Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacular and legendary historic sites in Britain. Located on a rugged peninsula on the north coast of Cornwall, the castle is linked with the legend of King Arthur and has a rich history that spans centuries. This article will guide you on what to know before you visit this iconic attraction, including History and Legend, How to get there, Best Time to Visit, Opening Hours and Tickets, What to see, and Some Surprising Facts. Whether you are interested in King Arthur, medieval castles, early medieval settlements, or stunning coastal views, you will find something to enjoy at Tintagel Castle.
History and Legend of Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle is a medieval castle on Tintagel Island, near Tintagel village, North Cornwall. King Arthur’s link with the castle makes it famous, as Merlin’s magic supposedly gave birth to him there. The castle also has a long history that goes back to the late Roman period and the early medieval settlement.
The history and legend of Tintagel Castle are hard to tell apart. Geoffrey of Monmouth, a 12th-century writer, said that Tintagel was where King Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, pretended to be Gorlois, the husband of Igraine, the Duchess of Cornwall, and slept with her by Merlin’s magic. Igraine then had Arthur, who later became the king of Britain.
But there is no proof for this story, and Geoffrey may have made it up or based it on older legends. Tintagel may have come from Din Tagell, meaning “the fortress of the constriction“, referring to its narrow land.
The legend of King Arthur may have also inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle at Tintagel in the 1230s. He built a castle on the island where there were still ruins of an older settlement. He also built a bridge to join the island with the mainland.
People used the castle until the 15th century when it became old and they left it. People who liked old things and tourists found it later. Many writers and artists used Tintagel as an inspiration for their works.
Today, Tintagel Castle is one of the most visited historic places in Britain. English Heritage looks after it, which has done many projects to look after the place. A new footbridge opened in 2019 to make the original land bridge that once joined the island with the mainland.
Tintagel Castle is a place where history meets legend, where you can see a medieval castle and an early medieval settlement, where you can imagine King Arthur and Merlin, and where you can enjoy Cornwall’s coast.
How to get there
Tintagel Castle is about four miles west of Camelford and 14 miles north of Bodmin. Get there by car via the A39 or the B3263. There is a large car park near the castle entrance, which costs £4 per day for non-members and £2 for members of English Heritage. The car park has spaces for disabled visitors and a Land Rover service that can take you to the castle ticket office. On the other hand, you can walk from the car park to the ticket office, which takes about 15 minutes along a steep and uneven path.
You can also get to Tintagel Castle by public transport. There are buses from Camelford, Wadebridge, Bude, and Boscastle that stop near the castle entrance. You can also take a train to Bodmin Parkway and then a bus to Camelford. From there, you can either take another bus or walk to the castle.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can walk to Tintagel Castle along the South West Coast Path, which offers stunning views of the coastline and the castle. The path is challenging and steep in places, so make sure you wear suitable footwear and clothing.
Best Time to Visit Tintagel Castle
The best time to visit Tintagel Castle depends on your preferences and expectations. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy a quieter experience, you may want to visit in the low season (November to March), when the castle is less busy and admission prices are lower. Be aware that some facilities may be closed or have reduced hours during this time.
If you want to enjoy warmer weather and more activities, you may want to visit in the high season (April to October), when the castle is more lively and offers more events and exhibitions. Be prepared for longer queues and higher admission prices during this time.
Opening Hours and Tickets
Before you visit Tintagel Castle, you should check its opening hours and book your tickets online. Tintagel Castle is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, according to the English Heritage website. The opening hours may change depending on the season, so you should check the website before you go.
Book online until 8.45 a.m. on the day of your visit. You can also buy tickets at the ticket office, but they may be sold out at busy times. If you visit after 2.30 pm, you can book until the start of your arrival time. You can enter the castle and cross the bridge within an hour of your arrival time and stay as long as you like.
You can book your tickets online in advance and save 10% on your entry fee. On the other hand, buy tickets on-site at the ticket office. The ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: £16
- Child (5-17): £9.60
- Concession (student or senior): £14.40
- Family (2 adults + up to 3 children): £41.60
- Members of English Heritage: Free
What to See in Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle has a lot to offer visitors of all ages and interests. Here are some of the highlights that you should not miss:
- The footbridge: The footbridge is a new addition to Tintagel Castle that opened in 2019. It connects the mainland with the island where the castle ruins are located. The footbridge spans 70 meters across a 190-foot-deep gorge and offers breathtaking views of the sea and the cliffs. The footbridge is designed to recreate the original land bridge that once existed at Tintagel.
- The castle ruins: The castle ruins are what remains of the medieval fortress built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the 13th century. The ruins include walls, towers, gatehouses, halls, chapels, and gardens that give a glimpse into the life and power of the earl. You can explore the ruins at your own pace or join a guided tour that will tell you more about their history and significance.
- The early medieval settlement: The early medieval settlement is where Tintagel’s history began. It dates back to between the 5th and 7th centuries AD when Tintagel was a prosperous trading center and a possible residence of Cornish kings. You can see the remains of stone buildings, courtyards, and pathways that reveal the wealth and sophistication of the people who lived here. Some of the artifacts that were found here, such as pottery, glass, metalwork, and coins from across the Mediterranean world, are also on display.
- The beach and Merlin’s Cave: The beach and Merlin’s Cave are located below the castle on the eastern side of the island. The beach is a great place to relax, picnic, or paddle in the rock pools. The cave is a natural feature that runs through the island and is accessible at low tide. The wizard Merlin, who according to legend helped King Arthur’s father to seduce his mother at Tintagel, gave it its name. You can walk through the cave and imagine the magic and mystery that surrounds it.
- The sculpture of Gallos: The sculpture of Gallos is a bronze statue of a king that stands on the edge of the island overlooking the sea. It was created by artist Rubin Eynon and installed in 2016. It represents the spirit of Tintagel and its legendary associations with King Arthur and other ancient rulers. The name Gallos means “power” in Cornish and is similar to the Latin word for “rooster” which symbolizes courage and vigilance.
- The exhibition: The exhibition is located in the visitor center near the ticket office. It tells the story of Tintagel Castle from its origins to the present day, using interactive displays, models, videos, and artifacts. It also explores the legend of King Arthur and how it has influenced literature, art, and culture over the centuries. The exhibition is a great way to learn more about Tintagel Castle before or after your visit.
Some Surprising Facts about Tintagel Castle
- Tintagel Castle is one of the most visited castles in England, attracting over 200,000 visitors every year.
- Tintagel Castle is home to a variety of wildlife, including seabirds, seals, dolphins, and butterflies. You can spot them from the clifftops or join a wildlife walk with a ranger.
- Tintagel Castle has inspired many writers and artists over the years, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, William Morris, John William Waterhouse, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
- Tintagel Castle has been featured in many films and TV shows, such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Excalibur, Merlin, Doctor Who, and Transformers: The Last Knight.
- Tintagel Castle has a sister site in Brittany, France, called Château de Comper. It is also linked with the legend of King Arthur and hosts an annual festival of Arthurian literature and culture.
Tintagel Castle is a legendary site in Cornwall that offers a unique combination of history, myth, and scenery. Learn more about Tintagel Castle at the exhibition or join one of the events or activities that take place throughout the year. To plan a visit to Tintagel Castle, book tickets online in advance and save 10%. You can also find more information on how to get there when to go, what to see, and some facts on this website. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience one of the most spectacular and legendary historic sites in Britain.
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