Devon, a county with a fascinating past, boasts a diverse range of castles that have withstood the test of time. From ancient Roman occupation to Norman conquests and medieval grandeur, these castles offer a glimpse into the region's intriguing history.
Let's embark on a journey to discover some of the must-see castles in Devon.
Once the largest castle in Devon, Okehampton Castle can be found nestling in the foothills of Dartmoor, overlooking the rushing River Okement. Dating back to the Norman Conquest, this castle evolved from a motte and bailey structure to a grand residence in the 14th century. The castle was later claimed by King Henry VIII, after he executed the previous owner for treason!
Wander through the ruins and imagine its former splendour. The audio guide tells a fascinating story of castle life, while the guidebook delves deep into its history. The castle's picturesque riverside picnic area and nearby woodland walks offer opportunities for relaxation and birdwatching.
Set amidst sparkling waters, Dartmouth Castle stands proudly as one of Devon’s most beautifully located fortresses. For over 600 years, it has guarded the bustling port town of Dartmouth. The town was safeguarded from hostile warships by an impressive medieval engineering achievement: a substantial iron chain that stretched across the 250-meter expanse of the Dart estuary.
The castle was built by John Hawley – a very interesting character. Fourteen-time Mayor of Dartmouth and twice its MP, Hawley was a wealthy privateer, and protected the seas under the king's commission. Chaucer's ‘shipman’ character is believed to be based on Hawley, which portrayed him as a merciless figure who ignored ethics, wore a dagger around his neck, and eliminated adversaries by throwing them overboard or sinking their ships!
Visitors of all ages can explore the castle’s atmospheric Gun Tower and winding passages, then climb to the battlements for splendid views over the town. Don't miss the chance to take a ferry boat ride and marvel at the castle from the water.
With its classic motte and bailey structure, Totnes Castle was built soon after the Conquest, dominating the Saxon town. For a mini guide to castles, watch this video.
Since the Saxon times, the town has flourished as a hub of trade, fostering the growth of crafts, and industries, and even establishing its own mint for coin production, leading to its remarkable prosperity.
Climb to the top of the keep and be rewarded with breathtaking views of Totnes and the River Dart – see if you can spot the evolution of the town throughout the ages. The castle's peaceful grounds provide an ideal spot for a family picnic under ancient trees.
Combining a visit to Totnes Castle with nearby Dartmouth and Berry Pomeroy Castles makes for a delightful day out in South Devon.
Berry Pomeroy Castle
Tucked away in a secluded wooded valley, Berry Pomeroy Castle is a romantic ruin steeped in history and intrigue. The castle showcases the dramatic ruins of an Elizabethan mansion that was never completed. Lord Seymour, a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I, made plans for the ultimate ‘grand design’. He set out building the most spectacular house in Devon, with a stupendous north wing among the biggest ever built in England. But the overambitious project eventually foundered for lack of funds.
Immerse yourself in the captivating stories of ghostly happenings as you listen to the audio tour. Enjoy the beautiful grounds and picturesque walks – and be sure to look out for wildlife in the surrounding woodlands.
Devon's castles bear witness to centuries of history and offer visitors a chance to step back in time. From the strategic fortifications of Dartmouth and Totnes to the haunting beauty of Berry Pomeroy and the grandeur of Okehampton, these castles provide a captivating glimpse into Devon's rich heritage. Get ready for unforgettable days out and conquer the castles of Devon.
Post supplied by English Heritage