Man the forts! Top Devon castles
Battlements, mottes, baileys (not that sort, naughty) and more romantic ruins than Rapunzel. Here's where is king of the castle in Muddy's book.
Totnes Castle: one for townies
Need to walk off the Easter eggs? Go here. It’s a steep gradient to scale the grassy sides of this classic motte and bailey castle but worth it for the views over the town from the battlements. And those helpful Medievals built it just off Totnes’ delightful indie-packed high street so it’s perfect for packing off the other half with the kids while you rootle through the rails. Also, it’s THE place to take kids needing a real-life brush with history to bring their school coursework to life. Open 10am-5pm daily, free to English Heritage members; adults £5.90; children £3.50; dogs on leads welcome.
Dartmouth Castle: for big guns
Shiver your timbers! Here’s a 600 year-old stone fortress built to defend the harbour town from pirates and invaders with heavy cannon, a fun tower and creepy passageways where kids can try on costumes and generally run riot. Just a short, and always stunning stroll along the River Dart from the town, there is loads to do around, including boat trips, crabbing off the harbour wall, gallery shopping and lovely walks. A castle to build your day around for sure. Open Good Friday/Easter Sunday, then opening 17 May. Free to English Heritage members. Adults £7.90; children £4.70
Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton: the great pretender
Its name may sound like something from a Bram Stoker novel but this is no olde-world castle, but a lookalike built at the beginning of the last century, the last to be built in England in fact *checks notes*. The castlements have been hidden under scaffolding for years due to an in-built design fault caused by architect Edwin Lutyens’ flat roof, but the covers are now off, the beautiful gardens are in full spring bloom, and it has all the National Trust temptations you’d expect, including a cafe, NT shop and fun kids’ trails (and Teign Gorge walks). Guaranteed fun for all. Grounds ands cafe open. Free to national Trust members. Adult £8; child £4. Dogs on leads.
Rougemont Castle, Exeter: the lark in the park
Rougemont Gardens are a breath of fresh air in the city and a welcome escape from the high street on busy days. The gatehouse is a good starting point for a walk around the old city walls, 70% of which still remain with parts dating back over 2000 years. Look for the memorial plaque to the poor old witches hanged here in the 1600s by the gatehouse. Free.
Tiverton Castle: unstuffy fun for kids (and garden geeks)
Tucked away just off the town centre, Tiverton Castle may be a royal fortress commissioned in 1106 by Henry I but its human scale means the front half looks like you could still live there. It’s got towers, turrets and tunnels and is wonderfully unstuffy for kids, with the chance to try on some English Civil War Armour and feel the weight of a real canon ball *mind your…oh*. The rose-strewn ruins in the beautifully tended gardens are like something out of Sleeping Beauty. Very romantic indeed. Open from 27 May. Adults £8; children £3, under 7s free. Garden only £2.
Powderham Castle, Kenton: a grand day out with a cream tea
Unusually for castles theses days, Powderham is still family-owned and feels like it, with an ancestral history back to the 14th century. It’s very picturesque with fallow deer in the park, a lake with picnic tables, and stunning views across the deer park to the Exe estuary from the rose garden behind. The inside tours are excellent, as is the cream tea in the castle courtyard cafe, and it’s well worth a meander up the grand drive to the farm shop for local meat and deli goodies. Grounds open from Fri 2 April. Adults £7.95; children £5.96, under 5s free. Dogs on leads welcome.
Berry Pomeroy, near Totnes: the spooooooky one
If you love spooky ruins and gruesome tales of people thrown to their deaths in the dungeon go to Berry Pomeroy. Even on a sunny day, the place can gives you a shiver, even without the blood-curdling details of the free audio tour guide. Highly recommended. Grounds open 10am-5pm. Free to English Heritage members. Adults £6.90; children £4.10. Dogs on leads welcome.
Okehampton Castle: the county’s biggest
A ruinous 12th century motte and bailey castle with just enough of its remains left to bring its history to life. Plus, a free audio guide, awesome views and lovely wooded and riverside walks around (it’s the biggest but still won’t take that long to beat the bounds). Keep your wits about you as rumour hath it a sad Victorian ghost called Lady Howard haunts this place driving a carriage of bones with a red-eyed dog at her side. Yikes. Grounds open. Free to English Heritage members. Adults £5.90; children £3.50.