The main draw at Tintagel has always been the romantically sited castle ruins perched on a promontory, or 'island', surrounded by the angry North Cornwall seas. The castle is famous for its links to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, celebrated by the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth in ‘The History of the Kings of England', and later by Lord Tennyson in his work ‘Idylls of the King’ in the 19th century. There is no evidence that King Arthur actually ever lived there, however there is no doubting the historic significance of the site, which reputedly goes back to the Romans. In fact, fragments of Mediterranean amphorae have been discovered at the site, suggesting early imports of wine and olive oil.
According to recent news reports, English Heritage, which runs the site, has incited the wrath of the locals, who have accused them of the ‘Disneyfication’ of the castle. The embellishments placed on the site by EH which led to these complaints consist of the bronze statue of a king clutching a sword and a carving of Merlin’s face in a rockface. While not exactly on the scale of the touristic vandalism visited on Land’s End (see my first blog post), some people consider this a step too far in such a beautiful and historic spot.
As for the village itself, most of the cafes, inns, shops and other visitor attractions are strung out along the stretch of road leading from the Visitor Centre to a car park proclaiming itself the nearest to the castle. Those heading down from here on foot make their way down a minor road through a valley before facing some taxing steps to get up to the castle, while there is a land rover available for the visually impaired and the disabled for access to the exhibition and shop. All the clambering up and down the steps giving access to the ruins will no doubt work up an appetite for the pasties, fudge and other Cornish delicacies on offer back in the village. As well as EH, the National Trust gets a look in with the 14th century Tintagel Old Post Office, a quaint stone house with a slate roof by the side of Fore Street. The house was originally built in the style of a medieval manor house serving as a farmhouse, but in the 1870s it assumed its role as the village post office.
Map of the area.
|Tintagel Castle. Photo by Alan Simkins, via Wikimedia Commons|