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Launceston Further Information

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About Launceston

Situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor and close to the Devon border. Launceston has been described as one of Cornwall's nicest inland town's. It was also a favourite with Sir John Betjeman who called it 'the most interesting town in Cornwall'.


It was until 1838 the regional capital of Cornwall and guarded the main overland route into the county, it dates from Celtic times.
Shortly after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century a massive castle was built here overlooking the River Kensey by Brian de Bretague, the first Norman Earl of Cornwall. The castle was then a base for the Earls of Cornwall.


Launceston is the only walled town in the county and once had a royal mint. It was visited by the Black Prince and in 1549 was seized by Cornish rebels. The castle changed hands twice during the Civil War before becoming an Assize Court and prison.


Today, the castle is in ruins but the 12' thick walls of the round Keep and Tower can still be seen. Launceston was also once the home of an Augustinian Priory that was founded in 1136. Most of these buildings have long since disappeared but the priory's chapel of care, now St Thomas Church, remains. Although only a small building it has the largest font in Cornwall.


The town's medieval south gate, a castellated building, has been a guardhouse and prison, it is now an excellent Art Gallery.
The west and north gates have ceased to exist since the 19th century. An east gate has never existed as the steep land was a deterrent of any attack from the direction.


Launceston also served as a prison housing French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars.
Elsewhere in Launceston the streets around the castle are full of excellent architecture with buildings dating from Georgian and earlier. This includes the National Trust owned 'Lawrence House Museum'.


Local attractions include the Lawrence Steam Railway, a narrow gauge line travelling in open or closed carriages running for 5 miles through the beautiful Kensey Valley to Newmills and back.


There is also a 16th century church of St Mary Magdalene boasting one of the most lavishly covered exteriors.
Today Launceston is a busy market town with numerous small shops, restaurants and services, it has a population of around 7000.
It is an ideal location for touring both the Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor. Tavistock is only a short drive, described as the gateway to Dartmoor.


Although described as an inland town, in Cornwall the sea is never far away, both north and south coasts are just a short drive, with Looe to the south and the Boscastle/Tintagel area to the north. The town also has a sports centre, two very good 18 hole golf courses, two bowls clubs and Salmon/trout fishing closeby.


Local places worth a visit include:
Hidden Valley Adventure Park
Jamaica Inn and museum
The Castle
Steam Railway
Lawrence House Museum
Trenance Gardens
Trethorne Leisure Farm

Launceston is a very pleasant inland town extremely accessible via the main A30 trunk road. It is far from being a tourist resort but a popular destination for those exploring Cornwall.