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Compton Castle

Visited  August 2011

Location Compton, South Devon
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Shop, Toilets


Compton Castle is in reality more of a fortified manor house than a castle. Situated just 5 miles from Torquay it was fortified to protect it from the marauding French, who frequently raided the Devon coast in the 14th century. These days it is the tourists who flock here,  it is only open three days a week and so this probably accounts for the fact that it was surprisingly busy on the rainy day that we went.






Seven generations of the Compton family lived at the castle until 1329 when the last Compton heiress Joan de Compton married Geoffrey Gilbert. The Gilberts then lived at Compton up until 1785 when it was sold out of the family. In 1931 the Gilbert family actually bought Compton back again, and they remain in residence today, despite the property being part of the National Trust.


The Gilberts were responsible for the fortification of the building that we see today. They are also famous for the connection with Sir Walter Raleigh, who grew up at Compton Castle. Raleigh's mother Katherine had married Otho Gilbert in 1531 and together they had had three sons. After Otho's death in 1547 she married Walter Raleigh, and had two sons with him- Sir Walter and Sir Carew. The five brothers were very close, and it is thought that Walter caught the exploring bug from his older brother Humphrey Gilbert, a veteran of several nautical expeditions.


The fact that the family still live here is both an advantage & disadvantage. In one way it is nice to see the castle still being lived in after all these years. However it does seem to restrict the access to most areas, the main criticism is that not much of the interior is open to the public. The great hall is impressive but not massive, and there is a tower room which is accessible. The solar (living quarters) is above the Great Hall and is furnished with a mixture of old and more contemporary pieces . That is about the total of the rooms on display.


The old kitchen is also open to the public, it was originally placed in an adjoining building to minimise the risk of fire. This part of the castle seems much older, presumably as it is not used as a kitchen anymore it was not modernised in the same way the rest of the habitable parts of the castle were. On the day we visited there were different types of herbs laid out with pestles & mortars and an invitation to make a herb mixture. This occupied the children for a while. There was also a children's trail. It was actually one of the better trails we have done and involved spotting Squirrels, part of the Gilbert family Crest.






As you would expect from the National Trust the gardens are beautifully set out, but unfortunately for us it was raining so we did not get to see them to their best advantage. If you are lucky enough to get a sunny day then it would be worth spending more time outside than in the castle, as I think the grounds are equally as impressive as the buildings.


There is limited parking at the castle which gets very full in the summer- my standard advice for all castle visits is to get there early if you can. There is a small souvenir shop in the castle but no refreshments- however a private house just across the road had turned their living room into a tea room, which was quite nice and very cosy on a wet day.








More info:  The National Trust Compton Castle

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