Spend the day exploring St Mawes Castle, one of the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses, and the most elaborately decorated.
Part of a chain of forts built between 1539 and 1545 to counter an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain, St Mawes would have guarded the important anchorage of Carrick Roads alongside Pendennis Castle.
Wander around its charming clover-leaf shape which was originally surrounded by octagonal defences and notice the embellishment of Latin inscriptions in praise of King Henry VIII and his son Edward VI.
Don't Miss The stunning sea views from the top of the castle keep
The 'oubliette' where prisoners were kept captive
The beautiful grounds which stretch down to the Fal Estuary
ENTER THE CASTLE
Today, visitors approach the castle through the original guardhouse, which leads directly onto the bridge across the ditch which once extended around the castle. Look for the handgun loops in the walls and murder holes under the arch. Around the castle are beautiful stone carvings of the Tudor royal arms with Latin inscriptions, designed to flatter the monarch and his son Edward.
PUNISHMENT IN THE TOWER
As you pass from the entrance bridge, you enter the second floor of the gun tower. Head to the right and if you look down on the floor, you can see a glass panel covering a deep hole, known as an "oubliette." Here prisoners or unruly soldiers were kept in the dark underground as punishment for crimes or bad behaviour. Follow the corridor to explore the rest of the castle keep and rooms.
THE GUN PLATFORM AND BASTIONS
Walk out on onto the open roof of the forward bastion and you can see a parapet with four embrasures for guns which protected the river. Over the door are Henry VIII's royal arms carved in stone with sculptures on each side, visible as you walk back inside. Climb the steps to the side bastions to see more gun embrasures and a small soldier's latrine.
DAILY LIFE AT THE CASTLE
On the lower floor is the basement which was used at the kitchen and storeroom and at busy times, home to up to 20 men. Water from a well fed into a cistern in a wall recess at one time and you can see the large fireplace with bread oven which was used daily to cook meals for the soldiers. The first floor was the mess room and more dangerously a gunpowder store until the 19th century.
GUNS AND GUNPOWDER
At the edge of the site overlooking the castle walls, you can still see the remains of the defensive gun platforms from Tudor times. In the 19th century, the Grand Sea Battery was built and soon after the magazine or ammunition store. Today there is a gun on a replica traversing platform to show you how later defences worked to protect the castle. There are several cannons around the castle showing how the castle would have been set up in times of war.
SALUTING THE KING!
Once you have explored the castle keep and wandered through the landscaped gardens, you reach the Tudor Blockhouse, built into a rock cut platform on the shoreline. Then on the far side of the grounds is a row of guns dating from the late 18th and 19th century on display on wooden platforms. Historically fired on ceremonial occasions, they now represent a saluting battery.
TAKE THE FERRY
One of the best ways to approach the castle is by sea and visitors can enjoy a lovely ferry ride on either the foot ferry from Falmouth town or by car on the King Harry Ferry from nearby Feock. There are stunning sea views on both journeys, and the Mussel Travel Card offers great discounts on entry to Pendennis and St Mawes Castles.
The disabled parking is located approximately 30 yards from the entrance (visitors will need to be able to cross a path/walk down steps after parking).
There are Accessible Toilets on site with handrails.
Mobility / Wheelchair Support
There are no ramps at the site. Wheelchair access is extremely restricted, although is possible to enter the shop and courtyard.
Vision Impairment Support
Braille Guides are available.
Hearing Impairment Support
Tour transcripts available.
Permanent induction loops are available in the shop only.