- About this route
Compton Castle is a 14th century fortified manor house set amidst rolling hills a short way inland from Torquay. Houses such as this, with its high curtain wall, towers and portcullis gateway, were built and lived in by some of the wealthiest members of late medieval society. With the marriage of Joan de Compton to Geoffrey Gilbert in 1329, Compton entered a family lineage that continues to this day. The property was enlarged in the 1450s, with fortifications added in the 1520s when Plymouth was raided by the French.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the Gilbert family were at the forefront of exploration, particularly in the Americas. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland in the name of Elizabeth I, and two years later his half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, began planning the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Raleigh’s colony failed, as did later attempts to settle Roanoke Island. When John White returned to assess the state of the settlement and its inhabitants in 1590 he found it abandoned, with the fate of over one hundred colonists remaining a mystery to this day.
Exploration remained a family interest, and in 1607 Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s son Raleigh Gilbert landed in Maine and established the Popham Colony, though this lasted only 14 months.
By 1750 the Gilbert family had established itself in Bodmin and Compton Castle fell into ruin and was sold. Two hundred years later, in 1931, descendent, Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert bought back the house and began its restoration. In 1951 it was passed to the National Trust. Compton Castle remains the private residence of the Gilbert family, who administer the estate for the National Trust. The property is open to the public on certain days of the year.
- Getting Around
Information on facilities and access is available on the National Trust, Compton Castle website.
By bus: Service 125 community bus from Paignton bus station, alighting at Marldon. Compton Castle is a 1.5 mile walk along country lanes from Marldon. Timetable available at Travel Devon.
By road: Located 1.5 miles north of Marldon and signposted from the A380 to Marldon, or from the A381 at Ipplepen. Free parking at front of property, with additional spaces at Castle Barton, 100 metres away.