PhotoThe Best Castles In Devon: 11 That You MUST Visit
September 21, 2016   

The Best Castles In Devon: 11 That You MUST Visit

The Best Castles To Visit In South Devon

When our guests come to stay at Langstone Cliff Hotel, they often make day trips to some of the areas’ castles as part of their South Devon holiday. The county is prized with an impressive history and these ancient landmarks are perfect for both family days out with the kids or to explore as a couple.

We thought it would be handy to pull together all the best castles to visit in South Devon and put them all in one place for all our guests to learn about and maybe even venture out to visit. We’ve included the distance in miles from the hotel, how long it takes by car to get there and some guidance on opening hours, as a helping hand.

Berry Pomeroy Castle

24 miles (approximately 40 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

This little gem, hidden away amongst deep wooded valleys is Berry Pomeroy Castle. While the castle’s historic ruins are a great way to entertain the kids, Pomeroy also makes for the perfect romantic ruin with ample history to keep boredom at bay.

Plans by the Seymours to build a grand Elizabethan mansion were once in the pipeline. Set to become as grand and spectacular as Longleat House, the mansion was never completed and left for ruin by 1700.

The Pomeroy’s 15th-century defences surround the family castle and have become a landmark and a home to some gruesome blood-curdling horror stories. Rumour has it that there have been various sightings during the daytime of ghosts and spirits which linger in the grounds.

On the other hand, surrounded by gorgeous woodlands and scenic views, the castle serves as a great location for walkers.

You can get fully involved with an audio tour that really brings the castle back to life.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Berry Pomeroy Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Saturday & Sunday only, from 10:00am-4:00pm

Powderham Castle

5 miles (approximately 15 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Powderham Castle is a truly unique and stunning landscape, set amongst an ancient deer park a stone’s throw from the Exe estuary on the south side of Exeter.

The castle boasts over 600 years of interesting history which can be revealed from behind the landmarks of ancient walls which is also renowned for being one of Devon’s oldest family homes.

The castle has been a part of the Courtenay family since 1391 when construction first started and is still a part of the same family today.

The property has more recently become home to the new Earl and Countess of Devon (which are the 28th generation to call the castle home).

Its antique and historical décor are fascinating to see and make for a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Read our visitors guide to Powderham Castle here.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Powderham Castle are set each year, so please confirm exact opening times before travelling)

March-October:

10:00am-5:00pm

Totnes Castle

25 miles (approximately 45 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Of all the castles in South Devon, Totnes Castle is the one to head to if you’re looking for a memorable view to take home with you.

With its stone shell-keep standing high up over the Saxon town of Totnes, you can appreciate views over the River Dart.

Once you get to the top of the historic stone structure, families and couples alike can indulge in the perfect picnic or bask in all the glory of its tranquil and peaceful surroundings.

The castle is a great place to venture out to on a bright and sunny day in the summer or springtime and both Dartmouth and Berry Pomeroy Castles only a short drive away.

Some key things to try and do when you’re there include their archaeologist ‘Ivor S.Hovell’ and ‘Family Activity Pack’ and check out the ‘graffiti’ on the trees, created by prisoners held captive at Totnes during the Second World War.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Totnes Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Saturday & Sunday only, from 10:00am-4:00pm

Dartmouth Castle

45 miles (approximately 1 hour 15 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Dartmouth Castle is nationally recognised as one of the most stunning fortresses in the UK.

With over 600 years of outstanding history to marvel over, the castle stands proudly at the entrance of the Dart Estuary and the thriving port of Dartmouth.

Likewise, this means it boasts flawless views on bright and clear days over the estuary and right out into the big blue sea.

The castles ‘gun tower’ played a heroic part in its wartime history to mount ‘ship-sinking’ heavy cannons.

If you’re full of life, climb right up to the top not only can you take advantage of the breathtaking views over the estuary.

The castle also plays home to the fine Church of St Petrox as well as a tonne of exciting artefacts to cypher through and absorb into your brains history books.

The kids will also enjoy the boat trip from the town to the castle and Mum and Dad can look forward to a glass of prosecco and a pint in the riverside tea room.

For those walkers who love a coastal or woodland walk, you can venture out to spot wildlife and birds aplenty.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Dartmouth Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Saturday & Sunday only, from 10:00am-4:00pm

Castle Drogo

30 miles (approximately 60 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Castle Drogo enjoys an elevated position above the Teign Gorge, offering breathtaking views of the immediate surroundings as far as the eye can see.

Commissioned by self-made millionaire Julius Drewe and designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, construction of Castle Drogo began in 1911 and was completed in 1930, making it the last castle to ever be built in England.

After Julius Drewe died in November 1931, his wife and son continued to live at their family home. In 1974, Anthony Drewe (grandson of Julius) and his son, Dr Christopher Drewe, gifted Castle Drogo and 600 acres of the surrounding Devonshire countryside to the National Trust.

From the time that construction was completed, the property has always suffered from water ingress. An 8 year conservation project was undertaken and Castle Drogo is now watertight and available for visits from guests to explore the interior layout, while learning more about its fascinating history.

Also popular with walkers, there are several well-known circuits that take in the splendour of Castle Drogo en-route to other areas of interest within Dartmoor National Park.

Opening times at Castle Drogo can vary between seasons, so it is always advisable to take a look at the calendar on the National Trust website when planning your trip.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Castle Drogo are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

The gardens and grounds are open daily, but the castle is only open on specific dates

Compton Castle

16 miles (approximately 40 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Set among acres of rolling Devon countryside, Compton Castle is an impressive manor house with roots in the mid-14th century.

The well-known explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert resided here and, even though Compton Castle was gifted to the National Trust in 1951, the Gilbert family continue to live at the property to the present day.

As Compton Castle is still the main residence of the Gilbert family, access is restricted to certain areas. Several rooms can still be visited, including the chapel and detached kitchen, while the immaculate gardens are a must-visit.
Open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from April until October, Compton Castle is currently accepting visitors who have arranged their tickets in advance.

You can book tickets on the National Trust website.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Compton Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 11:00am-3:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Closed

Dunster Castle

60 miles (approximately 1 hour 40 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Although it officially lies in Somerset, Dunster Castle is extremely close to the Devon border and is definitely worthy of a mention in our Best Castles In Devon round-up.

Situated at the top of a 200ft high tor, Dunster Castle is a Grade I listed building that overlooks the village of the same name.

Built in 1086 by William de Mohun, Dunster Castle was originally of timber construction. A stone shell keep was added at the turn of the 12th century, while the lower ward was re-built in the 13th century by Reynold Mohun.

Dunster Castle remained under ownership by the Mohun family until the end of the 14th century, when it was sold to the Luttrell family.

Extensive renovations took place in the 17th and 18th centuries and it became a luxurious country home. The Luttrell family continued to live at Dunster Castle until the latter part of the 20th century.

In 1976, Colonel Walter Luttrell gifted Dunster Castle to the National Trust. Up-to-date details about opening times and entry prices can be found on the National Trust website.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Dunster Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-4:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

The castle and garden are closed, but the parkland is open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

Launceston Castle

50 miles (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

With a history dating back almost 1,000 years, Launceston Castle commands a position of authority atop a large, natural mound almost directly on the border between Devon and Cornwall.

Originally an earthwork and timber castle, it was rebuilt from stone some 100 years later. Further developments in the 13th century increased the size of the castle and added a viewing tower.

By the middle of the 14th century, the castle was in severe disrepair and was used as a prison, forging quite a reputation for the poor treatment received by inmates and the abhorrent living conditions.

When the final inmates were moved to Bodmin Jail in 1842, Launceston Castle was landscaped and repurposed as a park. During World War II, it became a base for United States soldiers and reopened to visitors in 1956.
Launceston Castle is open from April until October.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Launceston Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Closed

Lydford Castle And Saxon Town

45 miles (approximately 1 hour 10 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

The town of Lydford takes its name from the River Lyd that meanders its way through the Lyd Valley. In the 9th century, Lydford was listed as one of the four most important towns in Devon.

The first castle to be built in Lydford was what is commonly known nowadays as The Norman Fort. Only the man-made hills and trenches remain.

The second castle to be built in Lydford is what is known as Lydford Castle (even though it was actually a prison). Constructed in 1195, it was used as a court and prison in some capacity until Dartmoor Prison was completed in 1809.

During its time as a prison, Lydford Castle gained quite a reputation for the appalling conditions and cruel punishments that were put upon its inmates. 

As the building had been allowed to deteriorate on multiple occasions before any improvements were undertaken, by the middle of the 19th century, it had fallen into a state of disrepair.

Opening Times:

(Lydford Castle is open year-round, but please check the English Heritage website for up-to-date information before travelling)

January 1st-December 31st:

Open at any reasonable time during daylight hours

Okehampton Castle

40 miles (approximately 1 hour 15 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

The largest castle in Devon, construction was completed in 1086 and it served as a fortification for approximately 200 years.

When the de Courtenay family became Earls of Devon in the late 13th century, they redeveloped Okehampton Castle into an extravagant main residence that included a hunting lodge, a deer park and additional lodgings.

The de Courtenay’s remained at Okehampton Castle until it was confiscated during the War of the Roses. When Henry Courtenay was beheaded under the order of Henry VIII in 1539, the castle was deserted and its demise began. Okehampton Castle is featured in the spookiest ghost stories in South Devon.

Occupying a dominant position over the river Okement that flows below, Okehampton Castle offers far-reaching views of the countryside. Once you have completed your visit at the castle, you can enjoy unspoiled walks, a riverside picnic or take a leisurely stroll into the quaint town of Okehampton to admire the other historic buildings.
Okehampton Castle is open from April until October. You can confirm opening hours and book tickets on the English Heritage website.

Opening Times:

(The opening times at Okehampton Castle are subject to change and should be confirmed before travelling)

April 1st-October 31st:

Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm

November 1st-March 31st:

Closed

Tiverton Castle

35 miles (approximately 50 minutes by car) from Langstone Cliff Hotel

Built in 1106, Tiverton Castle overlooks the River Exe in what would have been a strategic, defensive position.

Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, under the ownership of the various Earls of Devon who resided there, the castle was redeveloped and enlarged on multiple occasions. Further improvements were made in the years that followed, with the architecture from those periods apparent throughout the magnificent property.

During the English civil war, the troops of Sir Thomas Fairfax targeted the Royalists that occupied Tiverton Castle. Firing a medieval-style cannon known as a culverin, a fortunate shot hit one of the chains that secured the drawbridge and the troops gained entry to the castle and took control of it. The majority of the castle was then demolished to ensure that it wasn’t used again.

The gardens at Tiverton Castle are not to be missed, either. Covering some 3 acres, the tasteful landscaping complements the ruins of the castle and the pathways that lead to the River Exe.

Since 1994, Tiverton Castle has been owned and occupied by Mr & Mrs Gordon. As it is their main residence, they only allow guests to visit from Easter Sunday until the end of October.

Opening Times:

(As Tiverton Castle is a private residence, you should check the Tiverton Castle website for up-to-date information before travelling

Easter Sunday- End Of October (exact date to be confirmed):

Sundays, Thursdays & Bank Holiday Mondays from 2:30pm-5:30pm


With most of South Devon’s ancient ruins only a short car journey away, we like to think our home-from-home hotel makes a great place to rest up either side of your explorations. Book a room here or give us a call on 01626 868000.
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