Visit Tintagel Castle, Place Of Myth And Legend

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There are many reasons to visit Tintagel Castle. For the castle itself, and its magnificent clifftop setting. For the natural environment, with wild flowers everywhere. And – of course – because this is the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur…

A Medieval Castle

Tintagel Castle may be associated with King Arthur, but the current building is medieval. It was built in the 1230s by Richard, Duke of Cornwall, but it seems that he chose the site more for its legendary history than its strategic importance. It soon fell into disuse but was revived in the 14th century when a number of smaller buildings were built on the site.

When it was first built the castle, located on a tall cliff, was connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. However this gradually wore away, and by the 15th century Tintagel had become isolated, cut off by a deep chasm. For hundreds of years visitors had to approach via a long series of steps, but a new bridge across the divide was opened in 2019.

Series of steep steps leading down the side of a cliff. The sea is just visible at the bottom.
A long flight of steps leads to the ground

The Legend Of King Arthur

Archaeological evidence shows that the site was in use as early as the 5th century CE, and it is likely that Cornish rulers lived here long before Duke Richard built his castle. So it is perhaps not surprising that Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed in his History of the Kings of Britain (1136) that this was the home of the wizard Merlin and that King Arthur was born here.

The castle later became further associated with Arthurian romance, and was thought to be the home of King Mark of Cornwall and the location of the tale of Tristan and Isolde. Around the castle you can see places where the doomed lovers met, and a series of stone slabs around the walled garden tell their story.

(Other places around the UK associated with King Arthur include Glastonbury, Winchester and Caerleon.)

Medieval stone wall and gateway.
Remains of the medieval castle

Exploring Tintagel Castle

Part of a visit to Tintagel Castle is the dramatic approach. Walking across the new bridge you are rewarded with some amazing views, looking down to the sea and the caves beneath the castle.

Long footbridge across a deep chasm linking a cliff to the mainland.
The dramatic approach to Tintagel Castle

Although there not much of the castle itself remains you can see the remnants of some of the buildings, including the Great Hall and the chapel. Explanation boards around the site give lots of information about the history and about the people who lived here. You can also enjoy the walled garden, and don’t miss the giant bronze sculpture of a male figure on the headland (this is known as Gallos, which means “power” in the Cornish language).

If you climb down to the beach at low tide you can explore Merlin’s Cave, where the wizard is supposed to have lived.

A Site Of Special Scientific Interest

Apart from the history the site is notable for its physical position, beside the South West Coast Path. It is also a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to its geology and varied plant life.

As you walk around look out for the local Tintagel slate, and for the many rare wild flowers and other plants that flourish in the temperate Cornwall climate. There are abundant seabirds and several species of butterflies. And you may be lucky enough to spot seals in the water far below.

Slope covered with outcrops of slate and a variety of wild flowers.
Look out for the distinctive local stone and the wild flowers

The Town Of Tintagel

The village of Tintagel is small but has plenty of shops, cafés and pubs catering for visitors. If you have time to explore, have a look at the Old Post Office, a 14th century house and gardens that was once used as a post office (now owned by the National Trust).

White painted pub called The Olde Malthouse. People are sitting outside on benches beside the road.
The village of Tintagel

You might also like to visit King Arthur’s Great Halls. Built in the 1930s this is not just an Arthurian museum, but also a Masonic lodge with some magnificent stained glass (72 windows illustrating the legends of King Arthur). Note that the Halls are closed on Mondays.

How To Visit Tintagel Castle

  • Tintagel Castle is owned by English Heritage. Entrance is free to English Heritage members.
  • You will need a timed ticket to cross the bridge (this can be booked in advance).
  • Visitors are asked to follow a one-way route of crossing via the bridge and returning at ground level via a set of steep steps. However those with mobility issues may return across the bridge. Note that the site is uneven and that there are some slopes and steps.
  • A private Landrover service is available to take you to and from the village to the entrance kiosk (additional charge).
  • I stayed at the St Moritz Hotel in Trebetherick, 20 km from Tintagel. However there are also accommodation options in the village of Tintagel itself.
  • When planning your visit to Cornwall have a look at this post – 10 Best Places To Visit In Cornwall.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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