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One of the chain of forts built between 1539 and 1545 to counter an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain, it guarded the important anchorage of Carrick Roads, sharing the task with Pendennis Castle on the other side of the Fal estuary. A charming clover-leaf shape originally surrounded by octagonal outer defences, St Mawes was designed to mount heavy 'ship-sinking' guns. But particular care was also taken with its embellishment, and it is still bedecked with carved Latin inscriptions in praise of King's Henry VIII and his son Edward VI. It owes its fine preservation to the fact that unlike Pendennis Castle, it was little developed after its completion. Explore the grounds which stretch down to the waters of the Fal Estuary and enjoy the stunning views across to Pendennis Castle and out to sea. There are often cruise ships and other vessels which pass through this busy shipping lane. During the summer there are outdoor theatre productions so that you be entertained in the beautiful surroundings of the grounds with the castle keep in the background. Easily falling to a landward attack by Civil War Parliamentarian forces in 1646, it remained neglected until partial re-arming during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Other coastal forts built by Henry VIII include Portland, Deal and Walmer Castles.
FAQs and safety guidelines
English Heritage have put together an FAQs page, which contains the answers to a large number of queries. A number of safety measures have also been implemented at sites which can be viewed on the English Heritage website.