the Yorkist to Lanacastian hands after Henry VII's victory.

-1539

John Leland mentions the castle as the strongest building he had ever seen but mentions only the chapel and great hall used for court sessions and Assizes. 

-1548

After the murder of the royal commissioner Sir Willam Body by two Cornish men, Edward VI arrested and executed 28 local men in the castle. The King had sent Body to destroy the much revered catholic shrines at Helston. 

-1549

As the reputation of the castle and its keepers grew more blackened, the Prayer Book rebellion took place. Led by Sir Humphrey Arundell, historians suggest the castle fell without a military struggle.

At this time, Sir Richard Grenville died in his Lanucston castle cell. Shortly after, John Russell defeats the rebels and retook the castle, and captures Arundel. 

-16th Century

From its powerful beginnings, the castle fell to a rubbish tip by the nearby town, and the castle deer park fell into disuse. 

-1584

Historical records refer to the castle as abandoned and in a state of decay. 

-1637

The castle still functions as a jail, but historical records refer to it as near collapse when the English Civil war broke out.

-21st Century

The Duchy of Cornwall owns Launceston Castle, and English Heritage is the custodian of the now scheduled monument.

Launceston Castle Occupants

 

  • 1068: Robert, the Count of Mortain, built the first motte and bailey fort on the Launceston castle site. 
  • 1106: Robert's son, William, occupied the castle until his rebellion against the crown.
  • 1141-1175: Reginald de Dusnstanville occupied the castle at this time.
  • 1191: King John granted the caste to his ally and Sir Hubert de Burgh.
  • 1227: Richard Earl of Cornwall owns the castle but only occupied the castle infrequently.
  • 1312: The castle passed from the Crown to Piers de Gaveston and after his execution to Walter de Bottreaux.
  • 1337: The castle constable occupied the northern gatehouse.
  • The 1340s: Edward, the Black Prince, attended council meetings in the castle.
  • 1484: Halnatheus Malyverer the Yorkist took control of the castle. 
  • 1485: Sir Richard Edgcumbe Lancastrian occupied the castle.
  • 1549: Sir Richard Grenvilles dies in the castle, and 28 local men suffer execution in the castle for the murder of Body.

Images of Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle
Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle Launceston Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Launceston Castle Facts

  • The first mention of Launceston Castle was in the Domesday Survey of 1086.
  • In 1548, townsfolk began to call the Launceston Castle “The Castle Terrible” after 28 townsfolk met gory ends at the site. The execution of the villagers was revenge by the crown for the killing of the royal commissioner Sir William Body.
  • In 1690, the prison was terrible, and women and men were kept together in filthy cages. Food was lowered to the inmates by a rope.
  • The famous Launceston Gaol once housed George Fox, the man who founded the Quakers, and historians believe his cell was the small room opening off the north gate.
  • Launceston is listed as a certain timber and masonry medieval castle and a protected national monument.
  • Launceston is pronounced lahn-ston in the British vernacular.

Launceston Castle Q&A

What Remains of Launceston Castle?

The castle ruins hold the remnants of a curtain wall enclosing a bailey with the remnants of a south and north gatehouse. The inside of the bailey stretches 360 by 390 feet (110 x 120 meters).

Visitors may see the traces of various foundations of the old buildings, including the great hall, which measures 22 by 7 metres (72 by 23 ft) across. The remains also include a long narrow hall possibly used for assizes and a large kitchen with round bread ovens that served the castle.

The northeast corner holds the motte with a keep and a 13th-century high tower 12 meters (39 ft) tall and constructed of dark shale. Much of the curtain wall is gone, although a 160-foot (48.7 meters) stretch survives on the southwest side.

How Old Is Launceston Castle?

The standing structure of the Launceston castle ruins dates back to the 12th to the late 13th century and stands on an earlier 11th-century built fort. The original castle was an earthwork and timber fortification with a bailey providing a wooden palisade for defence. 

The rising importance of Launceston Castle in the 13th century prompted the Normans to build a second stone high tower and a walkway for providing a fighting platform. They also make a stone curtain wall on the rampart at all sides and a great hall and kitchen. 

Location of Launceston Castle

The Launceston Castle is a medieval castle located on the crossing of the River Tamar on the vital route between Cornwall and Devon. Although the standing structures date mainly to the 1300s, they were built atop an earlier 11th motte and bailey fort. The original defence had a raised clay and rubble rampart with timber palisades as their surrounding defence.

As the site grew in importance in the 1200s, the Normans rebuilt the wooden fort in stone to further consolidate their power and protect their administrative control over the area. They replaced the wooden fortress with a circular stone keep.

Richard, Earl of Cornwall, extended in the 13th century with residential and defensive buildings, including the tower, curtain walls, a court, and a new great hall. 

Other Places To Visit Near Launceston Castle

Mary Magdalene Church 

St. Mary Magdalene's Church dates back from the 12th century, although only the tower remains from the original build. Historians believe Henry Trecarrel commissioned the memorial to his infant son and funded its building between 1511 and 1524. The castle has an eight bell peal and is worth visiting for the spectacular biblical carvings and stained glass. 

Launceston Priory 

Founded in 1127 by William Warelwast, the Bishop of Exeter was once the house of Augustinian monks. Launceston Priory stands atop an earlier centre of worship from around 800 AD. The priory was lost under rubble for many years until uncovered in the new railway line construction in 1880. The ruins are free to visit during reasonable daylight hours. 

Launceston Steam Railway

Great for children or children at heart, the Launceston Steam Railway offers memorable journeys through the Cornwall countryside. Making use of lovingly restored Victorian steam trains, visitors may travel to Newmills and its popular Fram park. The steam train offers a cafe, museum, and gift shop. 

Lydford Castle and Saxon Town

Lydford Castle was a notorious prison housed in the 13th-century tower, while to the south, you’ll find earlier Norman castle ruins. King John Built the castle tower to house offenders against the forest and stannary laws. 

The castle tower housed prisoners throughout the middle ages to the 18th century, often under deplorable conditions. The castle ruins are open to visit at any reasonable daylight hour.

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