The voices of the past echo loud at Pendennis Castle at Falmouth in Cornwall. The barracks at this Tudor fortification were manned for more than four centuries before it was finally decommissioned in the 1950s. Indeed the cliff top observation station and air raid shelter appear to have only recently been vacated by the troops stationed here during the Second World War.
It’s an eeire and fascinating place that made for a great day out with kids in Cornwall. We visited Pendennis Castle with our girls and Tin Box Dog during a recent autumn break in our caravan.
If you’re looking for more holiday and days out inspiration check out our essential guide to family holidays in Cornwall.
An English Heritage day out in Cornwall
The castle was first commissioned by King Henry VIII in response to invasion threats from the continent. Pendennis was built on the mouth of the River Fal, forming a formidable coastal defence with its twin, St Mawes Castle, on the other side. Mini Travellers visited St Mawes Castle earlier in the year.
Ironically Pendennis’s fortifications were first tested not against foreign foes but during the English Civil War of 1646. It was one of the last strongholds for the forces loyal to King Charles.
Layer upon layer of defences were built over the centuries in response to new military threats. Tunnels carved into the headland cliffs and artillery was updated right up until the Second World War when conflict threatened the south west coastline. Training continued in the barracks until 1956.
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Things to do at Pendennis Castle with kids
Explore the castle grounds
The castle grounds are a great space for kids to explore. The lawn between the barracks and castle keep is perfect for letting kids run off steam.
Discover cannons and tunnels
There’s also dozens of cannons and the remains of more modern artillery around the walls of the fort. You can also play hide and seek around the moat and in the tunnels carved into the cliffs.
Keep look out
Admire the panoramic views of the Fal and coastline from the top of the keep.
Storm the keep
See what it was like to live in the castle keep with its tight spiral staircases, portcullis and long drop latrine.
Listen to voices from the past
Hear the voices of the past in Barrack Observation Point, War Shelter, Gunpowder magazine and gun room in the keep where conversations from conflicts past are replayed.
Take charge of the fort
Find out how war time defences worked and how messages were sent in the interactive exhibition in the Field Train Shed.
Handy information about visiting Pendennis Castle
- Most of the site is pushchair friendly but there are lots of steps once you get inside the fortifications.
- English Heritage days out are great for families with dogs. Tin Box Dog was allowed everywhere but in the cafe.
- The cafe serves hot and cold food, but was only doing sandwiches and cake the day we visited as a wedding was being held in the keep.
- The onsite toilets are at the barrack block which is quite a trek from some parts of the fort.
For more information about Pendennis Castle, its opening times and prices see the English Heritage website.
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