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Tintagel Castle

The name of Tintagel is now firmly embedded in the English consciousness as the home of King Arthur, but the actual remains of the buildings perched on this headland in north Cornwall are more complicated than that.

Excavations have discovered that the site was being used in Roman times, and it may be the unlocated Roman name-place of Durocornovium. It may also have been a Celtic Christian monastery, or the stronghold of a post-Roman king. There are little mounds, possibly early Christian burials, in Tintagel churchyard, located within the pre-Norman earthwork bank, but the presence of St Julitte's Chapel, built around 1000AD, is separate from the existing castle remains, and much earlier.

The earliest remains of the Tintagel Castle seem to date from around 1145, when Reginald, Earl of Cornwall and bastard son of Henry I constructed England's earliest linear castle (Lower, middle and upper wards in a row). This is only slightly later than Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain in 1136. He seems to have known the geography of Tintagel as his romance of Arthur's conception at Tintagel describes the extreme difficulty Uther Pendragon faced - only gaining entrance to the beautiful Duchess Ygerna with Merlin's help.

The site is on many levels and surrounded by sea cliffs, a good defensive base, but removed from the village. There is a Lower and Upper Ward defended by a ditch before the crossing over the isthmus to the Inner Ward.

The remains of the Great Hall show that it was originally over 80 feet long and 36 feet wide, and was divided later into smaller buildings. There is a path descending to the Iron Gate at the landing, which was defended through arrow slits. Most of the remains are baffling but the site is very evocative, and you can let your imagination rebuild the castle, with its fine views over the sea.

There is still a walled area, used as a garden in the medieval period, for recreation, and nearby, rock-cut wells or basins for water. The highest part of the castle is a climb, but worth it. The remains here are of more than one period, and it is difficult to imagine exactly what they were like. The Chapel's west end is the oldest part and there was a porch added in the thirteenth century. A rock-cut grave is just outside the Chapel.

There has been much erosion on the site more recently due to an extensive fire in the hot summer of 1983. The grass failed to grow back and the wind blew away a lot of the powdery soil. However, this meant that more remains were exposed to view, and there were finds of pottery fragments, heaths and post-holes. English Heritage, who owns Tintagel Castle, have carried out conservation and re-seeding of the burnt areas to protect what remains.

The finds from the site are varied and come from a surprisingly wide area - no local pottery, but pieces of pottery from Tunisia, Carthage, the Greek Islands and Turkey. There are also some fragments of Eastern glass. This would suggest a high status residence, with the luxurious imported goods of wine, perfume and olive-oil perhaps being traded for local tin.

The evidence tends to suggest that Earl Richard of Cornwall may have built the majority of the remaining castle in the thirteenth century. He was the younger brother of King Henry III and the other medieval castles in Cornwall, Launceston and Restormel, are also his work.

Possibly because of its remoteness, Tintagel Castle was deserted and in ruins as early as 1483.

Tintagel Castle Visits

Tintagel Castle is open for visits. An aduld ticket is about £5.50 while a family ticket is £14.30. Visit the official website for more information about the opening hours and ticket information. 

Tintagel Castle Map&Location

Tintagel Castle is located at the following address: Bossiney Road, Tintagel, Cornwall - PL34 0HE. To get help with directions use the map provided bellow:

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Tintagel Castle Photo

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Tintagel Castle ruins

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle hill

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle view

Tintagel Castle stairs

Tintagel Castle hill