Tintagel - A Tour of Tintagel Castle
Most people know of Tintagel. Many people consider it the birthplace of King Arthur. Others visit Tintagel village and the Castle in the full knowledge that the present structures are largely Norman - built in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is believed that the fortress of Tintagel dates from the time of Reginald, Earl of Cornwall (1140 to 1175) although few argue that there are some buildings dating from the 6th Century. The ruined monastery is thought to date from 500AD. There are enough unanswered questions to still provide most visitors with a sense of mystery.
The most common way of approaching Tintagel Castle is via the lower entrance ticket booth just seaward of the Visitor Centre and English Heritage shop. If the state of the tide is favourable why not take a few minutes out to descend carefully to the beach and explore Merlins Cave or look to landward to see the small waterfall as it tumbles onto the beach at Tintagel Haven. Look up to the Castle from this viewpoint and realise how difficult any attempt to storm the Castle would be from the sea. Indeed the very name Tintagel or more accurately Din Tagell means 'fortress of the narrow entrance' in Cornish. Satisfied, retrace your path to the ticket booth, purchase your ticket and begin the adventure....
Pause awhile as you near the modern wooden bridge to assess the climb ahead of you. Over 100 steps lead up to the Island Courtyard. Please be advised that the ascent to the Castle is quite narrow and steep in parts, also that the castle may be closed in very wet and windy conditions for the safety of the general public.
The island Courtyard is entered through an arched wooden door and its level terrain allows visitors to catch their breath before exploring the island further. In fine weather there are good views over Barras Nose and Smiths Cliff and the thick stone battlements are much photographed.
Passing through the courtyard the main route runs close to the remains of some Dark Age Houses - dating from about the 5th or 6th century. There is a choice of paths now. The upper path leads up to the 13th century 'Walled Garden' at the centre of the island whilst the lower path makes its way along the northeastern edge of the island towards the 'Northern Ruins' - once again dating from the 5th or 6th century AD.
On a clear day there are some excellent views from this part of the island. To the northeast lies Willapark, Bossiney and Boscastle with the unmistakeable outline of the Cambeak headland in the distance. To the southwest lies Gull Rock off Trebarwith Strand and the clifftop quarries between Dunderhole and Penhallic Points. A little further on lies the fenced area of the Tunnel. This natural feature is thought to have been used as a medieval larder or cold store.
Almost in the centre of the island plateau lies the Well. This would have been the only source of fresh water on the island. The circular route now skirts the southern cliffs - once again there are some excellent views to photograph or simply admire. The 11th century cChapel dedicated to St. Juliot is encountered next along the path. It was built around about 1080 AD and renovated some time in the 13th century. This may have been a private chapel associaated with the Castle as there is the larger and far more accessible Church of St. Materiana on the mainland at Glebe Cliff.
The path now drops down steps to the island Courtyard once more and the exit from the Castle. Enthusiastic walkers may wish to climb up the steep steps to the Mainland Courtyard after leaving the island. From here it is possible to stroll along Glebe Cliff to visit the Church of St. Materiana before following the waymarked path back to Tintagel or the coast path southwest to Trebarwith Strand.
There are excellent cliff walks in the surrounding area. Walk west to the slate quarries around Lanterdan and Bagalow or east over Barras Nose to Gullastem, Willapark and on to Trevalga and Boscastle. Nearby are the very picturesque Rocky Valley and the magical St Nectan's Glen - well worth a visit.
Tintagel Castle Tel. (01840) 770328