Discover King Arthur's Tintagel Castle and North Cornwall's Arthurian Connections
Whether you choose to believe in the legends of King Arthur or not, there’s no denying that the landscape and coastline of North Cornwall is one of the most inspiring parts of the UK. It’s rugged, it’s windswept, it’s invigorating. From the salt sprayed cliffs to the high and jagged moorland hills, it is a land to be explored.
Tintagel, perched high on the Atlantic coastline, is the main focal point for those seeking the spirit of Arthur, and there is a choice of places to stay in and around the village. There are also award winning B&Bs and self-catering cottages scattered around the outlying countryside, all offering the warm welcome Cornwall is renowned for.
But it’s the iconic Tintagel Castle (English Heritage), defiant against the elements on its precarious island site, that draws visitors from all over the world. The visitor centre, in the valley below, is a good place to start your journey of discovery. Here you will find an innovative 3D display of how Tintagel has changed through time and an exhibition featuring artefacts from archaeological digs. Together they attempt to reveal how the Arthurian legends came about what part Cornwall played in this. Find out why in the 1400s, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built a castle on this remote spot and how it has influenced, and continues to, writers, artists and storytellers.
From the visitor centre, cross the narrow bridge and climb up onto the island where there are new outdoor displays and works of art exploring how the site developed. The centrepiece of these new installations is an 8-foot tall bronze sculpture inspired by the legends of King Arthur and royal figures from Tintagel’s past. But don’t let them divert you from the stunning views of the Cornish coast and the Medieval remains of the castle.
Now you have the bug? King Arthur has found his way into your brain and you want to know more? If the tide is out, descend onto the beach and explore Merlin’s Cave, keeping an eye out for his likeness carved into a nearby rock. Back in the village itself there’s all manner of distractions for those on a quest, but it’s time to explore further afield.
Just inland, at the aptly named Slaughterbridge, is the Arthurian Centre, said to be the site of King Arthur's last battle. Marked by a stone carrying a Latin inscription which dates back to the 6th century, it is believed to be the location upon which Arthur and Mordred fought their last battle, so ending the fellowship of the round table in AD 537. An interpretation centre tells the story, plus there’s over 20 acres to explore, with nature trails, formal gardens and the remains of a 13th century village.
And then there’s Dozmary Pool, a lonely piece of water high on Bodmin Moor. This has become associated with Arthur and it’s easy to see why when you stand beside it with nothing but the wind for company. But despite the cinematic connections with swords and aquatic ladies, it was Edwardian writers who first introduced Arthur into this landscape, centuries after the original legends were created.
So be careful what you believe? The landscape of Cornwall is full of inspiration, the culture full of myths and legends. A holiday is all about escape, so forget about what’s going on at home and lose yourself in another world, just don’t expect anybody to throw wet swords at you.