CORNWALL // TINTAGEL CASTLE

CORNWALL // TINTAGEL CASTLE

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.” ― Jo Walton

So I left for the Cornish coast at 3.30am because I am mental and because I knew I only had 8 days to explore. I am definitely the girl that stretches holidays out! There was a couple of places at the top of Cornwall I wanted to visit so decided (because I am also a crazy planner) that I would do some on the way to my destination and some on the way back home as I would be driving past them anyway! First on the list was Tintagel Castle and honestly I didn’t even know this place existed until a couple of months ago when the opening of the new footbridge made it onto my google news feed.

After the 5 hour drive and a couple of pee breaks I made it to Tintagel for 9am giving me an hour to walk along the coast and fill my lungs and every vein in my body with sea air! Now I spend a lot of time on the Welsh coast and the first thing I noticed was that the sea smelt different here! Like really different, even the breeze was different which made me miss Wales dearly, what I didn’t know at the start of the holiday was how much I would full in love with Cornwall.

So since it was the bridge that bought me here it was built from two 30-metre cantilevered spans that don’t quite meet in middle. the new bridge has a 40-millimetre gap in the middle that allows the bridge to expand and contract with the changing temperature. It also moves while on it!!

For hundreds of years, since the collapse of a narrow natural land bridge that used to reach out to the rocky headland on which the castle sits, tourists, poets, hikers and Arthur enthusiasts have had to scramble up and down hundreds of steps and across a modest wooden bridge to visit the attraction. I did think about doing it this way but looking down at the stairs opted for the new shiny bridge. However this is a tiny beach at the bottom which looked like it was worth the climb!

Every age has its crazes and obsessions. In Medieval times, people throughout Great Britain were obsessed with tales of King Arthur. Back then, anyone you can imagine – from the mightiest king to the lowliest peasant – would have been able to tell you tales of Arthur’s legendary strength, his skill in battle, and of his fair and just temperament.

Arthur was believed to be the mightiest of old kings, who had shaped Great Britain for the better. Indeed, to Medieval people, Arthur wasn’t just a legend. He was an genuine, old King of England – just like Edward the Confessor, or William the Conqueror. Of course, nowadays, we know that King Arthur didn’t ever exist in real life (I hate to break that to you if you’d thought otherwise!).

Instead, the stories of Arthur were conjured up from myths and folk-tales, which had been told and re-told over the years. Of course, Medieval people had none of our modern cynicism. Arthur was considered to be a ‘perfect’ king from long ago, and many rich and powerful people tried to emulate him.

If you decide to take the stairs which now I wish I did! You have to walk down a very steep approach track from the village, then up very steep steps to reach the castle. A wooden footbridge leads visitors to Tintagel Island, where you wil find the ruins of a Celtic monastery atop the windblown headland. The scenery is utterly stunning, and it is well worth taking your time to explore the site and soak in the amazing coastal views.

A pair of tunnels run beneath the island. The larger of these tunnels is known as Merlin’s Cave, and it is said the the wizard’s voice can be heard in the cave. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, incorporated the cave in his famous poem The Idyllas of the King, where he described Merlin standing at the cave mouth, raising the infant Arthur aloft in his arms.

On the summit of Tintagel Island is a burial mound known as Condolden Barrow, rather romantically believed to be the burial place of Queen Isolde, but much more likely to be the last resting place of Cador, a 6th century king of Cornwall. Cador is variously said to have acted as the sword-bearer at King Arthur’s coronation, led the British army to victory against the West Saxons at the Battle of Mount Badon, raised Queen Guinevere as a child, and been one of Arthur’s trusted knights.

They probably also appreciated that the place felt, well, quite special. Many people who visit Tintagel today still mention its ‘magical feeling’ – the jagged rocks, roaring sea and beautiful countryside give Tintagel an otherworldly air.Perhaps because of this, one cult Medieval author – Geoffrey of Monmouth – connected the ruins at Tintagel to the stories of King Arthur.

I wandered the island taking in every inch while reading the tales of King Arthur, enjoying the early September sunshine. Eventually the sheer number of tourists became too much for me, it was a Sunday after all so decided to head off in search of lunch! I headed back into the town of Tintagel following my nose and the smell of warn pasties in the air.

I wandered through the pretty little town filled with happiness of being near the sea and t excitement for the next week. I discovered a national trust (I don’t go anywhere without my card) Old Post Office, a beautiful 14th century building under a slate roof. As the name suggests, this was once the village post office, but more importantly it is a wonderful example of a medieval manor house, begun around 1380 as a longhouse, a simple rectangular building with one end used as a stable for animals. It was remodelled in the 16th century when small bedchambers were added to each end, leaving the central hall open to the rafters. Behind the Old Post Office is a traditional cottage garden.

After only a few hours in Cornwall I knew I was about to have the most amazing time even if it smelt a little different. I jumped in my car and headed to my next stop!

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