The Tintagel King Arthur Trail
Discover King Arthur in the Romantic Backdrop of Tintagel, Cornwall!
If you love the legends of King Arthur and Avalon, then visiting Tintagel, Cornwall in the south west of England and following the King Arthur Trail is a must!
From the rugged, windswept ruins of King Arthur's Castle on Tintagel Island, to the reputed sites of the Battle of Camlann, the Lady of the Lake and King Arthur's burial, there is a spellbinding array of places to visit relating to the Arthurian myths, and all are set against the truly wild and magical landscapes of Cornwall.
This page takes you through the key sites along the King Arthur Trail, as well as suggesting other places to visit, where to stay and where to eat! Step into the world of Avalon with this pictorial guide to the King Arthur Trail, Tintagel!
This work is the copyright of the author (2011). Please DO NOT copy this elsewhere either in print or online. All photos are copyright of the author and may not be used without permission. First published: 11 September 2011
Tintagel Castle is said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, home to the Duke of Cornwall, Gorlois, and the lady Ygraine. Uther Pendragon became enchanted by Ygraine and wished to have her for himself. Gorlois hid her away at Tintagel, but Merlin changed Uther into the likeness of Gorlois, and he was able to enter the castle and conceive a child with Ygraine, who was, of course, Arthur.
It was Geoffrey of Monmouth, author of A History of the Kings of Britain, who associated Tintagel with the Arthurian legends, and it is not hard to see why. Countless writers and poets have been inspired by the stunning landscape - wild seas, rugged cliffs, and this mighty fortress. It may be but ruins now, but when you get onto the island and look back across the cliffs, it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights you will ever see.
Run by English Heritage, the island is accessible by bridge and steps up to the top. Entering through the archway is like entering another world, and you feel truly immersed in the world of Avalon legends.
There are ruined Dark Age houses, the remains of a chapel and island courtyards to explore, and of course, the superb views across the Tintagel cliffs. The seas roil and rage below, as if enchanted by Merlin himself. Speaking of Merlin, you can find his famous cave on the beach below the island entrance, but more on that in the next section.
The castle has a fascinating history, and was a Dark Age stronghold even before the castle was built. The true origins of it all are as mysterious and fascinating as that of the Arthurian myths.
Find information on visiting the castle along with opening hours and admission prices at the King Arthur's Castle, Tintagel Island area of the English Heritage website.
Tintagel Island - once home to a mighty fortress!
Merlin's Cave is accessible from the beach beneath the entrance to Tintagel Island, when the tide is out. The beach itself is a delight, as you stand amongst beautiful rocks and watch the wild raging waves crash to shore.
The cave itself is quite magical. Reputed to be the cave of Merlin himself, where he would no doubt come to plan and create his magic, it has an otherworldly feel as soon as you enter it. Light from the opening at the back of the cave casts an enchanted glow, and the energy is very magical indeed.
Looking back out at the sea on a wild day like this one was is equally magical. In the photo you can see me silhouetted in the mouth of the cave, commanding the waves... okay, well, maybe not - my partner got lucky and got a well-timed shot!
Learn more about the legends surrounding the cave at the Historic Caves: Merlin's Cave website, which tells of Merlin being enchanted and trapped there by Morgan Le Fay, and possibly being there still...
The eerie and enchanted light inside Merlin's Cave gives it a true otherworldly feel!
Camelford - Home of Camelot?
Camelford is a lovely little market town that sits above the River Camel, and is one of the highest towns in England, sited at 700ft above sea level.
The reason for its inclusion in the King Arthur Trail is that it is reputed to be the site of Camelot, surrounded by the many Arthurian connections around Tintagel.
It was originally a medieval market town and was formerly called Cam Pol. which means curved river in Cornish. Find out more about the town at their website Camelford Town.
One of over 70 incredible stained glass windows inside King Arthur's Great Halls
King Arthur's Great Halls
This wonderful hall is a truly breathtaking museum that contains stunning paintings and 72 incredible stained glass windows created by a pupil of William Morris, which depict the coats of arms and weapons of the Knights of the Round Table.
Also on show are an impressive granite throne and the round table.
This place was built in the 1930s by a custard millionaire who loved the Arthurian legends. It's claim to fame is that it is the only indoor attraction completely dedicated to King Arthur, and entry also includes a wonderful light show narrated by Robert Powell.
You can view a superb range of photographs here in this gallery of King Arthur's Great Halls.
King Arthur's Great Halls, Tintagel
The Arthurian Centre, Slaughterbridge
The Arthurian Centre is a must-visit for those wishing to truly learn about King Arthur in-depth, and see further wonderful sites of interest. It consists of a fascinating exhibition room, which includes posterboard displays, videos and more, before paid entry grants you access to the centre's own King Arthur Trail, which takes you past an archaeological dig, past the reputed battlefield where Arthur and his son Mordred conducted their last fateful battle, and on to the stone known as the King Arthur Stone at Slaughterbridge, which is described in further detail in the next section.
The Exhibition Centre was developed by Ian Forrester Roberts of Gloucester over a 20-year period. It houses a collection of display panels, photographs, illustrations, texts and specially commissioned paintings, which encompass 1,500 years of Arthurian mythology, grail legends and more. It is the only place of its kind in Cornwall that tells the Arthurian tales in so much depth.
The site of the Battle of Camlann is a field along the trail, peaceful and filled with wildflowers and long grass. Learn more about the centre and the complete King Arthur Trail at the official website for The Arthurian Centre and King Arthur Discovery Trail.
The King Arthur Trail leads through this field, reputed site of the Battle of Camlann
Slaughterbridge - The King Arthur Stone
This incredible sixth century stone lies on a stream bed at Slaughterbridge, and is inscribed with names in both Latin and the ancient druid tree alphabet of Ogham.
It was said to mark the spot where Arthur and his illegitimate son Mordred did battle and died. The interpretations of the inscription have varied over the years but are now thought to be unrelated to Arthur - however the name and legends persist.
Evidence has come to light that some kind of ferocious battle did indeed take place here, but whether it was the 542AD Battle of Camlann, is subject to your own conclusion...
The stone can be viewed from a bridge above, and is not directly accessible, which is just as well, as such a beautiful natural monument should quite rightly be protected from the threat of damage. The area is beautiful and peaceful, and we spent a long time looking down at it and soaking up the atmosphere.
Discover a wealth of information about the King Arthur's Stone by following the link, which includes the various translations of the inscriptions and the history of the beautiful stone.
Wild Seas of Tintagel
Dozmary Pool, Bodmin - Home of the Lady of the Lake?
This otherworldly lake is situated on Bodmin Moor, and is one of the most persistent sites to be quoted as that of the Lady of the Lake. It was here that Arthur rowed out to the middle of the lake to claim Excalibur, and to where one of his knights returned it upon his deathbed request, claimed once more by the hand of the Lady of the Lake rising up and sinking back down with the blade.
The lake is also, according to folklore, said to be bottomless, and certainly has the right atmosphere for such an Arthurian connection. It has no visible source of supply and when we visited, it had an unnatural sheen and light upon it, and was eerily still. It was not hard to imagine the lady's hand rising up out of the waters!
Its location and further facts can be found at the illustrated Cornwall tour guide on the page for Dozmary Pool.
Looking back at the Vale of Avalon from Tintagel Island
St Nectan's Glen - Healing Site for the Knights of King Arthur
St Nectan's Glen is a stunning kieve and waterfall, said to have healing waters. There are many legends and stories associated with it, one of which is that it was here that King Arthur's Knights were blessed before departing on the quest for the Holy Grail.
It is among the top 10 most important spiritual places in the country, and you can read a detailed account of its history, lore and beauty in another of my pages here, Visiting St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall.
Other Sites on the King Arthur Trail
I didn't get to visit these places on my own trip but they also form the remaining part of the King Arthur Trail.
Trethevy Quoit, also known as King Arthur's Quoit, on Bodmin Moor
- Bossiney Mound
This enchanted mound is located near the chapel at Jill Pool, and is said to be the site where the Round Table is buried. Legend has it that the Round Table will one day rise up from the mound on a midsummer's night, when King Arthur and his Knights will return.
- Bodmin Moor
In addition to Dozmary Pool, Bodmin Moor is also home to Jamaica Inn, the infamous beast, and a plethora of ancient standing stones and megaliths. These include Trethevy Quoit, which is also known as King Arthur's Quoit. It is an ancient burial chamber standing over 15 feet high. Other monuments are named King Arthur's Hall and Arthur's Bed.
Tintagel Sunset over the Vale of Avalon
Other Places of Interest in TintagelClick thumbnail to view full-size
Where to Stay in Tintagel? - at The Avalon, of course!
Where else to stay when in King Arthur Country, that in Avalon itself? We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Tintagel called The Avalon Guest House.
The front upstairs bedrooms at the very top are the ones to get if you can, as they have stunning views across the Vale of Avalon out to Tintagel Island. The décor is also perfect, with gothic beds and Arthurian-inspired chests and furniture on the landings.
In addition, they have simply stunning garden grounds with the incredible gothic arches above, looking out across the breathtaking Vale of Avalon.
The food is delicious, and the owners, Peter and Julie, delightful and friendly, offering an excellent service. The house was originally Victorian but eventually renovated to become a wonderful mix of Victorian and Gothic inspiration.
I highly recommend staying at The Avalon and would stay there again next time we visit! You can find prices and more information at their website, The Avalon Bed and Breakfast.
Anyone for smoothies? Bewitchingly good treats in Tintagel Village
Where to Eat in Tintagel
There are lots of pubs and eating places in Tintagel and the surrounding area, but two really stood out for us. Our favourite place to eat in the village, by far, was the superb Cornishman Inn, which not only had delicious food, but had the most spectacular décor which transported you back in time. Gorgeous beams, a great oldy woldy atmosphere, and fascinating décor and knick knacks had us returning day after day for both lunches and dinners!
Our other food highlight was in Bodmin. After visiting Dozmary Pool and Jamaica Inn, we paid a visit to the haunted Bodmin Jail. This is a great attraction in itself, but well worth doing in the afternoon so that you can stop on for the evening and dine at La Scala, their restaurant that is situated in the former old chapel. It is a stunning setting and the food simply amazing - you can go up and look at the fresh fish and meat on offer, pick what you want and chat to the chef - and then enjoy it once cooked and presented to you!
This was a superb and delicious evening out, and quite frankly, knocked socks off the Rick Stein bistro we visited in Padstow, which was pretty disappointing.
La Scala is a wonderful restaurant set inside a converted chapel at Bodmin Jail
Bringing King Arthur and Tintagel Home!
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