We are frequent visitors to Cornwall and we’ve visited Launceston many times over the years, but we’ve never visited Launceston Castle. The boy has been learning about castles at school, so whilst we were in the area we decided to pay a visit to the castle and learn a bit more about life there.
Launceston Castle is in the north Cornish town of Launceston. You can’t miss it, it’s right on the top of a hill and really dominates the surrounding landscape. It is believed there has been a castle on the site for around 1000 years. Launceston Castle was built after the Norman conquest but was redeveloped by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century and was originally his administrative headquarters.
Launceston Castle is a motte and bailey style castle. The castle has a fairly unusual design. It has unusual keep consisting of a 13th century round tower which is set within an earlier circular shell-keep. The top of the tower is reached by an internal stone staircase and once you are up there you’ll find breathtaking views of the town and the countryside beyond.
Although Launceston Castle doesn’t have any on-site parking, you can park in nearby car parks. You access the castle through the 13th century southern gatehouse which leads you up to the bailey where the ruins of the great hall, kitchen and hall can be seen.
The wider grounds of the castle are free to access and explore. When we visited there were several families enjoying picnics and exploring the ruins of the great hall, kitchen and hall. If you want to visit the castle itself you need to enter via the shop. Entry is currently £5.20 per adult and £3.10 per child, with Gift Aid.
Walking through the shop area, the tour begins with a small exhibition space which is packed with information about the history of the castle. There are a number of artefacts which have been excavated from the site; as well as examples of the style of clothing worn by the inhabitants of the castle. For children, they can try their hand at brass rubbing and signing their name with a quill.
Moving on, we walked up the hill, or motte, crossed the wooden bridge by the well and climbed the 145 steps to the top of the castle. We explored the outer shell keep, before climbing the stone steps to the top of the high tower. I’m not going to lie and say it was an easy climb; but the view once you get to the top is spectacular.
Launceston Castle is a really interesting place to visit, especially if you’ve been recently learning about castles at school. Ben was able to tell us lots of facts about the construction and it was good for him to visit a real castle and see how things looked and worked there.
I’m not sure you could spend more than an hour or so exploring the castle; but if you’re in the area it’s worth visiting for the views from both the bailey and from the top of the high tower. My advice would be, take a picnic and enjoy it in the grounds. It’s a great place to sit and admire the undulating Cornish countryside and imagine being Earl of it all.
Every summer for the last 15 years we have holidayed near Bude in North Cornwall. It’s an area we both know pretty well, we have both separately been coming here since we were babes in arms. It’s stunning, when the sun shines there is nowhere better and there are things to do if you can tear yourself away from the beach. Now we have the boy and the dog to entertain, our holidays are less book-beach-pub and more play-paddle-ice cream. Today we decided to do something different, we downloaded a Treasure Trails map, explored Bude and discovered something new about one of our favourite places.
The Bude Treasure Trails map has a murder mystery theme and we’d picked it (there were a few different trails in the area) because it was short and dog friendly. The route should have taken 90 minutes and was only 1.5 miles. I’m not sure if the distance was accurate, but I clocked up 9000 steps on my fitbit during the walk.
We began in the car park near the Tourist Information Centre and made our way up to St Michael and All Angels Church (I’m going to be a bit vague about the route, lest I give any clues away). Fortuitously, we arrived at the church during coffee morning, so we left clutching courgette and poppy-seed buns to nibble as we walked.
The map and clues took us on a winding route down by the Bude canal and over to Bude Castle – a building I’ve never explored before but one we will be visiting properly later in the week. We ambled into town, up the high street and across to the headland with stunning views over Summerleaze beach, the famous Bude Sea Pool and beyond.
The route took us over 3 hours, but we had several pit-stops along the way; coffee at Bude Castle; a spot of lunch at Life’s a Beach, overlooking Summerleaze beach and of course the coffee morning at the church.
We discovered some beautiful, secret, interesting parts of Bude we’ve never noticed before. The Treasure Trails map encouraged us to look up, look down, look at nooks and crannies and to really take note of our surroundings. Plus finding out who dunnit was pretty fun too!
Top Tips for doing Treasure Trails
⊗ Take a pen
⊗ Don’t entrust your only pen to the person most likely to lose it
⊗ Put your map in a plastic pocket to protect it from the elements
⊗ Wear shoes you’re comfortable walking in
⊗ Don’t forget your sun cream (and brolly)
⊗ Allow extra time for coffee breaks and ice cream
Order your Treasure Trail online and either print it out yourself, or they can send you your trail in the post. There are 1000 trails to choose from across the UK, you can search for a trail on the Treasure Trails website. The description helpfully tells you how much walking (or sometimes cycling or driving) you will need to do; how long it should take and if the trail is accessible or not.
Each Trail is an A5 booklet of 8 pages and costs £6.99. They have three themes; Murder Mystery, Treasure Hunt and Spy Mission. It depends on your location which theme you’ll be given, but all the details for each trail can be found on their website.
The Treasure Trails are a brilliant way to spend a few hours exploring with your family. We had such a fun time together. Our six year old has been asking (and asking, and asking) about doing another one tomorrow – a ringing endorsement if ever there was one!