Tintagel, PL34 0HE
Tel: (01840) 770328
King Arthur's Castle
If you want to give your imagination a treat, take it to Tintagel Castle. Tristan and Iseult, King Mark, Uther Pendragon, Merlin the Magician and King Arthur were all here according to legend - and at Tintagel legends have greater potency than facts, for there are few historical certainties here - most remains a mystery.
Tintagel Castle that you see today dates from around 1233, when Richard, Earl of Cornwall, acquired Tintagel and built a castle on the headland. It was England's earliest linear castle (that is it had lower, middle and upper wards in a row). Tintagel Castle is on an isthmus just outside the Cornish village of Tintagel. It was abandoned in in ruins by 1483, probably because of its remoteness.
The 1233 Tintagel Castle appears to have been built on an earlier castle which was constructed by Earl Reginald around 1141. This Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, was brother to Geoffrey of Monmouth's patron, Prince Robert, Earl of Gloucester.
When the conquering Normans reached the westernmost land of England they heard that the ancient seat of Cornwall's kings had stood atop this soaring headland, surrounded on three sides by the ceaseless surge of the Atlantic. So in propaganda terms it made sense for Earl Richard of Cornwall, younger brother of Henry III, to build a castle on the spot where his legendary predecessors had held court. There was no strategic reason for the choice, as there had been for the other Norman castles in Cornwall, Launceston and Restormel - and Earl Richard rarely stayed there.
Though the Normans put Tintagel on its windy headland, it is as a castle of the imagination that it holds us spellbound - a place of 'magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.' Was it here that Tristan wooed Isolt? Where Merlin magicked Uther Pendragon into the bed of Igerna, wife of King Gorlois, to father Arthur? And when Arthur became king, did he place his foot in "Arthur's Footprint" as part of ancient inauguration rites? Look around you, as the sea-light dances and the salt-spray flies, and you can believe whatever you want to believe.
Romantic stories linking Tintagel Castle to the Round Table, knights and chivalry are exciting and magical. The first link to the legend was in 1130 when Geoffrey de Monmouth published the 'History of Britain' and claimed that Tintagel was the birthplace of King Arthur.
On 6th August 1998, English Heritage revealed that during the last week of digging on the Eastern terraces of Tintagel Island, a broken piece of Cornish slate (eight inches by fourteen inches) was discovered bearing the name "Artognov" (Arthur?). It was excavated on July 4th, by Kevin Brady, an archaeologist working with a team from Glasgow University.
In August 2015 it was decided to build a new bridge to access the castle replacing the steep narrow steps previously used. A competition was held to confirm the design. Construction began in June 2019 and the bridge was opened on the 11th August 2019.
Tintagel Castle is now managed by English Heritage.
1st April - 30th September: Daily, 10.00am - 6.00pm
Merlin's Cave Tintagel Tintagel Visitor Centre Cornwall's History
Pendennis Castle Restormel Castle St. Mawes Castle Launceston Castle Trematon Castle English Heritage in Cornwall