A visit to Tintagel in North Cornwall is like taking a pilgrimage to a peculiarly mythical land. The castle ruins perched high on the clifftop are the quintessence of one of the greatest legends that course throughout Cornwall’s history.
Some say that Tintagel was the real site of Camelot where King Arthur reigned supreme, holding court around the fabled round table with his great knights. However the custodians of the castle were quick to inform us that the link actually came to exist between the two when Geoffrey of Monmouth named Tintagel as King Arthur's birth place. Richard, Earl of Cornwall, is also believed to have built his castle there during the early 12th Century due to this connection.
On entering Tintagel you can’t help but notice the complete indulgence of the villagers to the legend. An abundance of swords, shields, catapults and other Castle themed toys were seemingly everywhere we looked, everything an aspiring knight of the round table might need.
Through the far side of the village, a short walk brings you to a downhill track that leads towards the castle ruins. A Land Rover service offers a paying lift down to the information centre but we decided to enjoy a stroll down, and opted to save our fare for the journey back up the hill afterwards.
We approached the castle via the beach cafe and information centre. Below us, visitors eagerly scoured the rocks for Merlin’s face. The bustling little cafe offered a great selection so after a particularly large jam and cream smothered scone, we purchased our tickets and made our way for the steep steps that mirrored either side of the bridge. The Island’s original land bridge collapsed in 15th Century and has been replaced by a sturdy wooden bridge that spans the gap.
The steps are not for the faint-hearted and the climb on crutches was slow going, however when we reached the top and stood in the ruins of the Great Hall the effort was very much worth it. Dramatic Cornish coastline stretched into the distance on either side, the Atlantic swelled and crashed all around, but looking back across to the mainland over the remains of the Gatehouse Courtyard and the Upper Mainland Courtyard was the most awe-inspiring view.
From the Great Hall we followed the path towards the Gun House and round towards the Northern Ruins, spotting the angular foundations of the old buildings as we walked around. We made for the NNW part of the island where the sculpture of a guarding knight takes dominance.
A stroll across the western side of the island led us past the Southern cliffs and back towards the Chapel, then to the Great Hall and finally to the stone arch that opens onto the steps back towards the bridge.
On a final note, the Land Rover ride back to the village was worth every penny!