Acton Castle

Acton Castle is a Grade II* listed building overlooking St Michael's Mount in west Cornwall. Perched high on the side of Mount's Bay, it commands an unrivalled view of the bay from Lizard to the Tater Dhu lighthouse. From here, you can see the Isles of Scilly on a clear day.

The Gentleman Scientist

It was built in 1773 for John Stackhouse - and named for his wife Susanna née Acton. John Stackhouse was an enthusiastic marine biologist (before such a term existed) and pushed forward the boundaries of science, especially in the analysis and categorisation of seaweed, which was his special passion.

Wanting a gentleman's retreat where he could carry out his botany, he commissioned the architect John Wood The Younger - fresh from his triumphant design of The Royal Crescent in Bath - to build a suitable haven for him. So the central part of the current castle was constructed in brick faced with local cornish granite.

The Smuggler's Hideaway

John Stackhouse was an occasional visitor. When he wasn't there, he left the castle in the care of his tenant farmer - a local called John Carter. Unbeknownst to Stackhouse, John Carter was a notorious smuggler, going by the name "The King Of Prussia" (and for whom nearby Prussia Cove is named). Carter took advantage of the empty property as a hideout when needed.

On one occasion, his brother Harry stayed there whlist recovering from a close brush with death - with a doctor visiting him blindfolded, and Harry restricted to lighting fires at night to avoid the smoke being seen.

There are many rumours of a tunnel having been built, running from the castle's foundations down to Stackhouse Cove below...

The Admiral's Retirement

After Stackhouse's death, the castle became the home of Vice-Admiral Bulkeley Mackworth Praed. Praed came from a well-established west-country family, and had joined the Navy as a boy in 1780, and had risen through the ranks.

He is most famous for having been Nelson's navigator at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, although he held a number of other posts before moving to the retired list in 1837, attaining the rank of Vice Admiral of the White.

As Praed lived out his final decades at the castle, he must have felt at home there. Then, as now, Mount's Bay was used as a shelter in bad weather for local shipping. And the sea sometimes feels so near you can touch it.

Later Development

Later in the 19th Century, two wings were added to the central tower, also in brick faced with local grantie, producing the frontage we see today. Further additions carried on in the early 20th Century with extensions to the rear.

The castle spent much of the last century as a country hotel - with varying success. The hotel finally closed in the 1980s, and it was then re-developed into luxury apartments, as it is today.