totnes castle

Totnes Castle: A Towering English Legacy

Totnes Castle is one of the most impressive English castles, featuring breathtaking architecture and a rich history dating back to medieval times. The castle is located in Totnes, a picturesque town in South Devon, and is a must-see destination for anyone interested in exploring English heritage sites and medieval history.

Key Takeaways:

  • Totnes Castle is a significant English heritage site that holds a rich history dating back to medieval times.
  • The castle boasts unique and impressive architecture that is an example of medieval design.
  • Visitors to Totnes Castle can explore the beautiful surroundings, including nearby parks and gardens, and learn about its notable events and activities.
  • Totnes Castle’s ongoing preservation and protection ensure its historical value is appreciated for generations to come.
  • Other notable English castles are worth exploring for anyone interested in medieval history and architecture.

A Brief History of Totnes Castle

Totnes Castle is a medieval castle nestled in the heart of Totnes, Devon, England. This impressive structure was built in the 12th century and was an important strategic location in the region. The castle was one of the first stone buildings in Devon and played a significant role in the defense of the area.

During the reign of King Henry II, Totnes Castle was established by Judhael de Totnes, a Norman lord who came to England during the Norman Conquest. The castle was built on a hill overlooking the town of Totnes and was strategically located near the River Dart, which was a vital trading artery at the time.

The castle was originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle, with a wooden keep on top of a mound and a courtyard surrounded by a wooden palisade. However, the keep was later replaced with a stone structure, and the castle was expanded over the years.

A Brief History of Totnes Castle Continued…

The castle played a significant role during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in the 12th century. During this time, the castle was held by the Royalists, who supported King Stephen. However, in 1136, it was captured by the forces of Matilda and held for some time.

During the reign of King John, the castle was refurbished and modernized with a stone curtain wall, gatehouse, and towers. It was also connected to the town by a bridge over the old moat.

Throughout the centuries, Totnes Castle remained an important military stronghold, and it was used as a prison during the 17th century. The castle was eventually abandoned in the 18th century and left to deteriorate over the years.

In the 19th century, the castle was restored, and the grounds were landscaped to create a picturesque park. Today, visitors to Totnes Castle can explore the ruins and learn about its fascinating history.

The Architecture of Totnes Castle

Totnes Castle is a magnificent example of medieval architecture, with unique features and design elements that set it apart from other English castles. The castle was built in the 14th century and remains remarkably preserved, showcasing the skilled craftsmanship of its original builders.

One of the most striking features of Totnes Castle is its circular keep, which stands four stories high and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The keep is made of local limestone and tufa, and its walls are up to 16 feet thick in some places. Visitors can explore the interior of the keep, which includes a guardroom and a chapel.

Another architectural highlight of Totnes Castle is the gatehouse, which features a steeply-pitched roof and a portcullis that could be raised or lowered to control access to the castle. The gatehouse also includes several rooms, including a guardroom, a kitchen, and living quarters for the lord of the castle.

The castle’s walls and towers are also noteworthy, with battlements, arrow slits, and other defensive features that were common in medieval castles. The walls form an irregular shape that follows the contours of the hill on which the castle is built, providing additional protection from attackers.

The Keep: A Closer Look

The circular keep is one of Totnes Castle’s most impressive features, both inside and out. The ground floor of the keep was originally used for storage, while the first floor housed a guardroom and the castle’s kitchen. The second floor was used as a great hall, where the lord of the castle would entertain guests. The top floor of the keep was likely used as a private chamber and could only be accessed by a spiral staircase.

The interior of the keep is sparse but atmospheric, with uneven stone floors, narrow staircases, and stark walls that are punctuated by small windows that let in just enough light to create a moody atmosphere. Visitors can explore the various floors of the keep and get a sense of what life might have been like within the castle walls.

Exploring Totnes Castle’s Surroundings

Surrounded by stunning views and picturesque landscapes, Totnes Castle is located in the heart of Devon and offers visitors the chance to explore the best of England’s countryside.

The castle itself is situated on a hilltop overlooking the historic town of Totnes, providing panoramic views of the River Dart and the surrounding countryside. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the castle grounds, enjoying the fresh air and scenic views.

Also nearby are the beautiful Dartington Hall Gardens, which offer a tranquil escape from the bustle of everyday life. The gardens are home to a range of plant species and wildlife, and visitors can explore the various walks and trails around the estate.

For history enthusiasts, nearby Berry Pomeroy Castle is also worth a visit. The haunting ruins of this Tudor castle provide a fascinating insight into the tumultuous history of England.

Other nearby attractions include the South Devon Railway and the unique Go Ape treetop adventure course, providing plenty of opportunities for visitors to try new things and explore the local area.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a relaxing day out, Totnes Castle and its surroundings offer something for everyone.

Totnes Castle Today: Events and Activities

Visitors to Totnes Castle can experience the castle’s rich history firsthand through a variety of events and activities. Whether you’re interested in guided tours or live reenactments, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Regular Events

Throughout the year, Totnes Castle hosts a variety of regular events for visitors to enjoy. One such event is the Medieval Banquet, where guests can feast on traditional food and drink while experiencing live music and entertainment. Additionally, the castle offers guided tours that delve into the history and architecture of the castle.

Attractions and Exhibitions

Inside the castle walls, visitors can explore a range of attractions and exhibitions, providing insights into the castles past and present. Noteworthy attractions include the castle keep, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area, and the dungeon, where visitors can experience what life was like for prisoners in the Middle Ages.

Special Events

In addition to regular events, Totnes Castle also hosts a range of special events throughout the year. This includes live reenactments and demonstrations, giving visitors a unique insight into what life would have been like for the castle’s inhabitants during the medieval period.

Overall, Totnes Castle provides a memorable and enriching experience for those interested in English castles. With a variety of events and activities held throughout the year, there is always something new to discover at this historic site.

Totnes Castle’s Importance as an English Heritage Site

Totnes Castle holds significant historical value and plays an important role as an English heritage site. The castle’s preservation and upkeep are evidence of its enduring importance. The castle is an example of medieval military architecture, which was largely replaced by later styles. It is a testament to the development and strategic importance of fortified castles in medieval England.

Visitors to Totnes Castle can appreciate the castle’s unique features and design, which are representative of castle architecture of the time. The castle’s intricate stonework and formidable fortifications were designed to withstand siege and protect the people inside.

Totnes Castle is just one of many English castles that showcase the country’s rich history and heritage. The castle serves as a reminder of the country’s turbulent past, providing insight into the historical events and figures that shaped England’s development. It also serves as a source of pride for the local community, who work tirelessly to maintain and preserve the site for future generations to enjoy.

With its beautiful surroundings and rich history, Totnes Castle is an essential stop for anyone interested in English castles and medieval sites. Its importance as an English heritage site cannot be overstated, and its continued preservation is crucial to ensuring that future generations can appreciate the castle’s remarkable architecture and significant historical value.

Notable Facts and Trivia about Totnes Castle

Did you know that Totnes Castle was once home to a family of giant rabbits? Legend has it that during the 18th century, a sailor on leave gifted a pair of oversized rabbits to the castle’s caretaker. They eventually multiplied and became the talk of the town.

“I’ll wager the rabbits at Totnes Castle could eat a man alive,” said one local at the time.

While the giant rabbits may no longer be around, there are plenty of other fascinating details about Totnes Castle. For example, did you know that the castle was captured by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War in 1646 and later used as a prison?

Another intriguing fact is that the castle’s keep (or main tower) is the oldest surviving building in Totnes. It dates back to the late 14th century and is an excellent example of medieval architecture. Visitors can climb up to the top for stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Finally, Totnes Castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. She was imprisoned at the castle in the late 15th century and is believed to still roam the halls. Keep an eye out for her ghostly apparition!

These are just a few of the interesting facts and trivia about Totnes Castle, a fascinating medieval site that is sure to captivate history buffs and castle enthusiasts alike.

Exploring Other English Castles

Totnes Castle is just one of many fascinating English castles to explore. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and architecture of these majestic structures, here are a few other castles worth checking out:

Castle Location Description
Windsor Castle Berkshire One of the largest and oldest occupied castles in the world, Windsor Castle is the official residence of the British monarchy.
Warwick Castle Warwickshire This impressive castle dates back to the 11th century and has survived countless battles and sieges over the centuries.
Dover Castle Kent Situated atop the White Cliffs of Dover, this iconic castle has a rich history dating back to the medieval period.

Each of these English castles offers a unique perspective on the country’s rich history and architectural heritage. Whether you’re interested in royal residences, medieval fortifications, or something in between, there’s sure to be a castle that captures your imagination.

So why not plan a castle-hopping adventure and explore everything that England’s castles have to offer? You never know what fascinating stories and hidden treasures you might uncover along the way.


In conclusion, Totnes Castle is a truly remarkable example of English castles, with its stunning architecture and fascinating history. As a medieval site, it stands out among the many other notable English castles as a testament to the country’s rich heritage.

The Totnes architecture is a unique blend of various design elements that showcase the skills and creativity of medieval craftsmen. Its strategic location on a steep hilltop provides breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, making it an ideal spot for exploring the beautiful surroundings.

Today, the castle is open for visitors to explore and learn about its rich history. It hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including reenactments and guided tours. These events provide visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the castle’s past and gain a better understanding of its significance as an English heritage site.

Discovering Other English Castles

For those interested in exploring other English castles, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some notable castles include Warwick Castle, Dover Castle, and Windsor Castle. Each of these castles has its unique history and architectural style that’s worth exploring.

Whether you’re interested in medieval sites or Totnes architecture, there’s something for everyone to discover in the world of English castles.

Overall, Totnes Castle’s lasting legacy as an English heritage site is one that’s worth exploring. Its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful surroundings make it a must-see destination in England.


What is the history of Totnes Castle?

Totnes Castle was built in the 11th century by the Normans during the medieval period. It played a significant role in defending the town and the surrounding area.

What makes the architecture of Totnes Castle unique?

Totnes Castle features impressive medieval architecture, including a square keep and a stone curtain wall. Its strategic position on a hill offers breathtaking views of the town and river below.

Can you explore the surroundings of Totnes Castle?

Certainly! The castle is surrounded by beautiful parkland and is located near the historic town of Totnes. Visitors can enjoy walks along the River Dart or explore the nearby Dartmoor National Park.

What events and activities take place at Totnes Castle today?

Totnes Castle hosts various events throughout the year, including medieval reenactments, guided tours, and educational activities for all ages. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in history.

Why is Totnes Castle important as an English heritage site?

Totnes Castle is a valuable piece of English history. It showcases the country’s medieval past and provides insights into its strategic defenses. Efforts are made to preserve and protect its historical value.

What are some interesting facts about Totnes Castle?

Did you know that Totnes Castle is one of the best-preserved motte-and-bailey castles in England? It’s also believed to have been built by one of William the Conqueror’s most trusted allies.

Are there other English castles worth exploring?

Absolutely! If you’re interested in English castles, make sure to visit nearby Dartmouth Castle and Berry Pomeroy Castle. These sites offer unique insights into different periods of history.