The Lake District’s beautiful countryside inspired Beatrix Potter to write her famous series of books. Tales of Peter Rabit...
From lordly strongholds filled with resident phantoms to dramatic fortresses keeping watch over the waves, Devon has a spectacular array of castles We’ve chosen the top 5 favourite fortresses you simply must visit. So, what are you waiting for? Don your armour, hope on your noble steed, and get visiting!
This may well be the most scenically located fortification in the whole of Britain. The beautiful castle has guarded the Dart Estuary for the past six centuries, protecting the townsfolk of the bustling port of Dartmouth during medieval times with a colossal iron chain which stretched across the waters of the river mouth. An impressive feat of medieval engineering, the defensive chain could be raised in times of attack to stop enemy ships in their tracks and make them an easy target for local gunmen.
Construction was first started here in 1388 by the colourful John Hawley, who, as well as being the Mayor of Dartmouth, was a prominent merchant and privateer that likely inspired the character of the Shipman in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
Nowadays, you can enjoy a a riverboat ride to the castle to take in some of the best views on the Devon Coast from atop the ancient turrets, before tucking into a cream tea (jam on top, as per the Devonshire custom!) as you watch the waves break on the rocks below.
With high stone walls set amid blooming orchards and rolling hills, Compton is the very picture of a medieval romance in England.
Step beneath the portcullises to discover the restored beauty of this magnificent stronghold, home to the Gilbert family for nearly 600 years, including the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Humphrey Gilbert who was an experienced seafaring explorer in his own right.
After immersing yourself in historic tales from the castle’s bygone days, be sure to wander the paths of the pristine and beautifully tranquil gardens, taking in the heavenly aromas of the wisteria and roses all around.
Hidden deep within a leafy valley, Berry Pomeroy castle is a place of fascinating histories and spine-chilling tales.
The rise and fall of the families that have called it their home over the long years is perfectly demonstrated in its stony structure: the encircling walls date from the 15th century are all that remains of the Pomeroy family castle, whilst the spectacular ruins within belong to the Elizabethan mansion of the Seymour family, which was never completed and waould go on to be abandoned in the 18th century.
Like all the best castles, Berry Pomeroy has more than its fair share of ghosts. The most common sightings have been of the infamous White Lady and Blue Lady. The story goes that the beautiful Margaret Pomeroy was imprisoned and left to die in the dungeons by her sister, Eleanor, who was insanely jealous that Margaret admired the man she too had affections for. The phantom sisters have been spotted drifting amongst the ruins by scores of people ever since.
Be sure to make the most of the castle’s woodland surroundings whilst you visit, with a walk through the trees to the peaceful waters of the neighbouring lake.
This Tudor castle stands on a stone quay on the south side of Dartmouth, directly overlooking the river Dart. Working in alliance with the older Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the river, this small fortress was designed as a final line of defence for the then prospering town, standing guard at the narrowest point of the estuary.
Sadly for Dartmouth, however, its enemies were to come not from the sea, but from inland; during the English Civil War, Royalist Forces captured the town and made it their stronghold, installing five enormous cannons on Bayard’s Cove Fort.
Its commanding position naturally provides commanding views, and the fort is the now perfect spot for looking out over the harbour and the estuary.
Once Devon’s largest castle, Okehampton’s impressive ruins still reach skywards from the top of a wooded hill beside the waters of the River Okement.
Starting life as a Norman motte and bailey castle, it was transformed into an opulent home by an Earl of Devon in the 14th century, before finally falling into decline in the 1500s.
The castle is associated with one of Devon’s most well-known and marvellously macabre ghost stories. The legend states that one of the castle’s former residents, Lady Frances Howard, murdered her four husbands. In penance for her crimes, she must ride across Dartmoor each night in a horse-drawn carriage made of bones to pick a single blade of grass from the castle hillside. Only when the hill is bare will she be freed from her punishment.
Ghouls aside, the castle is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. After you’ve explored the ruins, stroll through the woodlands and across the meadow strewn with wildflowers to enjoy a bite to eat at the peaceful riverside picnic area.
Love castles? Devon offers an incredible wealth of history for you to explore and you can live like a king while you’re there, with a stay at one of our beautiful Devon cottages.