As the seat of all Athurian legends, the mysterious Tintagel Castle has a special place in the Mythology of the British Isles. High up on a cliff on the rugged northern coast of Cornwall lie the ruins of Tintagel Castle, a medieval fortress that is often linked to the legend of King Arthur. In the early 19th century the location was a popular tourist attraction, with visitors exploring the ruins of Richard, the first Earl of Cornwall’s 13th century castle. The sudden appeal of the site prompted excavation in the early 20th century, and during the 1930s traces were found of an even earlier settlement beneath the ruins of Richard’s Tintagel Castle.
Upon further investigation, it was revealed that this is the site that had often been referenced throughout Arthurian legend as his place of conception. The earliest surviving records are Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century Historia Regum Brittaniae, in which he tells of Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon, seducing the Duke of Cornwall’s wife, Arthur’s mother, Igraine at Dintagel (in the Cornish language meaning “fort of constriction”).
THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND
The legend starts with Uther Pendragon, the then King of England, going to war with Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall (before Cornwall was integrated to be part of England), over the Duke’s wife, and Uther’s love interest, Igraine. Gorlois and his forces were pushed back and he took shelter with Igraine in Tintagel Castle. Uther’s associates told him that it was nigh-impossible to reach the castle across the rocky bridge that connected the island upon which it stood to the mainland.
Understanding this, Uther summoned Merlin to help him infiltrate the castle to get to Igraine. Geoffrey’s story tells of how Merlin cast a spell upon Uther and himself to make them look like Gorlois and his companion. Using this guise, they entered Tintagel during the night to find Igraine, where they conceived arguably Britain’s most famous legend, Arthur.
The last ride of King Arthur
SWINGING SWORDS IN THE SOUTH
The site is now run and maintained by English Heritage, who often host summertime events at the castle in which visitors can witness (as well as try their hands at) sword fighting in suits of armour like the knights of old, demonstrating the use of ancient martial skills and weaponry and testing their martial prowess.
THE ARTHUR STONE
Discovered in 1998 among the site’s ruins was the Artognou Stone, which appeared to have once been used for building or architecture, but was then broken in two. The stone quickly became infamous for its name “Artognou”, which was suggested may have something to do with King Arthur. However, many historians heavily criticize this assumption and argue against the connection between the names.
The stone is inscribed with Latin wording, which has been translated to “Artognou descendant of Paternus Colus made this”, where Artognou roughly translates from Old Breton to mean “bear knowing”.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
A39 (Rd), Gillards Moor, St Gennys, Bude
Cornwall, England, EX23 0BG
+44 (0)1840 230 650
- Address: Castle Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, PL34 0HE
- GPS: 50.665581,-4.756724399999939
- Phone: 0044 (0)1840 770 328
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: 0044 (0)1840 770 328
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply (to main castle)
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: Poor
- Image Credits: Rolf E. Staerk