THERE’S something about castles that capture the imagination of families. For parents, it’s steeped in history with grand architecture. For the kids, it’s all knights and princesses and humouring the oldies. During our trip to Cornwall last year (a first visit for all of us), we found ourselves drawn to the plethora of castles still standing in the South-East.
From our base staying on a farm in Looe, we were able to easily search out a number of castles to visit. By far, the most favourite with our family was St Michael’s Mount, a splendid former monastery on its own island. Park in the car park nearby in Marazion then take a short walk down the beach to reach the causeway that will take you out to the island (follow the trail of visitors across the beach to the large rocks).
The cobbled causeway can only be crossed by foot at low tide and I recommend you leave any pushchairs/prams behind, instead carrying babies and toddlers when necessary. We first encounted a cluster of shops and the small harbour before moving up to the shop that is part of the National Trust. At this point tickets must be purchased to go to St Michael’s.
The climb to the top of the mount is a winding pebble path with glimpses of the blue sea and the mainland. At the top, the spectacular view is revealed with a vista of azure sea and white sailed boats bobbing about. The house is still a residence and there is plenty of furnishings and art to please adults though the children were more interested in zooming about the terrace, sitting on cannons and peeking through the fortress walls. Meandering down again we ordered cake in the cafe to be eaten on park benches (the sweet and creamy carrot cake was the best I’ve ever tasted). By this point the sea had drawn in and the only way back was via motor boat (at small cost and with no choice) which thrilled the children no end.
Factbox: Adults £6.60, children £3.30, family £16.50.
Pushchair accessibility: Difficult, leave behind.
Facilities: Loos not good at castle, mixed men/women. Plenty at harbour near shop.
Cafe: Ice cream, cakes etc at reasonable prices. Restaurant near harbour.
SatNav postcode: Unknown, aim for Marazion (parking is a few pounds).
We decided on Fowey’s St Catherine’s thanks to our guide book which read “you can still stroll around the cannon emplacements and a section of the old battlements.” Sounded lovely. What they didn’t mention was the walk across Readymoney Cove, the steep climb up the steps followed by another climb up a dirt path to the top which nearly had us passing out halfway from exhaustion but developing a ruthless determination to get to the top after all that.
The sixteenth century castle is perched on the cliff edge and the steps up to the castle top were open on one side and thus not recommended for small children. It’s saving grace however is the stunning views over Fowey (above left).
How much? Free
Opening times: No times
Pushchair accessibility: None, leave behind.
Facilities & Cafe: None
SatNav postcode: Unknown
Near Lostwithiel, the rare circular keep Restormel (below right) is certainly worth a visit. Park in the carpark and walk up to the National Trust shop for tickets. Sadly the moat is long gone (if you’re lucky, you’ll see how the gardeners cut the now grassy drop) but the walk up to the keep is impressive with a large grassy meadow perfect for running off some energy before progressing inside. What’s left is a large stone building, built by Edward the Black Prince, with walls and doorways largely intact. In some areas it is possible to access first floor rooms and there are also steps leading up to the ramparts with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. Plenty of factual information with artists renderings are dotted around the keep and grounds which our oldest at 10 years found interesting as did we. For a cheap afternoon out, this makes a good visit.
How much? £3 adults, £1.50 children
Opening times: 10am
Pushchair accessibility: Good, though ramparts inaccessible.
Facilities: Good, clean.
SatNav postcode: Unknown
Other: Small shop on site
If you’ve visited any other castles in the Cornwall, please do let us know your impressions in the comments section.
Images: Camilla Chafer