Restormel Castle

The History Of Restormel Castle

LocationLostwithiel, County of Cornwall, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Official WebsiteRestormel Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Situated at the heart of Cornwall, Restormel Castle is one of the most remarkable castles in Britain. It commands picturesque views across the valley of the River Fowey and is a favourite picnic spot with beautiful spring flowers and plants all year round.

History

Restormel Castle’s early record is unclear and was almost certainly established at the site by the Normans in the 12th if not the 11th century. Initially built as an earth and timber ringwork castle, it was later rebuilt in stone, which is the structure visible today. Around 1270, Restormel Castle was inherited by the powerful Earls of Cornwall. When Earl Edmund chose to make the administrative centre of his estates at nearby Lostwithiel, Restormel Castle became his primary residence. It was Earl Edmund who added the peculiar set of curving chambers backing onto the curtain wall. It effectively created a concentric castle with kitchens, hall, guest accommodation, and private solar inside the castle walls.

The Earldom of Cornwall went back to the crown when Earl Edmund died in 1299, and Restormel Castle lost its importance. Following the formation of the Duchy of Cornwall, the castle was essentially ignored and left to decay, except for a short period in 1354. It was when Edward, son of Edward III, The Black Prince, held court here as the first Duke of Cornwall. However, when Edward died in 1376, the castle was abandoned again.

There was a brief moment for Restormel Castle when in 1644, Royalist forces under Sir Richard Grenville sieged the castle and ousted a Parliamentarian garrison. However, after this brief interlude, it was left unoccupied again and subsequently fell into complete disrepair. However, it was taken into state care in 1925. It is now officially owned by the Duchy of Cornwall but maintained by English Heritage.

Architecture

Restormel Castle
Restormel Castle, by JThomas, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Restormel Castle is located on a high ground overlooking the River Fowey. The castle comprises a south-western bailey and the unusually well-preserved example of a circular shell keep. It is built upon an early Norman motte and bailey castle, one of the fully complete remaining examples in the West Country. The domestic buildings within the circular curtain walls are majorly intact, as is the high wall. There was an outer bailey that enclosed the site, but most of the traces of that are gone, leaving only the striking ruins of the stone-walled shell kept atop concentric earthworks, surrounded by a dry ditch and banks.

The most interesting feature of the castle is the way the entire suite of chambers, including kitchens, private solar, a great hall, and guest accommodation, are all arranged. They are positioned within the same concentric shape as the outer castle walls.

The ruins of Restormel Castle, including its 13th-century shell keep, came to form part of the gardens of a neighbouring manor house before it became a tourist attraction in the 19th century. Now maintained by English Heritage, it is open to the public.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Restormel Castle?

Restormel Castle is located 1.5 miles north of the town of Lostwithiel, just off the A390, with parking available at the site. The Travel Cornwall 423, 482 bus services, and the Gorran & District Community Bus G4 all stop in Lostwithiel, just a 25-minute walk to the castle. Lostwithiel town train station is also a 25-minute walk away.

When was Restormel Castle built?

Restormel Castle was presumably constructed following the Norman conquest of England to control the crossing at the River Fowey in Cornwall. The construction was either carried out by Turstin, the sheriff of Cornwall, or his son Baldwin Fitz Turstin, and the fortification was probably erected after 1086.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
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