Tintagel, Cornwall

Tintagel, Cornwall Tintagel, Cornwall, castle

Tintagel is a not very pretty tourist village, but the old Tintagel Castle is a few hundred yards outside the village, and has been protected from the ravages of commerce. Tintagel Castle is well worth a visit.

The legend of King Arthur being connected to Tintagel Castle really blossomed after Alfred Lord Tennyson visited it in the 1842 and wrote Morte d'Arthur and The Idylls of the King. Dickens, Thackery and Swinburne all added literary weight to Arthurian Tintagel. In 1823, a Robert Hawker stayed in Tintagel on his honeymoon and later wrote "Quest for the Sangraal".

It is unclear whether the great headland of Tintagel was inhabited in Celtic times, but the castle and field system date from medieval times. Slate quarrying produced and exportable product for many years. There has never been a "proper" harbour here, and boats had to run in under the cliffs, and a cargo like slate would be perilously swung aboard by a derrick perched on the cliff edge. Extensive quarrying of the cliffs for slate took place in Victorian times, and slate was winched straight off the cliff tops at Penhallick Point into sailing vessels below.

It is worth taking a walk up to Glebe Cliff (NT) and Tintagel Church, St Materiana (Norman origins, with some Saxon additions), which stands on its own on Glebe Cliff well away from Tintagel itself. There is a view of Tintagel Island from the cliff top behind the church. Barras Nose, the headland to the north of Tintagel Island, was the National Trust's second land acquisition in Great Britain in 1912. The churchyard is exposed to Atlantic gales and several of the gravestones have been buttressed with stone reinforcements to stop them being flattened by the wind. The church tower is visible for miles out to sea and has served as a landmark for sailors for hundreds of years.

And if you take the cliff path south past giant slate stacks out to sea, there is a good walk to Trebarwith Strand and the pub at Port William. The old slate quarry is south of the church too, and the original offices of the slate quarry have been converted into the Youth hostel that occupies the low white building today. Close inspection of the area will reveal many details of slate mining in the past.

The arrival of the railway in Cornwall brought large numbers of visitors here, particularly when a station opened in nearby Camelford in 1893.

Tintagel Castle Hotel, Cornwall

An entrepreneur built the large "railway hotel" that still blots the skyline today, it was opened as King Arthur's Castle Hotel (but has been renamed Camelot Castle Hotel). To prevent further development along the cliff, a local group was formed, and the result was that the National Trust acquired 14 acres of Barras Nose in the very early days of the National Trust.

Tintagel Castle, in the care of English Heritage, was occupied by the Earls of Cornwall from the middle ages. The Legend of King Arthur goes into the King Arthur legend that applies to Tintagel. However the ruins that you see today are from a 12th century castle built by the Earl of Cornwall.

The headland with the castle reaches nearly 300ft above sea level, and must have been an almost impregnable stronghold when built. The headland is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus of land. There has been considerable erosion by the seas over the years, with major rock falls recorded in 1820 and 1846. Under the headland is Merlin's Cave, complete with legend.

In the village are King Arthur's Great Halls, with 72 stained glass windows depicting the deeds of the Knights of the Round Table. This complex was built in the 1930's by Frederick Glascock, a local custard millionaire ("Monk & Glass" custard). He retired to Tintagel and formed the "Fellowship of the Round Table", and he built "King Arthur's Great Halls" in the centre of village. The building opened on June 5th 1933. The actor Robert Powell tells the story of the Arthurian legend in a laser light show involving the paintings of King Arthur and his Knights by William Hatherell.

Originally a small manor house, the Old Post Office in the village is now owned by the National Trust. This is a fine example of a 14th Century Cornish Manor House. The building got its name from being the receiving office for post between 1844 and 1892.

Tintagel Castle: Its History and Romance Henry Jenner, J.Hambley Rowe


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