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Tintagel Castle: Discover the Legend of King Arthur

There are many castles in Britain that are better preserved, more historically significant, or more beautiful than Tintagel Castle on the rugged Cornish coast. That being said, Tintagel remains one of Britain’s most-visited castles — because it holds a pivotal role in the romantic legend of the great King Arthur.

Keep in mind that there’s never been any real historical proof that King Arthur actually existed. But who cares? It’s one of the most enduring stories in the world, told over and over in countless books, scholarly works, movies, and even musicals.

Tintagel Castle

The earliest known telling of the legend was written in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth — and Tintagel is where the story begins.

The Birthplace of Legendary King Arthur

Tintagel Castle

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the mighty warrior-king Uther Pendragon hosted an Easter feast for the lesser kings of Britain. Attending the feast was Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and his wife, the lady Igraine.

Uther was captivated by Igraine’s beauty and determined to make her his own. But he made no secret of his desire, so Gorlois immediately returned his wife to his castle fortress at Tintagel. Unwilling to start a war with Gorlois, Uther turned to the magician Merlin for help.

Merlin used his magic to make Uther look like Gorlois. Together they passed through the castle guard and into Tintagel, where Uther spent the night with an unknowing Igraine. On this night, Arthur was conceived and the famous story of love, chivalry, quest, and betrayal was set into motion.

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The history of Tintagel

Tintagel Castle
Photo: ben_salter

Historians and archaeologists agree that Tintagel was home to royalty as far back as the Early Medieval Period, sometime between 450 and 600 A.D. Its remote location made it easy to defend, yet easy access to the sea may have made it an important spot for cargo ships to unload their goods. In the 13th century, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle at Tintagel — these are the ruins that tourists visit today.

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Location of Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island, which is adjacent to the village of Tintagel in North Cornwall. This stunning medieval fortification is half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland, and provides breathtaking views of the coastline and its wild beauty.

Visitors can cross the new bridge to reach Tintagel Island and explore its ruins, as well as uncover its mysterious connection to the legend of King Arthur. Surrounded by Roman and Dark Age remains, this historic site is a treasure trove for those looking to immerse themselves in history, myth, and breathtaking scenery.

Things to do Near Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle
Photo: giuseppemilo

Tintagel has been an important archaeological site since the 1930s, but it’s been a popular tourist destination since the Victorian Era. Certainly the romance of the Arthurian legend is a big draw; it’s easy to let your imagination run wild as you climb the rocky paths around the castle ruins or stand in “King Arthur’s Footprint” at the highest point on Tintagel Island.

The surrounding area is rich with Roman and Dark Age remains and is home to legendary sites such as Merlin’s Cave.

But Tintagel — and all of the Cornish coast — is also home to the some of England’s wildest, most dramatic shores. These rugged coastlines and windswept cliffs are wonderful places to walk, and a drive along the coast features small picturesque seaside villages, green, green countryside, and numerous Celtic ruins for the history buffs.

Tintagel Castle
courtesy of wikimedia commons

To really enjoy the spectacular beauty of North Cornwall, plan to stay in one of the larger coastal villages, like Wadebridge or Bude, then rent a car for a drive to Tintagel.

Tintagel Castle
courtesy of wikimedia commons

Explore the castle ruins, soak up the dark atmosphere of this grim relic, and then spend the rest of your visit discovering the joys of the dramatic Cornish coast. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan to be in Cornwall before mid-July.

Families will love a visit to Pennywell Farm, where they can get up close to a variety of animals and enjoy plenty of activities. Further afield, visitors can discover Gallos King Arthur, which is a popular attraction dedicated to the legend of King Arthur. No matter what you choose to do during your visit, you won’t forget your time at Tintagel Castle.

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