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Tintagel Castle

Visited May 2013

Location Tintagel, Cornwall
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Toilets, Café, Gift Shop


Whether you believe the legends of King Arthur to be true or not, it is almost impossible to get  away from them in Tintagel. Mainly because of the tourist industry built up around the legends, but also because Tintagel Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, is set high up on a rugged outcrop, with breath taking views. This situation certainly gives it an air of ancient magic and mystery. Therefore it is not hard to imagine that a hero king of yesteryear could possibly have been born here.






In order to reach the castle and the hill top views you have to pretty able-bodied as there is a longish walk from the car park, and then a number of very steep steps to tackle before reaching the top of the outcrop. Therefore I am  reluctant to recommend this castle to everyone with children, because it will very much depend on age and willingness to walk. Pushchairs are obviously not  an option, and there are unfenced cliff edges at the top, so taking toddlers up there may just give you grey hairs. However, older children should not have a problem, and they will probably find the steep steps easier due to their youth (my knees have just about recovered!) My top tip for the steps, as someone who is scared of heights, is look at the step in front of you- I could not look up or down, and especially not over the edge! The children, in comparison, took them almost at a run!




The castle actually straddles both the mainland and a headland jutting out to sea. At one time there was a thin strip of rock connecting the two, but this has fallen into the sea, leaving the two parts disconnected from each other save for a wooden bridge. The largest area of ruins is on the headland- I would recommend starting on this part first, as there is more to see.


There would have originally been a gatehouse at the entrance to the castle, but this has now fallen into the sea so the present day entrance is a simple gateway through the outer wall. This leads into the great hall of the castle, and is probably the most famous view of Tintagel- see the first picture above, which shows the remains of the curtain wall which once surrounded the whole of the courtyard. Most of the ruins here date from the 13th century- built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Richard owned much land in Cornwall but spent very little time here- why he would have chosen to build his castle on such an exposed and difficult spot is anyone's guess- perhaps he was aware of the Arthurian connection and was trying to draw a comparison between himself and the chivalric king.


From the great hall there is a path leading up to the top of the headland, there are some interesting ruins here (as well as fabulous views) There is also a bit more space so children can walk around , certainly in the middle part, without fear of them falling off the cliff edge. There are the remains of a walled garden (what did they manage to grow up there in such an exposed spot?) and a cave like tunnel which can be walked through. There is also the remains of a well, which is fenced off for safety. A fire in the 1983 also exposed some long-buried remains of dwelling houses, thought to be from the dark ages, suggesting the headland had been occupied for a long time before Richard built his castle. Maybe around the time of Arthur??





Once you have explored the island, it is down the steps, across the bridge and back up some more, almost vertical steps to reach the mainland courtyard. This is split into a lower and an upper courtyard. Both are considerably smaller today than when they were built, due to erosion of the cliff. The lower courtyard would have been used for storage and possibly as stabling for horses. The upper courtyard once had a wall walk , and would have had buildings used to house the guards and the porter. The outer wall was built on the edge of the cliff- it was replaced several times as the cliff eroded and took parts of the wall with it. From here you can walk back down the steps, or do as we did- and walk down the cliff path-we personally found this an easier descent. It brings you back down just by the shop and café- and boy do you need refreshments after all that!


There is a small cove just underneath the castle which has a cave named Merlin's Cave- this can be reached via steps at low tide. However if you want to explore Tintagel village instead there are plenty of shops/cafes there. The Old Post Office, a National Trust property, also makes an interesting stop.


Our top tip for Tintagel - Arrive early, it gets very busy!  Take sun cream and plenty to drink.





More info:  English Heritage Tintagel Castle

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