Pendennis Castle, Falmouth

Date Posted: 3 Apr 2024
Immerse yourself in Tudor times at Pendennis

Kirstie Newton

One of Henry VIII’s finest seaside castles, Pendennis is also one of English Heritage’s best preserved and most popular properties in Cornwall (second only to Tintagel).

Standing proudly on a headland overlooking the lively town of Falmouth, directly opposite its smaller twin across the water in St Mawes, Pendennis’ peaceful setting belies its rich and poignant history.

The castle has defended Cornwall for nearly five centuries, and its role wasn’t limited to the swashbuckling 16th – Pendennis played a vital role in protecting the coast during the First and Second World Wars.

It was built between 1539 and 1545 on the orders of Henry VIII, who feared an invasion from French and Spanish fleets following his break with the Catholic Church. Pendennis was subsequently equipped with walls of unyielding granite and big guns capable of shattering enemy ships.

Wander the extended site, with its winding stone staircases, atmospheric gun rooms and turrets, and you can easily imagine yourself guarding the shores on the King’s behalf. The panoramic views from the upper gun room, across Falmouth and out to sea, are hard to beat – although there’s no fear of the approaching ships in the present day.

Henry had chosen his spot well, and during the 20th century it proved just as strategic. Pendennis became the headquarters of Fortress Falmouth during the First World War; you can read all about it on boards around the site, including moving first-hand accounts and an exhibition in the Barrack Block including the poignant letters of Cornish soldier John Glasson Thomas, who died in France aged 27.

Costumed characters guide visitors through the tunnels and straight into the drama of war in the underground magazines. Spot enemies on the horizon in the Battery Observation Post and listen into conversations between the commander and his gun crews.

As you might imagine, this is a great place to bring the family – and remember, family membership allows you to bring up to six children per adult, which makes Pendennis perfect for a children’s party.

Lunch options include the castle café, which serves up a delicious selection of food including Cornish pasties, freshly-made sandwiches and ploughman’s lunches, all full of seasonal Cornish ingredients.

On a sunny day, you can picnic on the expansive grassy spaces in front of the majestic Tudor keep and the open sea behind. There’s plenty of room for the kids to let off steam – and look out for exciting activities during the holidays.

A highlight is the spectacular sporting contest that is the Legendary Joust. Witness fearless fighters on magnificent horses charging at full speed towards each other in an unforgettable display of chivalry and courage – pick a knight and cheer him on. Young lords and ladies can also test their archery aim and watch thrilling falconry displays.

Oh, and be prepared for the thunderous daily firing of a working gun from the castle’s collection between April and October; it’s sure to make you jump.


What’s on 2024
  • Easter Adventure Quest: March 23 to April 14
  • Pirates!: May 28 to 30
  • Legendary Joust: July 30 to August 1 and August 13 to 15
  • Knights’ Tournament: August 6 to 8 and August 20 to 22
  • Halloween Half-term: October 26 to November 3


For further information, please visit:

All images courtesy of English Heritage

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