Who wasn’t captured by the legend of King Arthur as a child?
Mythical Camelot, knights of the round table and Merlin the magician romanticise history and places across the whole of the UK. I’ve been a fan of the stories, films and art work inspired by these tales and that have influenced popular culture.
Tintagel Castle on North Cornwall’s rugged coastline has been inextricably linked to the legend for many years.
Headed to Cornwall? Need some trip inspiration? Take a look at my visit hiking round Tintagel and crossing the new bridge that re-connects the island to the mainland.
It’s been place I’ve wanted to visit for such a long time, and on a my trip to Cornwall I finally managed to squeeze in a visit to see it.
Here’s lots of useful information, and some pictures of what you’ll see there, if you’re planning your own trip or looking for a little travel inspiration.
What is Tintagel Castle?
It’s the ruins of a 13th-century castle, once home to Richard, Earl of Cornwall’s court. The two halves of Tintagel Castle have been apart for over 500 years until a new footbridge was built re-connecting them in August 2019.
My day at Tintagel
For me the modern Tintagel is not just about rich English history, it’s an incredible walk, stunning coastal views and the chance to fill your lungs with fresh air. It’s the opportunity to explore caves, see that famous King Arthur sculpture up close and spend time exploring somewhere new.
How often do you explore your home country? I don’t do it nearly enough and the South West, especially Cornwall is just full of incredible places to visit.
Henry, my numerically minded partner in crime, joined me on my visit and we were up early to drive from our little holiday home further down the coast.
Top Tip – I’m so glad we made the effort to go early, even then the main carparks had filled up and people were pouring into the village despite it being a more over cast day.
We walked down to the entrance and it’s almost like a mini valley, there’s steep sides either side until you come round to the ticket pass. Then, all of a sudden the landscape totally opened up and you’re out on exposed glorious coastline.
First we walked through the ruins and round up the side of the cliff to see the King Arthur sculpture that stand proudly on one of the furthest corners out to sea.
It took me ages to get this photo where it looks like it’s not busy. It was RAMMED! Many people were queuing for a photo and plenty of people were walking pass the statue and down to the edge of the headland. I can’t believe I managed to capture an empty shot!
At the bottom of the stairs you have to scramble across some rocks to get to the beach where there are three caves to explore.
Top Tip – After the steps you do have to make your way across some bigger rocks to get to the beach. Depending you your ability you may or may not find this a challenge. It’s worth wearing sturdy, grippy shoes!
It’s quite steep but the beach is beautiful and well worth braving the stairs for. For those of you who may not be able to manage the stairs there are equally excellent views of the beach from the bridge and ruins by the entrance.
Here’s the view from the cave that’s furthest away…
My favourite was Merlin’s cave as you could climb right through to the other side for incredible views of the ocean.
Top Tip – If you decide to go through Merlin’s cave you’ll need…
- Waterproof shoes with excellent grip, there is slippery algae underfoot so take it easy.
- To keep an eye on the tide time so you don’t get stuck in the cave.
- Shorts – some parts will require you to walk calf or knee deep.
There were some incredible sights inside Merlin’s cave, like this bright pink substance, I couldn’t figure out if it was an algae, fungus, lichen or moss! All I knew was that it was luminous pink!
The view the other side was well worth it, and despite there being a lot of visitors the climb through the cave divided the crowds and gave Henry and I a quiet few moments to enjoy the view alone.
Apparently there’s a rock outside the cave where there’s an imprint of Merlin’s face but I couldn’t find it – let me know if you do any better!
On the cliff front that leads onto the beach there’s a beautiful waterfall that trickles over the cliff face that’s covered in moss.
After a lot more walking about we decided to head to the cafe back near the entrance for ice cream! The cafe had loads of lunch options, pasties and plenty of treats to refuel you during your visit and the seating area is right on the coast in the sunshine. It was such a lovely spot!
Keep your eye out when you’re walking around, there’s some cool stuff underfoot up on the island and down around the cafe.
After our little hike we decided to walk back to the village for a little look around and some late lunch. There are two bakeries selling pasties in the village and plenty of other shops for a wander.
Tintagel’s new bridge
Tintagel’s divided coastline has been reconnected by a brand new foot bridge designed to reflect the landscape. It uses natural materials like slate to help it fit in with its surroundings.
I think they’ve done a great job, it’s totally magical and makes the ruins a lot more accessible to people who may not have been able to manage the steep stairs before.
The two pieces of land obviously haven’t always been separate, in the Middle Ages it was connected by a narrow piece of land that slowly eroded away.
The new bridges means you walk the historic route that took people directly to the castle entrance. If you don’t like heights, don’t look down! It’s very sturdy though and not one of those bridges you can feel moving – phew!
Where is Tintagel?
Alright my lover! (A traditional South West greeting for those of you reading this who may not know!)
Nestled in North Cornwall you’ll easily find Tintagel on the long road that follows the coastline. It sits in-between Padstow and Bude about 25 miles from the border of Devon.
While it’s easy to get to by bus or car, you’d struggle to by train. Parking was a bit mad during off-season but we arrived early and got parked fairly easily.
How to get to Tintagel
Once in Tintagel you’ll find a quaint English village, like you’d see on a packet of fudge, or in an old painting. The winding street is home to Camelot themed gift shops, mythical sounding hotels and mystical shops selling crystals and knick knacks. Oh, and two amazing bakeries selling pasties of course!
You have to park in the village at one of the car parks, while there’s only a couple, plenty of locals open the surrounding fields to offer over flow parking.
The only way to get to the castle ruins is on foot. But if you need a bit of extra help you can pay a small fee and hitch a ride on the Land Rover service that runs from April to October from the ticket shop in the village right up to the main entrance.