Launceston Castle

Things to See and Do

Enter through the gatehouses

The main entrance to the castle today is the South Gatehouse, which in medieval times was the gateway to the castle park and faced away from the town. The North Gatehouse, known as 'Town Gate' in the Middle Ages, was where the Castle Constable lived which is now is mostly demolished. Look through the doorway to see the prison where George Fox, founder of the Quaker Society, was held.

Family fun

Enjoy a fun family day out at Launceston castle. Race to the top of the keep, and imagine you're king or queen of the castle; picnic in the grounds of the inner bailey and follow a time travelling cat as you unearth the castle’s fascinating history. There’s plenty to keep children of all ages busy!

Visit the exhibition

The castle's exhibition, newly designed in 2022 showcases some never-before-seen objects from the castle collection with a rare whale vertebra as the star of the show. Mysteriously found at the land-locked castle (the furthest point in Cornwall from the sea) it suggests high status feasting from days gone by.

Climb the tower

Since the 11th century, a high mound, partly natural, partly man-made, has stood over the town and surrounding countryside. The High Tower was built within the circular stone wall and you can see the joist holes for the roof.

With two rooms inside, the tower was two storeys high with a window and fireplace still in evidence. Climb to the top of the tower to be rewarded with breathtaking views out across the town and surrounding countryside.

Relax in the castle courtyard

Excavations in the courtyard between the 1960s and 1980s have revealed intriguing details of daily life inside the castle. The courtyard or bailey enclosed the main buildings of the castle, some of which you can still see the foundations of as you enter the site.

In the South West corner is a stone walled pit, thought to be the base of a tower and you can walk around what was the administrative hall and kitchen. Why not relax with a picnic and reimagine the hustle and bustle of castle life? 

Richard, Earl of Cornwall

The younger brother of King Henry III, Richard was Earl of Cornwall between 1227 and 1272. A highly educated, rich and powerful man, he had high ambitions but valued his Cornish and Devon estates due to the wealth derived from the local tin industry. Launceston was the administrative centre of his earldom and he extensively remodelled the castle and town during his time. Find out more in the guide book.

The castle in wartime

During the Civil War, the town and castle was held for the king except for two occasions when they were occupied by Parliamentarians before being captured by Fairfax's army in 1646. After this, work was carried out to patch up the defences but by 1650, the only part of the castle remaining was the North Gatehouse with houses and gardens occupying the ditch.

In later wars, the grounds were used to house a US field hospital with buildings set up in what is now the grassed area around the foundations which have been exposed to view.