St Mawes Castle

Falmouth, United Kingdom

St Mawes Castle is an artillery fort constructed by Henry VIII near Falmouth, Cornwall, between 1540 and 1542. It formed part of the King's Device programme to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire, and defended the Carrick Roads waterway at the mouth of the River Fal. The castle was built under the direction of Thomas Treffry to a clover leaf design, with a four-storey central tower and three protruding, round bastions that formed gun platforms. It was initially armed with 19 artillery pieces, intended for use against enemy shipping, operating in partnership with its sister castle of Pendennis on the other side of the estuary. During the English Civil War, St Mawes was held by Royalist supporters of King Charles I, but surrendered to a Parliamentary army in 1646 in the final phase of the conflict.

The castle continued in use as a fort through the 18th and 19th centuries. In the early 1850s, fears of a fresh conflict with France, combined with changes in military technology, led to the redevelopment of the fortification. The out-dated Henrician castle was turned into a barracks and substantial gun batteries were constructed beneath it, equipped with the latest naval artillery. In the 1880s and 1890s an electrically operated minefield was laid across the River Fal, operated from St Mawes and Pendennis, and new, quick-firing guns were installed at St Mawes to support these defences. After 1905, however, St Mawes' guns were removed, and between 1920 and 1939 it was run by the state as a tourist attraction.

Brought back into service in the Second World War, naval artillery and an anti-aircraft gun were installed at the castle to defend against the risk of German attack. With the end of the war, St Mawes again returned to use as a tourist attraction. In the 21st century, the castle is operated by English Heritage. The castle has elaborate, carved 16th-century decorations including sea monsters and gargoyles.



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Falmouth, United Kingdom
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Founded: 1540-1542
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Natalie Shaw (9 months ago)
Lovely gem hidden away. Didn't know this place existed but certainly worth the trip. Met by friendly English heritage staff who explained what there was to see and do in the castle. Lots of different levels and rooms to walk around in the castle and then if you wanted to you can walk around and explore the grounds. Definitely worth taking the time and doing the grounds. There were toilets on site. Some very steep staircases made parts of the castle hard to access but it did have hand rails which made it easier for some members of our group.
stephen jefferies (9 months ago)
Great little castle to visit. Its not huge so will not take you longer than an hour to go around. The place is well managed and you are pretty much free to go and explore just about anywhere on the grounds. If the weather holds you will some great views of Falmouth and St.Mawes.
Tim Green (9 months ago)
Worth a visit. Take time to read the information boards to get a sense of the history of the castle. On a nice day, enjoy the battery areas with an ice cream and watch the ships coming out of Falmouth.
Julie Kempen (10 months ago)
We caught the ferry, which was an invigorating experience, then followed the crowd on foot to the castle. It felt like someone was still living in it! No ruins, just a working castle. Information notices informed us throughout our visit. Welcoming and informed staff.
Sue Gidney (11 months ago)
We boarded ferry at Falmouth to St Mawes,dogs allowed, we then walked up St Mawes Castle, £11 per adult to enter, wonderful views and scenic gardens, toilet facilities, lots of swirling stairs to top but we managed with dog aswell. Stopped off for a coffee just outside of Castle and then sat on pretty bay just at the bottom of Castle. We then headed back to harbour area,where their are small shops,food and drinks outlets,and lots of crabbing areas for children and bays to relax and swim/paddle board .We got on small ferry to Place,which comes every 30 minutes, crew very chatty and friendly and then walked along coastline to St Anthony's lighthouse, this is about a 45 minute walk,quite hilly but worth it for the amazing views, small sandy bay and to see lighthouse. You can buy a adult combined return ferry ticket for £20 ,definitely worth it for a fantastic day out !
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