Pocket Britain
Britain > Cornwall > Launceston

The Gateway to Cornwall

Listen to this article


Launceston Castle
Lawrence House Museum
Launceston Steam Railway
Tamar Otter & Wildlife Centre
Launceston is often referred to as the gateway to Cornwall due to its location only one mile west of the River Tamar, the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. It has a long history and in Saxon times, Launceston was even the site of the Royal Mint!
In the 12th century Launceston had become a powerful Norman walled town and the capital of Cornwall. The towns history can be discovered at the Lawrence House Museum, showcasing the town from the Bronze Age. The museum is housed in a Georgian building given to the National Trust. This long history has left Launceston as an important market town with a surprising array of shops and businesses situated amongst narrow medieval streets.

The centre of Launceston
The main attraction is Launceston Castle, a Norman motte and bailey earthwork castle which dominates the surrounding landscape. Building of the castle started soon after the Norman Conquest, by Richard, Earl of Cornwall (the half brother to William the Conqueror). The exterior of the castle consists of a round tower and inside is an earlier circular shell keep. The tower top is reached by a dark internal staircase. The Castle has a chequered history due to its promonate and strategic location, at one time it became the administrative headquarters of the Earl of Cornwall where they could control their vast estates of land. For a long period the castle was used as a prison and George Fox, founder of the Quakers was confined here in 165.

Launceston Castle sitting above the town
Photo Chris Downer
The fine tudor church of St Mary Magdalene at Launceston, was built during the 16th century by Sir Henry Trecarrel as a memorial to his infant son who died whilst being bathed. The ornate carvings in granite originally carved for the mansion he began to build at nearby Lezant, have withstood the test of time. The tower of the church dates from the 14th century, an earlier church and graveyard having previously occupied the site.

Part of the church of St Mary Magdalene
Photo Caro11ne
The Launceston Steam Railway is narrow gauge railway operating from Launceston to Newmills, where there is a farm park. The railway is built on the trackbed of the old North Cornwall Railway and runs for 2½ miles west along the River Kensey valley, passing the remains of Launceston Priory. Launceston Station houses railway workshops, a transport museum and a gift shop.

Launceston Steam Railway
Photo Mick Heraty
A few miles out of Launceston on the road to Bude, you will find the Tamar Otter & Wildlife Centre, where you will see British and Asian Short Clawed Otters playing and being fed close at hand. There are Fallow Deer in a woodland enclosure and Wallabies and Muntjac Deer roam around the 21 acre grounds. There are several Owl species, Peacocks and a variety of Waterfowl on the two Lakes, surrounded by a woodland walk leading to the Old Quarry where you will see Scottish Wildcats.

Tamar Otter Centre
Photo ahisgett
Visitor Information
Launceston Tourist Information Centre, Market House Arcade, Market Street, Launceston, PL15 8EP. Tel: 01566 772 321
Launceston Castle (EH), Castle Lodge, Launceston, PL15 7DR. Tel: 01566 772365
Launceston Steam Railway operates daily (except Saturdays) from May to October. Tickets cost around £8 for adults, £5 children & concessions. Dogs Allowed. St Thomas Road, Launceston, PL15 8DA. Tel: 01566 775665
Tamar Otter & Wildlife Centre is open daily, April to October, 10.30am to 6pm. Entry costs around £8 for adults, £4 children. North Petherwin, PL15 8GW. Tel: 01566 785646

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy