Cornwall-Tintagel

Tintagel Castle

Like St Michael’s Mount, a large part of Tintagel’s appeal lies in its location – perched on surf-scoured cliffs where the only access is by a long flight of uneven steps and a dramatic footbridge. In fact, at Tintagel you won’t find much of a castle at all. Crumbling walls are all that remain of the 13th-century fort. It’s what Tintagel could have been, however, that puts a spring in the step of all who venture here.

The discovery of the inscribed sixth-century Artognou Stone fuelled tantalizing speculation that Tintagel was the birthplace of King Arthur – a great excuse for the riveting myths and legends recounted during summer by a local storyteller. You can also delve into Tintagel’s mysterious past at the excellent little visitor centre where a short film, Searching for King Arthur, turns “the forensic eye of archaeology on Arthur’s bond with Tintagel”.

Sorry kids, but the evidence is pretty scratchy. What you will find, having scaled the steps onto Tintagel Head, are the remains of a medieval castle built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, between 1233 and 36 – some 500 years after the supposed reign of King Arthur.

None of this, however, detracts from the thrill of exploring the network of skeletal walls clinging to the clifftop or venturing inside Merlin’s Cave (reached from the cove below). Interpretation boards reconstruct what life was like at Tintagel, while free quiz sheets challenge children to devise the best way to lay seige to the castle. There’s also a beach café and a giftshop selling Arthurian nick-nacks, Callestick Farm ice cream and other local goodies.

About half a mile inland, Tintagel village will make short work of pocket money thanks to Merlin’s Gifts, Granny Wobbly’s Ice Cream Parlour and other irresistible temptations. Try to find time for the Old Post Office (see right) – a medieval yeoman farmhouse with a slate roof that ‘heaves and rolls’ like the sea. It’s delightfully dingy and atmospheric inside.

Tintagel Castle, PL34 0HE, tel: 01840-770328.
Open year-round daily from 1000.
£4.90 adult, £2.50 child (5-15), £12.30 family.

Click here to visit the official website of Tintagel Castle