Carn Brea Castle is easily one of Cornwall’s most recognisable landmarks and one of its most unusual buildings. Standing on the heights of Carn Brea Hill it is visibly from miles around. Over the centuries the castle has had many uses, it has been a chapel, a lighthouse, a hunting lodge, even a shop and is now home to popular restaurant. Bursting with history, legend and intrigue, it makes a wonderful place to a visit.
The outcrop of Carn Brea holds more than 6,000 years of human history and was once a major Early-Neolithic settlement encircled by huge stone walls. Though little trace of that remains today, the natural rocks that cover the hill have legends of their own. It is said that a mighty giant once lived here, terrorising his neighbours. When he grew old he lay down to die and his body turned to stone becoming part of Carn Brea Hill. There are rock formations here known as the Giant’s coffin, the Giant’s head and Giant’s hand, the Giant’s wheel and the Giant’s cradle.
Carn Brea obscure origins
Built in around 1379 the true origins of the little castle are pretty obscure but it has been suggested that it started life as a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael. By around 1780 Carn Brea Hill was part of the enormous Tehidy estate owned by the Basset family and they converted the little chapel into a lodge to be used as for hunting and feasting. It’s thought that the building was then redesigned in the gothic style with decorative battlements added. Like the original chapel it incorporated many of the natural boulders into its walls and today seems impossibly balanced on the tiny outcrop.
In 1835 the castle started being used as a lighthouse, a kind of beacon for ships. Its stunning elevated position means that it is visible from miles around and for much of coast between St Ives and St. Agnes. Then for a while in the 19th century it was run as a small shop supplying the early tourists who came to admire the view, much as we do today.
The present castle is much larger than the original structure as there have been a number of additions, the last in 1979. Since 1980 the castle has been home to a restaurant run by the Jordanian Sawalha family who now using this amazing space to dish up delicious Middle Eastern style food!