If you think of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen, what comes to mind? Do you think of stunning blue seas in the Caribbean, or snowy capped mountain tops in Switzerland? I’d hazard a guess that you don’t think of the UK, but perhaps you should….
I’m still overwhelmed by the fabulous views we saw on our trip to Tintagel, on the north coast of Cornwall. It is an absolute gem of a place – with a gorgeous village, so many lovely places to eat (we thought the fudge at Granny Wobbly’s was the best we had in our whole Cornwall holiday!) and also lovely to walk around. Then, on top of the charm of the village, it has the most incredible castle remains, dramatic views of the cliffs and Atlantic Ocean, and a link with King Arthur. It’s the kind of place that you want to return to pretty much straight after you left. And it’s a place we’d all recommend – even if it’s just to watch the waves crashing onto the shore again and again.
Tintagel has a history which goes back hundreds and hundreds of years, to the Romans. It was initially called Trevena, which means “village on a mountain” in Cornish and that’s certainly a name which makes perfect sense.
While you’re in the village, you can also visit the Old Post Office, which was originally a 14th century farmhouse and which is open to the public. You’ll be particularly impressed by its wavy roof!
And if your children just want to run around away from the views, there is also a local skateboard part at Tintagel Playing Fields, while if you’re looking for more culture, then you can visit the ancient church of St Materiana’s, which is over 900 years old.
However, if you’re in the area, you probably want to visit the ruins of the castle and enjoy the views. Be aware that there is plenty of walking required and that some of the steps are steep, so it’s not perfect for very young children (unless you’re happy to do a lot of carrying).
Before you go into the castle, there is some background in the exhibition, which is particularly good on the Arthurian links. There is also a beach just before you start walking upwards, and if you look carefully, you might see Merlin’s face in there too.
The castle was built in the 13th century and then rebuilt by Edward the Black Prince in the 1300s, but the site had been inhabited for many hundreds of years before that. Archaelogists have found a number of Dark Age pottery in the area and there are huts along the island as well as the remains of more impressive buildings and a chapel.
It was in the 12th century that Geoffrey of Monmouth named it as the place where King Arthur was conceived and it may be because of this that Richard, the Early of Cornwall, built the original castle in the 1230s.
When we visited, there was quite a queue, but we realised that there was more than one place to purchase tickets (or show your English Heritage membership card) so we kept walking down towards the coastline until we found a shorter line. Be warned that it takes a while to walk from the village to the start of the castle area, and you can pay £2 each to take a Land Rover up and down instead. We didn’t do this – we’re hardy!
We walked up and up and I was gripped by the views, which were all incredible. We almost missed the statue of King Arthur (actually called Gallos, which is Cornish for power), which has only been there since 2016. It makes for another perfect photo opportunity.
When you do enter, you first come to some castle ruins, including the Great Hall built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. There are helpful boards scattered around to give you some history and you can sit down and admire the views. But don’t stop here. You simply must keep walking up and up to enjoy the full spectacle.
Tintagel Castle is only open at weekends from now until the 12th February and then open daily from 10am till 4pm during half-term (13th to 24th February). Please check their website for dates beyond this.
Our entrance was free as we belong to English Heritage, but a family ticket for two adults and up to three children costs £20.50.
Find out more about our trip to Cornwall in this video below: