What to do at the Weekend: Visit Tintagel Castle in Cornwall
Tintagel Castle: A Rugged Cornish Bastion of Mystique and Legend
High upon its ancient and craggy rock perches the ancient and mysterious Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.
From its vantage point above the unforgiving Cornish coastline, its windswept and weathered stones have silently watched on as over 1500 years of English history have elapsed.
In July, we added our own history to this most historical of locations.
What we did at the weekend:
Visited Tintagel Castle
Location: Tintagel, Cornwall
Our rating: 7/10
What is Tintagel Castle?
Tintagel Castle is an ancient, ruined castle located towards the North West of Cornwall.
The castle is perhaps best known for its links to King Arthur and Merlin.
To be honest, it really isn’t difficult to imagine why.
It is a mythical place that oozes legend, history, myth, and mystique from every inch of its beautiful craggy face.
I’m Still Standing After All This Time
Whilst the building is a crumbling ruin, there remains a sense of ancient power, owing perhaps to an immovable position high upon the cliff side.
Almost taunting mother nature by asking “Is that all you got?!”
In actuality, Tintagel Castle traces its history back to a time far pre-dating those Arthurian legends that has made it famous.
Out of the Dark Ages
The site was inhabited during the Dark Ages, and it’s believed that a prosperous and well-organised community once thrived there.
The castle’s strategic location overlooking the sea, made it an ideal stronghold for early inhabitants, serving as both a safe-haven for settlers and a place of defence.
Where is Tintagel Castle?
Tintagel Castle is situated on Cornwall’s north coast, between Padstow and Bude.
It overlooks the rugged coastline of the southwestern tip of England, facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Why is Tintagel Castle Associated with King Arthur?
The link to King Arthur is probably the most well-known aspect of Tintagel Castle.
But, where does the link between King Arthur and Tintagel come from?
Well, Tintagel is associated with King Arthur due to its connection to the belief that it may have been the site of Arthur’s birthplace.
The association between Tintagel and King Arthur can trace its origins to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britanniae” (History of the Kings of Britain), which was written in the 12th century.
In it, Tintagel is identified as the place where King Arthur was conceived (hopefully it was less draughty than it is today back then).
Anyway, According to the legend, Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, disguised himself as the Duke of Cornwall to be with Queen Igraine, Arthur’s mother, who was residing at Tintagel Castle at the time.
This affair eventually led to Arthur’s birth, and it was a pivotal event in the Arthurian narrative.
IF he existed at all…
Obviously, the castle ruins and the rugged coastal landscape of Tintagel Castle have contributed to the mystique surrounding this connection as well.
It’s important to note that the historical King Arthur, if he even existed at all, remains a subject of debate among historians.
Much of what is known about him is based on legend and folklore.
Why Tintagel Castle is a Cool Place to Visit
The Spectacular Views
Perched on a rocky outcrop of land, it provides remarkable views of the crashing sea and coastline below.
The Magic Door at Tintagel Castle
Obviously, this makes Tintagel very ‘Instagrammable’ and impressive on camera.
In fact, the now famous ‘Magical Door’ is quite possibly one of the most photographed and reeled places in the UK now.
You might see people lined up here waiting for a good, unobstructed shot.
(Tanith was never going to miss this opportunity, even if she had waited all day).
The Tintagel Castle Footbridge
Okay, so this one isn’t going to be popular with everyone, or anyone with a fear of heights at least.
The Tintagel footbridge is one of the most recent additions to the Tintagel Castle site, opening in 2019.
It is very cool though and an absolute must if you want to get some of those stunning views we just spoke about.
The bridge spans the gap between the mainland and the island courtyard, allowing visitors to explore both sides of the castle more easily.
If any Game of Thrones fans have the bridges between the Iron Islands in mind when reading this, then we definitely got a very similar vibe here.
Something you Don’t See Everyday
As we’ve been running this blog over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been very lucky to go to see some amazing places.
This is another of those ‘you don’t see everyday’ places that I’d recommend taking a look at.
If you are into history, are interested in unusual places, and enjoy a rugged coastline, you’re going to love this place.
As regular readers of our blog will surmise, It ticks plenty of boxes for us.
Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel Castle
Reinforcing those King Arthur links at Tintagel Castle, is the enigmatic Merlin’s Cave located just below Tintagel Castle and at the base of the cliffs.
Follow the magical door path down the side of the castle cliff, past a refreshment hut, and down onto the beach.
You literally can’t miss it.
According to Arthurian legend, Merlin is said to have inhabited this cave.
Visitors can explore the cave during low tide, and its enigmatic atmosphere adds another layer to the mystical aura of Tintagel.
Is Tintagel Castle Owned by English Heritage?
Tintagel Castle is indeed owned, operated, and generally looked-after by English Heritage.
English Heritage, is a charity dedicated to protecting and maintaining England’s historic sites.
They do great work and have ensured that this iconic location remains accessible to visitors from around the world.
Where is the best place to Park at Tintagel Castle?
We found that the best place to get to Tintagel Castle is “The Castle Car Park” – this is definitely the closest.
The coordinates on Google Maps are 50.6650075403408, -4.752112302213279.
We must advise that it is very limited in terms of spaces and we were extremely lucky to get one when visiting.
The parking charge is £3 all day, which is very reasonable considering it is right in the heart of the village of Tintagel and in such close proximity to the castle.
You’ll need to walk around 600 metres over to the castle site from this car park.
If you don’t manage to get a space here though, there are plenty more pay and display car parks in the local area.
What Should I Know Before Going to Tintagel Castle?
The main bit of advice is similar to our Edinburgh Zoo post: be prepared to walk up and down hilly terrain.
It is rugged, wild, and there are frequent up and down hills to navigate.
Some of the pathways are quite narrow and potentially slippery, do pay attention to where you are putting your feet!
Lastly, the place is exposed to the elements, so dress appropriately.
Tintagel Castle Shuttles
A bit of a life saver.
Once you’ve navigated your way around the site, you’ll probably end up facing the prospect of an extremely long and steep walk back to higher ground.
For those who are out of shape (like us) or just don’t feel like walking the mountainous trek, there is a shuttle service that provides a lift from the bottom to the top.
These Land Rover shuttles run frequently throughout the opening hours of the site.
We are pretty unashamed to admit that we took all of 10 seconds to decide to grab the shuttle taxi.
It set us back a fiver and it was the best money we spent all day 😉
Tintagel Castle Entry Fees
Adult tickets are priced at £16.00 each and child tickets are £9.50. Concessions are £14.00. (Prices are correct at time of writing).
All ticket prices include a donation.
Tickets are available to book via the English Heritage Website here and are encouraged pre-visit.
We do think that this is on the expensive side.
However, we accept that everything is generally more expensive in the South (particularly Cornwall).
Also, we suspect that English Heritage price their attractions on the strong side to encourage annual subscriptions in the same way that the National Trust does.