This cliff-edge castle, long associated with the legend of King Arthur, offers a day out that is as rich in adventure as it is in history. Straddling both the mainland and a weather-worn headland jutting out to sea, the site opens up a wild landscape bearing the imprint of centuries of habitation.
Discover how it developed from a thriving trading port and royal stronghold, to a castle of romantic legend. Make the most of eye-catching outdoor sculptures and information posts to explore the ruins. The centrepiece is an 8-foot tall bronze sculpture inspired by the legends of King Arthur and Tintagel’s royal past.
Head down to the beach to see if you can spot Merlin’s face carved into the rocks. Visit the café on the way down for a taste of Cornwall.
Please note that Tintagel Castle is closed for the construction of a new footbridge, due to reopen on August 11th 2019 (see below). Throughout the build, there is no access to the castle, beach, cafe and visitor center.
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.
Dogs welcome on leads
English Heritage has announced that Tintagel Castle, complete with a stunning new footbridge, will re-open to the public on Sunday 11th August.
The bridge has been designed to elegantly span the 70m gap between the two halves of the ancient site. In the Middle Ages, Tintagel's residents walked from one side of the site to the other using a narrow land bridge as high as the cliff tops. From 11th August and for the first time in centuries, visitors will be able to experience the coastal castle the way its historic inhabitants once did.
The striking structure has taken shape as, piece by piece, steel sections have been dropped into place to bridge the gap between the mainland and island sections of the castle. Now the team are busy with the finishing touches before the ingenious cable crane, used to lift sections of the bridge into place, is taken down. Designed by Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates Architectural Practice, the construction of the new bridge has been a striking feat of engineering, and a beautiful addition to the historic site.
The bridge is part of a wider English Heritage project to care for Tintagel Castle. A new route through the landscape and refreshed pathways will help to protect the site’s archaeology and ecology.
Timed ticketing has been introduced to manage the number of people visiting the historic site, and limit the impact of visitors on this special place. Tickets can be pre-booked through the English Heritage website from 9am on Wednesday 31st July. A limited number of on-the-day tickets will also be available to purchase at Tintagel Castle.