For a magical day out take the family to Tintagel Castle. Its wonderful location, set high on the rugged North Cornwall coast, offers dramatic views, and its fascinating ruins and stunning beach cafe make it a perfect day trip.
Tintagel Castle is steeped in legend and mystery; said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, you can still visit nearby Merlin's Cave. The castle also features in the tale of Tristan and Isolde. With a history stretching as far back as the Romans, Tintagel Castle is one of the most iconic visitor attractions in the south west.
The History of Tintagel Castle
Joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, Tintagel Island faces the full force of the Atlantic. On the mainland itself, the gaunt remains of the medieval castle represent only one phase in a long history of occupation. Even before Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle in 1233, Tintagel was already associated in legend with the conception of King Arthur by Uther Pendragon, the result of his seduction of Queen Igraine. Indeed Richard's castle was probably deliberately built to reinforce his connections with Arthur and the ancient rulers of Cornwall. This Arthurian connection was later renewed by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his Victorian 'Idylls of the King'.
After a period as a Roman settlement and military outpost, Tintagel became a trading settlement of Celtic kings of Cornwall during the 5th and 6th centuries. Legend has it that one of these was King Mark, whose nephew Tristan fell in love with Yseult (or Isolde). Their doomed romance is part of Tintagel's story.
The remains of the 13th century castle are breathtaking. Steep stone steps, stout walls and rugged windswept cliff edges encircle the great hall, where Richard, Earl of Cornwall, once feasted.
There are many myths and unanswered questions surrounding Tintagel. The site has an amazing capacity to surprise, even after years of investigation. In 1998, excavations were undertaken under the direction of Professor Chris Morris of the University of Glasgow, on a relatively sheltered and small site on the eastern side of the island, first excavated in the 1930s.
High-status imported Mediterranean pottery of the 5th and 6th centuries was found, as well as some fragments of fine glass believed to be from 6th or 7th century Málaga in Spain. Even more remarkable was a 1,500 year-old piece of slate on which remained two Latin inscriptions. The second inscription reads: 'Artognou, father of a descendant of Coll, has had (this) made.' Who exactly Artognou was continues to be the subject of lively speculation.
- Disabled toilets
- Guide dogs permitted
- Accessible formats
Due to the geography of the local area, access to the castle is via at least 100 steep steps. Surfaces in the castle include grass, gravel, cobbles and flagstones. Many of the surfaces are uneven and include changes of level. The island element of the site is a natural Cornish headland which includes several cliffs. Parts of the castle can be viewed from Glebe Cliff; the National Trust has set aside an area beside the church for this purpose. A Land Rover service (April - October) can take visually impaired and ambulant disabled people to the exhibition and shop (additional charge). No need to book, except for large groups - please contact the site in advance. Access to the castle 'island' is difficult for disabled visitors (via over 100 steep steps). Visually Impaired Visitors Due to the hazardous nature of the site, it is recommended that blind and partially sighted visitors have assistance.
Open all year
Nearest station is Bodmin Parkway station. Take First Western National X10 Exeter to Boscastle bus or the 122 or 125 bus from Bodmin Parkway to Tintagel. Western Greyhound 524 Bude - Wadebridge, 594 Bude - Turo with connections on 555 at Wadebridge to Bodmin Parkway Station.
Nearest major road is A30. To Camelford on A395-A39. Follow Tintagel signs B3314-B3263.