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Tintagel Castle King Arthur Legend

Updated on October 6, 2016
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend | Source

King Arthur Legend

The King Arthur Legend is probably just that, legend. While we'd love to think that King Arthur existed - as he does in our books and films, the reality so far is that there's no evidence that he did .... or is there? There's been a lot of time, effort and research that's gone into archaeological digs and studies near to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall - and a lot of compelling evidence, from the surrounding area.

I don't think you can dismiss that he existed. Back in the year 500, which is approximately when King Arthur is considered to have lived, there were a lot of battles, a lot of wars, people weren't sitting comfortably in houses writing historical books, times were hard. While there's nothing been found in writing that absolutely states who King Arthur is and where King Arthur came from, there's certainly some compelling evidence on the ground.

So, if you're in North Cornwall, you could have a day sleuthing for yourself. Visit Tintagel Castle, look at the visitor centre artifacts, and see for yourself.

Visit Tintagel Village

King Arthur is famed for his Round Table - and the Knights of the Round Table.  It's said that he created a round table for the knights to sit at so nobody is at the "head of the table", thereby ensuring everybody is equal.

While you're in Tintagel, why not check out the other Arthur-themed visitor attractions, such as the King Arthur Round Table Centre.

Or, if you're into historical buildings, then Tintagel Old Post Office is right there on the High Street too.  Tintagel Old Post Office is a 14th century farmhouse and is owned by the National Trust so there is a fee to look round (Adults £3.20, Family Ticket £8).

Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend | Source

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is perched high on a clifftop in North Cornwall. Over time, the waves have eroded the cliffs and some hundreds of years ago some of the castle slipped into the sea as a cave underneath it gave way.

King Arthur himself could not have lived in this castle though, as it was built in 1233 by the Earl of Cornwall as a tribute to the Arthur legends that were around at the time. Even for its time, the design was deliberately old-fashioned, so it appeared to be ancient even when it was new.  Richard, Earl of Cornwall, chose this spot because at the time it was believed to be where King Arthur had lived.  Indeed, excavations around the Castle have uncovered some very high status fragments of Mediterranean pottery. 

Nobody but Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was interested in this folly though - and after his death the Castle wasn't maintained. It was used as a prison at one point and by about 1330 the main roof had been removed. It wasn't until the mid 1800s that there was interest in it again - the Victorians became fascinated with the King Arthur legend and so tourists started to visit Tintagel to see the Castle.

Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend: Window in Tintagel Chapel
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend: Window in Tintagel Chapel | Source

Evidence of King Arthur

Whether you believe in King Arthur or not, there's a lot of compelling evidence that King Arthur did live - and did at least visit and fight in the area around Tintagel and North Cornwall.

There is even a stone they named the Arthur Stone, that was uncovered as recently as 1998 on the site of the Castle. This piece of 1500 year old slate was inscribed with the name Artognou.

A lot of the history and evidence are displayed and explained in the Visitor Centre, right at the base of the Tintagel Castle site. You should talk a wander round this before you proceed across the bridge to the Castle.

Family Fun at Tintagel Castle

The Tintagel Castle site is managed by English Heritage and staff there have written a short light-hearted play that's ideal for families to perform themselves.  The simple play is based around the King Arthur legend of the sword and the stone.

Featuring well-known characters including Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Kay and Hector, you choose which character you want to play. So whether you're a wannabe wizard, or want to be a knight for a day, or perhaps you're a beautiful princess, why not perform the play with your family and friends on the Tintagel Castle site.  You can get details of this at the Visitor Centre.

Accessing the Castle

Whenever I visit Tintagel Castle I park in the village of Tintagel, which has a very large car park. From there you walk down a very long and quite steep earth track to the clifftop.

There is an alternative route to approach the Castle, by parking just north and following a footpath round.

There is a regular Land Rover trip running from the village to the Castle. The Land Rover just goes up and down the track all day long, taking people up and down - there is a small charge for this. This service runs from April to October.

The site is a very challenging one if you have limited mobility. The terrain is very steep and there are a lot of steps (100 steps) to gain access to the Castle. A lot of the paths are bare earth and gravel. There isn't any on-site disabled parking at all. As a sweeping statement visiting the Castle is probably only for the physically able and fit. If there is anything which would make things a bit tricky (even prams/pushchairs) then you need to read up more about the site and terrain before deciding whether to visit.

Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend: Tintagel Beach Waterfall
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur Legend: Tintagel Beach Waterfall | Source

Tintagel Beach & Merlin's Cave

Having reached the bottom of the track from the village, you can choose whether to turn left and visit the Exhibition, cafe or Tintagel Castle itself, or you can carry on down to Tintagel Beach, some quite narrow and slippery steps, to the beach itself.

I love the beach at Tintagel, it has a real mystical feel about it. The colour of the Ocean, the waves, the tiny pebbles on the beach and the black cliffs. But there's more to the beach than this, there are two tempting caves and a fabulous small waterfall.

This isn't a beach that people come to, to stay and enjoy.  It's a beach that people look at, then leave, it's just part of the King Arthur experience.

If you're looking out to sea, there's a large cave to your left - if you enter this cave, you can walk right the way through. On the other side, there's a further expanse of water and ahead of you another tempting cave entrance. Entering the cave on the right is for intepid and fit explorers only though - it's tricky to get into it and quite dangerous. It's certainly not a stroll through a cave that's suitable for everybody.

On the other side of the beach, under the Castle itself, is Merlin's Cave. This Cave is considered quite safe, if the tide's out. You'll find a majority of people on the beach will be walking through Merlin's Cave and out the other side.

Directions to Tintagel Castle

A markerTintagel Castle -
Tintagel, Cornwall PL34 0HE, UK
get directions

This marks the spot where you leave the village to walk down the track to the Castle, which is on the clifftop.

Prices & Opening Hours

You can visit Tintagel Castle Visitor Centre and Tintagel Beach for free. From those you can see a few walls of the Castle itself, but to cross the bridge and walk around the ruins, there's an entry fee.

Entry prices (to March 2017):

  • Adults £7.90
  • Children (2-15) £4.70
  • Concessions £7.
  • Family ticket (2+3) £20.50.
  • English Heritage members: FREE ENTRY.

Opening Hours: Tintagel Castle is open from the end of March to the end of September, seven days/week from 10am to 6pm. It is open most of the rest of the year too, with variable opening days and times.



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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Tintagel Castle looks positively beautiful, and I love the surrounding mystery with King Arthur. Oh, I hope I can visit it someday!