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Tintagel’s legendary cliff-top castle

Tintagel is quite a well-known and well-visited place, though I hadn’t heard of it prior to this trip. (Not that that should be a benchmark of whether something is famous or not!)

The main reason for its allure are the legends that Tintagel Castle was the birthplace of King Arthur.

Today the castle remains are greatly diminished but still quite extensive and owing especially to their dramatic location, are well worth a visit. And being only a few miles from our base in Boscastle, it was an obvious inclusion on our to-do list.

After some confusion about where the castle was and how we got there (strangely it didn’t seem to be well sign-posted) after parking the car we instinctively walked to the end of the village. From the grounds of the impressive Camelot Castle Hotel we looked across a gully and there was the elusive castle. I hadn’t researched this place beforehand and I was surprised about how large the site seemed to be. It was also going to require a bit of effort to get there.

But the path to the castle wasn’t anywhere to be seen (so much for instincts) and we backtracked into town until we found it. Rather, we just followed the trail of other tourists heading the same way.

A ways down the path we could choose to head left uphill to some of the castle remains, or right downhill to begin at the visitor centre. Which importantly also had toilet facilities. Right it was.

The castle ruins are in two main sections, the more extensive site is on an island (though there is still a narrow bit of mainland connecting to it) with the other part on the end of the mainland. Back in the day they were connected via a drawbridge, until that fell into the sea. Quite a few sections of castle on both sides met a similar fate thanks to the rugged coastal location and exposure to the elements. Today efforts have been made to strengthen and stabilise what’s left.

The coastline and a cove called Haven lay just beyond the visitor centre. Fortunately it was low tide and the beach was accessible so down I scooted for there were a couple of interesting features to see.

The Haven

In Merlin’s Cave. Given the whole Arthur thing the cave sounded really intriguing but it was only named as such after the 19th century when Tennyson wrote a few poems about King Arthur

Then it was time to go up, past the turnoff to the mainland castle ruins, around the large group of foreign students on the bridge, and up further.

Steep climb up to the island

Breathing a lot more heavily than I had been two minutes before I stepped through the big wooden door into the courtyard and Great Hall. Strolling around ruins, one of my favourite things to do.

A nice section of stone remains I thought. Later I checked it against the guidebook and, well, seems that it was part of a latrine

Island courtyard wall and gate

The path continued beyond here, past some Dark Age ruins (the site evolved over many centuries, chopping and changing as different rulers and landowners occupied it) and up to the top of the island.

Dark Age remains. While the guidebooks use this term apparently it is rarely used now by historians

Sitting low on the hill is the Iron Gate which was originally built to prevent access from the cove below

Looking down onto the courtyard and Great Hall

Pausing at the chapel where there is a mix of foundations from various ages, possibly back to the 5th century

A cave-like tunnel, no one knows for certain what it was used for

Looking from the island over to the mainland ruins

Then it was time to catch up with mum and dad who were making their way over to the mainland part. ‘Over’ = steep steps down + steep steps up.

From the mainland looking back to the island

Upper mainland courtyard

Lower mainland courtyard

You could spend all day wandering around here, or I could at least, but we had other stuff to go and see. Mum and dad’s respective dicky ankle and knee held up on the return walk to the village where we flopped into the closest watering hole.

Time to go find some lunch

Like the umbrella says…

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