For those who are fascinated with legends of King Arthur, Tintagel Castle on the north coast of Cornwall is a must-see. The site has been dated back to the Romano-British period by the discovery of artefacts dating to that time period. It was definitely a settlement during the medieval period and in 1233, Richard, Earl of Cornwall built a castle on the site.
Geoffrey of Monmouth first claimed Tintagel was the site where Arthur was conceived before Richard built the castle. In Historia Regum Brittaniae, Monmouth claimed Merlin disguised Uther of Pendragon to look like Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall and husband of Igraine, who was Arthur’s mother. The belief of the link to Arthur was reinforced when Tennyson wrote ‘Idylls of the King’ in the Victorian period.
What remains of Tintagel is located on Tintagel island near the village of the same name and is now operated by English Heritage. There is a great deal of walking and stair climbing involved, which is something to keep in mind. We planned our visit for the last day of hour holiday, which turned out to be rainy and cold.
Parking is plentiful when you arrive, and it’s only a short walk to the English Heritage building where you check in for Tintagel. There is a separately operating shuttle that will drive people closer to the actual castle or you can walk it as we did.
When you begin the trek upwards, you start with this dirt path (muddy on rainy days) up to where the outer castle wall was. This part isn’t too steep, and you begin to have some lovely views once you reach the first portion of the ruins.
Tintagel Castle, like many old castles and homes in Britain, have different structures and walls from different time periods.
Tintagel at one time had a portion of the castle on the mainland and a portion of the castle or a bridge brought you over the water to the island. Unfortunately, that bit crumbled into the sea at some point, but a bridge has since been constructed so people can cross from the mainland ruins to those on the island. You can still see what is left of the original stairs in the second picture below.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you climb up a rocky set of stairs on the side of the island. If it’s wet, I recommend not being in a hurry as some of the steps are steeper than others and if you slip, the rocks would be rather unforgiving.
The views and the ruins are definitely worth the hike uphill!
Once you are across there are signs with history just like any English Heritage site as well as plenty of gorgeous views. I did have a fit of nerves watching my fourteen year old, who liked to step near the edge of some of the cliff-like sides. My husband would go with her, but it still made me nervous.
I will say that when you are ready to leave, you have to exit the same way you came in, so back down the crazy length of steps. You can also go down to the beach and go inside “Merlin’s Cave.”
I will say if you’re anywhere near Tintagel, don’t miss it! Legend aside, the different portions and excavations of buildings all built in different centuries if not ages, is fascinating and the views are incredible.
That said, please excuse my finger, which insisted on being in a few of the shots. That is one problem with a rainy day like that–I just won’t bring my nice camera outside. I used my phone and I often get my hands in the way.
Coming up next…Jane Austen Festival, Bath!!!!