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 now closed until June for the construction of a new footbridge. Throughout the build there will be no access to the castle, beach, cafe and visitor centre.
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.
Dogs welcome on leads