Standing 750 feet above the Cornish industrial towns of Redruth, Camborne, and Pool stands Carn Brea (“rocky hill” in Cornish), a feature shrouded in history and mystery. Evidence of 6,000 years of human habitation can be found in the Neolithic archaeology strewn around its heathered landscape. A wall of granite circles the central outcrop, and evidence of basic weaponry shows this as an early Neolithic settlement that has witnessed its fair share of conflict.
According to legends, a giant John of Gaunt is said to have inhabited Carn Brea, and his legend lives on through rock formations called the “giant’s coffin”, “giant’s head and hand”, “ giant’s wheel” and “giant’s cradle.” Upon one of the hill’s most legendary sites, the “giant’s seat,” stands the somewhat spooky Carn Brea Castle. Its foundations are a natural outcrop of granite boulders that gives the impression of the castle melding with the surrounding land.
Originally built in 1379, possibly as a small chapel, the site has been built upon numerous times to its present state. Its use as a castle was first mentioned in 1478 as the “Tower Castle owned by Sir John Bassett, Knight.”
Around 300 years later the Bassett dynasty, the foremost mining family in the area, converted the castle and used it as a hunting lodge and feasting house. Its dominant position in the sightline of both the north and south coasts meant it has been used as a beacon for ships. For most of the 19th century it was a requirement to leave a window light burning so sailors could reckon their ships’ position.
Over time the castle fell into disrepair, until renovation began in the late 1970s. In 1982 Carn Brea Castle was turned into a restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine — a homage to its earlier use as the Bassett family feasting house.
In 2006, the turquoise Ford Anglia used in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was stolen, and later found at Carn Brea Castle. Nearby, along the hill’s ridge, stands the 90-foot high granite obelisk known as the Bassett Monument that can be seen for miles on a clear day.