Restormel Castle – Cornwall, England - Atlas Obscura
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Cornwall, England

Restormel Castle

The ruins of an 11th-century Norman castle with a rare, perfectly circular shape.  

There are many wonderful things about this medieval castle in southwestern England. The castle itself is a marvel, a well-maintained fortification originally built in the 11th century in a rare circular style.

The most unique feature of Restormel Castle is the way the chambers, including the kitchens, Great Hall, and guest rooms, are all arranged against the outer circular walls. (The exceptions are the gatehouse, which has an attached drawbridge over the ditch that surrounds the castle, and the chapel.) The grandeur of the design can be seen in the large windows and fireplaces and in the grand Great Hall.

These ruins were once a luxurious residence for the Earl of Cornwall and one of the four chief Norman castles of Cornwall. The early history of Restormel is shrouded in mystery. Some researchers believe it could have been the first castle built by the Norman conquerors. The original castle was likely built in the late 11th century by Baldwin Fitz Turstin, and the stone keep was possibly built by King Edmund in the 13th century.

After the Earl of Cornwall, Edmund II, died in 1299, the Earldom of Cornwall reverted to the crown; Restormel lost its importance and was left to decay. In 1337, the castle passed into the hands of the first Duke of Cornwall - Edward, The Black Prince, son of Edward III. One of its chief attractions at the time was the large deer park that surrounded it, teeming with game. After Edward died in 1376, the castle again fell into disrepair. It was briefly reoccupied and fought over during the English Civil War in the mid 17th century, and then abandoned once again.

Since 1925 Restormel has been officially owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and cared for by English Heritage. It is the best remaining example of a circular castle anywhere in the United Kingdom. It is also a delightful spot for an outing like a picnic or hike. Perched atop a mound in one of the most historic and picturesque parts of the country, the estate commands a magnificent 360-degree view and is surrounded by woodlands that are a haven for birds and wildlife. Primroses, bluebells, and daffodils cover the mound in spring, while rhododendrons flower in summer. 

Know Before You Go

The castle is closed from November 5 to March 31. It reopens for the summer on April 1. Open from 10 am to 5 pm; 10 am to 6 pm in July and August. Adult entrance fee is 4.70 English pounds and for children it's 2.80 English pounds. Family passes are available.

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