Tintagel – Knights and Dragons

Another one of our adventures from our recent holiday to Cornwall saw us visiting a place I have been to a number of times before – Tintagel Castle.  Parking in the town, we paid £2 for the day, then walked down the main street, passing its little shops heading down towards the castle.  We stopped for a pasty (I was very excited to find a vegan one) and, as we were visiting a castle, Rowan spent some of his pirate booty from the previous day on a sword so he could be a knight.

 

IMG_2731Tintagel castle is looked after by English Heritage, and after paying the admission fee, we took the access road for about a third of a mile, descending about 200 feet until we arrived at the café, toilets and visitor centre.  The visitor centre was really interesting, with a model of the site, information on the history and a selection of artefacts found during excavations of the site.  Tintagel has been inhabited since late Roman times though it was during the Dark Ages that the site began to flourish, becoming an important centre for trade with the Mediterranean.  The castle was constructed in the 13th century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall and of course, Tintagel is said to be the birth place of King Arthur.  An exciting place to explore for sure.

 

After leaving the visitor centre, we made our way to the bridge across to the headland where the majority of the ruins can be found.  Looking down, Tintagel’s beach could be seen – a gorgeous little cove and the home to Merlin’s Cave, which we decided to explore after the castle.

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The headland was once connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land.  However, this collapsed in the 15th Century so access is now via a bridge and 148 stone steps.  The steps are well maintained and have a handrail, but are of uneven heights and with the many people coming up and down, care needed to be taken.

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When we reached the top, we found ourselves in the main courtyard of the castle built by Earl Richard.  Rowan really enjoyed it here, running around with his sword, being a knight.  I love visiting castle ruins, and trying to imagine what room we were standing in or what it was like to live there all those years ago.  Tintagel must have been quite a place, windswept and surrounded by the sea.

Dotted about the ruins, there were a number of plaques telling little stories associated with the place.  I thought these were brilliant as they added little insights into what life was like, really adding some colour to the visit.

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Rowan was having so much fun in this first courtyard, getting him to leave to look around the rest of the site was proving difficult.  He just wanted to stay in the castle being a knight.  Rick mentioned that we had to search for dragons, which convinced brave Sir Rowan to follow us up the path to the rest of the site.  Spotting the dark silhouette of a bird in the sky we told him that it was one of the dragons flying away.  He seemed happy with that.

 

 

The search for dragons turned into a search for dragon eggs as we looked around the remains of a settlement.  It’s amazing to think that there were around 100 buildings on this headland during the Dark Ages.

 

Following the path away from the ruins, we came across a fantastic tunnel that was clearly a dragon nest!  With a little convincing, Rowan went in to explore and was relieved to discover that the dragon wasn’t home.  He did however, find some grass and stones, the stones being the eggs, and the grass part of the nest to keep them warm.  After sitting a while discussing the dragon and coming to the conclusion that it was friendly, we left the tunnel and spotted something on the horizon.  (The tunnel was actually made by enlarging a cave, and the purpose of it is currently unknown)

 

We walked to the form on the horizon and found it was a magnificent bronze sculpture – a king standing sentinel over the headland.  This is a relatively recent installation at Tintagel and for me, as I love all things fantasy, it just added to the magic of this place.

After a sit down admiring the views along the Cornish coastline, we wandered round some more, visiting the chapel and the walled garden before making our way back to the wooden door to the courtyard and the steps back down to the bridge.

 

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At the bridge, we were presented with the choice to climb more steps to the ruins on the mainland.  As the tide was now in, scuppering our plan to explore the beach, we decided to climb upwards to look around some more.

 

 

 

 

 

Once there, Rowan ran around being a knight, findings areas of the courtyard that were to be mine and Anma’s bedrooms.

 

We peeped through the little windows taking in the dramatic cliffs of the Tintagel headland before heading back down.

These stairs were much trickier as they were narrower so Rowan came down on his bottom with me coming down backwards in front of him in case he slipped.  It was worth the visit though.  Heading back up the access road, Anma and Rowan took advantage of the Land Rover service as Fudge, the oldest spaniel in the pack, was struggling with her arthritis.

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Tintagel is one of those places I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of visiting.  Castle ruins, caves, myths and legends, and gorgeous scenery all come together for lovely day out.  English Heritage has a brilliant website where you can find more information here.

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