It’s Just a Small Castle


I thought this was the most ridiculous sign I saw in England. Okay, the road signs with catty-cornered dashes and no words to explain what they meant were a close second….

But seriously–castle! with an arrow! Like, just in case you didn’t notice, there is a CASTLE over there, people! But road signs, no, we can’t have words on THOSE!
And my vote for the most ridiculous thing anyone said to me in England was the person at the petrol station where we stopped for directions to Pendennis Castle who said, “Oh, THAT. It’s just a small castle.”

I want to be so used to seeing castles every day that I can diss the little ones.

Really, I wondered what it was like to grow up there, to drive by crumbling castles and ancient cathedrals from the day you are born. Does it get old? I can’t imagine.
“Small” Pendennis Castle, overlooking the deep harbor of Falmouth, is the sixteenth-century keep of Henry VIII.
Despite its size, Pendennis is known as Cornwall’s greatest fortress and it was used from Tudor times through both World Wars. In the seventeenth-century, it was used to hold out again Parliamentary forces and the garrison was reduced to eating dog meat.

The castle was built under the threat of war from France and Spain, and is a simple round tower and gate enclosed by a lower curtain wall.
I liked the gargoyles.

But, get real. I liked just being at a castle. Even a small one. Though, honestly, it was a bit too cleaned up for me. Ready for tourists and re-enactments.

I’m a romantic. I love ruins.
The imposing ruin of Corfe Castle commands a gap between the Purbeck Hills with scenery stretching out to Poole Harbor in the distance. There is an adorable village nestled below, with the majestic, crumbling castle rising above. Could it be more romantic? I think not! The site on which it stands was inhabited by royalty even before the Norman Conquest, and the 1000-year-old castle was a key defense position for centuries, until it was deliberately destroyed during the English Civil War.
Home to numerous monarchs, it began as a Roman defensive site and later became a wooden castle and hall in the ninth century and then an eleventh century hall and chapel, towers and gatehouses. It’s a wonderfully fun place to walk around, poke your head under arches, discover hidden spots to explore.

It’s also an awesome place to sit on a stone wall overlooking the rolling moors and sheep meadows and dream….and say, ohmygod, I’m at a freakin’ castle!!!
And that’s PRINCESS to you, bucko.

Fairytale-like Lulworth Castle in East Lulworth, Dorset, was built in 1610 as a royal hunting lodge and has remained in the hands of the same family for nearly 400 years. Again, it was a bit too perfect for me, like stepping into a Disney movie.
East Lulworth is also the site of a military firing range across the wild heathland and Prince Harry stayed on the castle grounds while training there. No barracks for him!

A thousand steep steps lead to the ruins of the legendary Tintagel, once home to the Earls of Cornwall and renowned as the ancient seat of Cornwall’s kings.
Now you’re talkin’. This is my kind of castle. Here Tristan wooed Isolde and Merlin tricked Uther Pendragon into bedding the mother of King Arthur. Standing on the breathtaking headland surrounded on three sides by the crashing Atlantic, you can believe it. I know I did. Here be dragons.
A cliff-top path leads to Tintagel’s church and from there is a mile-long walk back to the village. In the summers, apparently they provide Land Rover service out to the castle. We walked on shaky legs after climbing the sheer steps to the castle at top speed since we arrived close to dark.
The view was worth every bit of the effort.

I’m on vacation. This week, I’m republishing a series of posts from my 2006 trip to England. Enjoy! Keep up with my current trip on the Daily Farm Photo page.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on August 12, 2009  

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14 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 8-12

    OMG Tintagel!!!!! I just finished reading “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley for like the millionth time. If you loved Tintagel, you must read that book :)

  2. 8-12

    Like steping into Lord of the Rings

  3. 8-12


  4. 8-12

    This is the best history lesson I have ever had!

  5. 8-12

    I was in Europe for four weeks during my college years and I actually did get tired of castles at the end. I hate to tell you that. But I was young then too, nothing impressed me much. I would be completely different now. Hope you are enjoying your trip! How lucky!

  6. 8-12

    Magnificent photos. I really did imagine myself in far-off times when I was there – in some castles I swore I could hear the picts outside.

  7. 8-12

    I prefer the ruins to the perfect castles as well. Someday I would love to visit Tintagel!

  8. 8-12

    I loved Tintagel, but wow, those steps were scary when wet! It’s a gorgeous place, and I’d love to see it again!

  9. 8-12

    Wow thank you for sharing your photos. My DH is from Scotland and I will never forget his aunt and uncle lived next door to a church that was in ruins that was way old. They thought it was nothing but then again -the backyard of there home was dalgety bay scotland. Seeing seals for brekfast was the norm, here in new jersey it can be a little bland at times.

  10. 8-12

    I grew up in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Ruined castle. Still live less than 5 miles away from it. The junior school (7-11 years) was next door to the castle. Whenever we went for nature walks it was round the castle. Very boring.

    I still live less than 5 miles away from the castle. Still boring.

  11. 8-12

    Ok Suzanne, outsides are great and all but did you go INSIDE any of these marvelous old beauties??? Do people still today live in them and adore them? Maybe I watch too much PBS and A&E… :purpleflower:

  12. 8-15

    I love castles! I can’t imagine living where you diss small castles. I’d like to live where there are any castles. :eating:

  13. 10-31

    I live in one ,Netley Castle, Its okay quite modern really,only six hundred years old!!

  14. 12-20

    Suzanne, I’ve lived in Germany for over 10 years and I still get excited about the castles and even more so over ruins. My children on the other hand, some of them (I have five) have never even been to the US, totally take the castles and such for granted. They like them, but none of them get as excited as their mom! Your pictures are beautiful and actually depict the beauty of your subject.

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